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Frequently Asked Questions


When should I see a therapist, doctor or addiction counselor?

Everyone has good and bad days. But there are times when the troubles of life interfere with your ability to function or cope.

You should consider therapy if you've had any of the following within the last few weeks:

  • You feel a great sense of helplessness and sadness. And it doesn't get better despite support from family and friends.

  • You can't stop thinking about terribly hurtful experiences from your past. Those memories are hard to talk about.

  • You feel you're using alcohol or other drugs too much.

  • Other people are worried about your alcohol or drug use.

  • Your temper has gotten you into trouble.

  • You're finding it hard to cope with everyday activities. 

  • You cannot concentrate at work or school, and your performance is suffering. 

  • You keep getting involved in troubled relationships and can't figure out why. 

  • You're sleeping or eating less or more than usual.

  • You have wide mood swings.

  • You're no longer interested in the things that used to interest you.

  • You worry too much.

  • You have obsessions or compulsions that interfere with normal life.

  • You've experienced panic attacks that make you feel like you're going to pass out or have a heart attack. 

  • Your actions harm others or could be harmful to others.

There may be other feelings or behaviors that you are concerned about that are not listed here. If you are not sure if you should seek help, please talk to someone you trust or call the Allina Health Mental Health location nearest you.

What's the difference between psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists?

Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors and can prescribe medicine. They have special training in the biological causes of medical conditions that affect emotional health. They assess, diagnose and treat addiction, emotional and mental problems. A psychiatrist may supervise or be directly involved in your care.

Psychologists are licensed mental health professionals and do not prescribe medication. They help people evaluate and resolve emotional difficulties through counseling. These professionals have master's or doctoral degrees and have finished supervised internships in a hospital or organized health setting.

Therapists are different kinds of mental health providers. A therapist may be a mental health counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, a marriage and family counselor or another licensed professional.

Substance abuse counselors are licensed mental health professionals who assess and treat addiction disorders. Also called therapists, they may provide referrals to other mental health providers.

How do I choose a therapist or a psychiatrist?

Ask someone you trust for a recommendation. This may be your family doctor, religious leader, family member or friend. You can call your local mental health center or county social service agency. If you live in Minnesota, call the Allina Health Mental Health location nearest you. Once you have a few names, be sure to check with your health insurance to find out who is covered under your policy. Finding a therapist or psychiatrist with whom you feel comfortable and at ease is very important. Ask them if they are licensed and how long they've been practicing. Ask about what they specialize in. Find out if they are covered under your insurance policy.

How do I know which service or program is right for me?

Start by making an intake appointment at a mental health clinic. A mental health professional can help you decide which mental health or substance abuse services may help you. To access services with Allina Health Mental Health, call the location nearest you.

What can I expect at my first behavioral health appointment or "intake"?

For the first session, you will meet with a licensed therapist, nurse or chemical dependency counselor whose expertise matches your needs. The purpose of this "intake" appointment is to learn about your needs and the best plan of treatment for you. In order to focus your treatment effectively, the mental health provider will need to understand… your background, the current problem, your strengths and your medical history. 

If you are seeking help for a child or adolescent, the parent or guardian's input is needed.

Who is on my treatment team?

Your treatment team may consist of a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse, social worker, licensed marriage and family counselor, or substance abuse counselor. You will work with them to develop your therapy goals. treatment usually ends when your goals have been met.

How much will it cost?

Many insurance companies provide coverage for mental health services. Check with your insurance company to see if mental health or substance abuse services are covered. If they are, ask how you may get these benefits. Find out how much the insurance company will pay for mental health services and what benefit limits they have. If you are not covered by insurance, you may pay for services yourself. These are called out-of-pocket costs. Call the clinic to learn what the fees are. Find out if you can pay on a sliding-fee-scale, where the amount you pay depends on your income. You may also want to check with your county social service agency to find more resources.

How can I be sure that my treatment will be confidential?

We understand that a major concern for people is if their treatment will be confidential. That's why our employees actively protect sensitive and personal information. Every test, every decision, every medicine, every item on a patient's record is confidential. Such information can only be accessed by health care providers who are directly involved in your care.
For the best possible treatment, it is often necessary to exchange or receive information with other health care providers involved in your care. If that happens, you will be asked to give permission to exchange that information.
State or federal law requires reporting of some behaviors. Some examples are the suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults, when a threat against someone's life is made, or when a court of law has deemed it necessary to view a patient's medical record. 
See Allina Health patient privacy and rights information.

How long will my therapy last?

The length of your therapy depends on your specific needs. It also depends on how you and your treatment team feel about your progress. Treatment usually ends when your therapy goals have been met.

Will I have to take medicine? If so, for how long?

Often used with other types of therapy, medicines can be a very important part of treatment. They can eliminate, control or reduce the symptoms of mental or emotional illness.

Medicines used to treat mental or emotional illness are called psychotropic drugs. Since side effects vary by medicine and individual, their use should be monitored by the medical professional who prescribed them.

The physician or psychiatrist who prescribed a medicine for you is the best person to ask how long you should take it. Some medicines are used for a short time. Others are used for years.

The time it takes to feel the effects of a medicine also varies by medicine and person.

Do you take insurance, and how does that work?

To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them.  Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers.  Some helpful questions you can ask them:

  • What are my mental health benefits?

  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session?

  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?

  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?

  • Is approval required from my primary care physician? 

What kind of insurance do you accept?

We accept most insurances --Medical Assistance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, UCare, Preferred One, and Health Partners are a few.  We will call your insurance to verify benefits.

How much will I have to pay out of pocket?

Out of pocket payment depends on your benefits and insurance.  We can never give an exact dollar amount.

Is there a sliding fee scale?

We have a sliding fee scale, based on household income.  We also have a same day self-pay rate - no submission to insurance.

How long does a therapy session last?

Therapy sessions can vary depending on the needs of the client, typically last about 50 - 60 minutes.

Do you provide chemical dependency counseling?

I can provide chemical dependency counseling when it is in conjunction with mental health counseling.

What about medication vs. psychotherapy?

It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.  Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action.

Do you have someone who prescribes medications?

We do not prescribe medications, however can collaborate closely with a prescribing physician.

What is the prevalence of mental illness among adults?

Research indicates mental illness is not a respecter of persons.  It occurs in all ages, race / ethnic groups, genders, and socioeconomic groupings.  Approximately 19% of the population ages 18 to 64 will experience some diagnosable mental health disorder (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)), excluding substance abuse disorders, during a lifetime.  The more serious mental illnesses have been estimated at between 2.6% and 2.8% of adults.

Is mental illness or mental health problems treatable?

Yes.  Just as other diseases have specific symptoms and treatments, mental health problems or illnesses can be accurately diagnosed and effectively treated.

How do I get an appointment for outpatient mental health services?

You should call and speak to someone that can determine the nature of your concern, gather personal identification information from you, make a determination of eligibility for services and the most appropriate service provider to meet your specific needs.

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