We recognize that starting therapy can be daunting and want to make it as easy as possible for you to connect with the support you need. The guide below is meant to offer guidance for students interested in connecting with a therapist in the community and will be most useful for students seeking services within the United States. If you are a student currently residing outside of the U.S. please see below.

Enrolled UI students are also welcome to meet with the UCS case manager for assistance. If you are currently located outside of the Iowa City/Coralville area our knowledge of community providers is limited, but we can still offer guidance.

How to Find and Connect with a Therapist:

  • If you feel comfortable, ask people you trust if they have any recommendations! Most therapists have bios online either through Psychology Today or their own personal websites.
  • Hop on the internet!
    • Psychology Today (link) is an online database where many therapists post profiles with information about their services. Enter your city or zip code to narrow the search to your specific location.
    • From there you can further refine based on other preferences and logistic needs.
    • Examples of logistics you can search for include: insurances accepted, languages spoken, and whether they offer online/phone counseling.
    • Examples of preferences you can search for include: gender, sexuality, age, faith, types of therapy practiced, specialty areas.
    • Remember, the more preferences you indicate, the fewer options you will have. Consider carefully what is most important to you and what might be less important.
    • Try your best to do your research and be informed without over thinking it! You could spend weeks reviewing bios online, but ultimately the best way to determine whether a particular counselor will be a good fit is to meet with them.
  • Once you have narrowed down your list to one or a few therapists, it’s time to reach out. Psychology Today and/or therapist’s personal websites will indicate whether you can schedule by phone, email, or an online form.
    • Reach out to the therapist and let them know you are interested in starting therapy and wondering if they have any availability to see new clients.
    • Double check that they take your insurance.

How to Find Out What Insurance Will Cover:

If you are insured through the University of Iowa:

  • This means you have a student plan or employee plan through UI. Your card will say UI Gradcare, SHIP, or UIChoice.
  • All plans use the Blue Cross/Blue Shield provider network.
  • No session limits or prior authorization required.
  • UIChoice and UIGradcare have no copay or coinsurance for in-network providers.
  • There is no cost for therapy using this insurance as long as you use an in-network provider.
  • If you have any questions call the number on the back of your card.

If you are insured through Iowa Medicaid:

  • Iowa Medicaid is commonly referred to as Iowa Health Link.
  • In most cases your card will either say "Wellpoint" (formerly Amerigroup) or "Iowa Total Care" or "Molina." Whichever company manages your benefits will be the network you should use (i.e. if your card says Iowa Total Care, look for providers who take Iowa Total Care).
  • There is no cost for therapy using this insurance as long as you use an in-network provider.
  • Iowa Medicaid cannot be used outside of Iowa for mental health treatment.

If you have a different type of insurance than what is listed above you should call your insurance provider to double check your benefits for therapy. Below are some tips for calling your insurance company.

  • How to Call:
    • It is always best to call and confirm benefits and coverage for mental health services just to make sure there is no surprise bill.
    • There should be a number on the back of the card that will get this information quickly. Look for “customer service”, “benefits and coverage”, and/or “behavioral health.” If there is a behavioral health number always start there.
    • When you call they will ask for the plan number (found on the card). They might also ask for the last four digits of your social security number, so have that handy just in case.
  • Helpful questions to ask once you are connected to a representative: 
    • Let them know you would like information on coverage and benefits for “mental health therapy in an office setting.”
    • Ask for information on any copay, coinsurance, and/or deductible that applies.
    • If you are confused by what they are sharing with you ask don’t feel bad, insurance is confusing! Ask them to break it down further and help you understand what you will have to pay for therapy.
    • Ask if pre-authorization is required.
  • Frequently Used Insurance Terms:
    • Coinsurance: People with health insurance may have to pay for part of their health care services. Coinsurance is a fixed percentage of a health care service that you are responsible for paying for after you’ve reached your deductible.

For example, if your plan has a coinsurance requirement of 20% and a health service costs $100, your health insurance would pay $80 and you would pay the remaining $20 if you had reached your deductible.

Coinsurance is different from co-payment. Co-payments are usually a flat fee paid at the time of service, and coinsurance is paid after the insurance company pays their percentage of the cost.

  • Co-payment/Co-pay: People with health insurance may have to pay for part of their health care services. One way is with a co-payment, which is a fixed amount you pay for some health care services. You usually pay a co-pay when you get the service. The amount may change for different types of care. For example, you might pay $15 when you go in for a doctor’s visit and $30 when you go to the emergency room.
  • Deductible: The deductible is the amount that you may have to pay for health care services before the health insurance plan begins to pay. For example, if your deductible is $500, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve paid $500 for health care services covered by your health plan. After that, your health insurance plan will pay for services.

Deductibles usually roll back to $0 at the start of the calendar year (January 1st), which is important to keep in mind because that means you’ll be responsible for meeting that deductible again early in the year. Ask your insurance company when the deductible year starts to be sure.

If you are on a plan with family, there is usually a family deductible and an individual deductible. The family deductible is usually higher. Insurance will start paying for your services as soon as one of those deductibles has been met – either your individual one or your family one, so be sure to ask about both.

  • In-Network: The doctors, clinics, health centers, and hospitals whose services are covered by a health insurance plan. It is important to get health services from doctors, clinics, health centers and hospitals that are in your health plan’s network, when possible, to keep your costs down.
  • Pre-Authorization: Some insurance companies require services to be approved before they are provided. If this is required let the therapist you schedule with know and they will know how to handle this.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What’s the difference between a psychologist (PhD & PsyD), social worker (LISW or LMSW), marriage and family therapist (LMFT), and mental health counselor (LMHC)?

A: Reading all of the acronyms after people’s names can be a little bit of an alphabet soup. The main difference is the training program all of these professionals participate in before getting licensed to practice. The important thing is they all are licensed and qualified to provide therapy. We recommend not limiting yourself to a certain licensure type because that may significantly limit your options depending on where you live.

The exception to this is if you think you will need any type of documentation from your therapist regarding your immigration status – federal rules require that type of documentation come from a licensed psychologist. 

Q: What if I meet with a therapist and it doesn’t feel like a good fit?

A: It may take a few appointments before you feel comfortable with your therapist – that’s normal! Certainly trust your instincts if there is something that feels off to you, but if possible give it a few sessions before moving on to someone else. It is important that you feel a good connection with your therapist, so if after a few sessions it doesn’t feel like a good fit, feel free to look for another therapist!

Q:  What do I do if I do not have insurance?

A:  Many communities or counties have a community based mental health center.  Even if this center does not have immediate service available to you, they can be a good source of local services that either provide pro bono (free) or at reduce rates. 

Resources for Students Currently Located Outside of the United States

Unfortunately due to limitations in our professional licenses, UCS clinicians are unable to provide clinical services to students when they are physically located outside of the United States, even if they are enrolled in online classes.

Students are welcome to attend any of our virtual programming regardless of where they are located. Follow this link to see a current list of programming.

We are attempting to compile information that may be useful to students located in other countries who are seeking mental health support. This is not a comprehensive list, and we will continue to update as we become aware of additional resources.


  • International Therapist Directory
    • (Please note that mental health resources vary greatly from country to country. UCS did not create, and does not maintain, this website, and cannot guarantee all resources remain consistently updated. Please also note that not all countries and locations are represented in this directory.)
  • International suicide hotlines/emergency phone numbers and online crisis chats: https://www.suicidestop.com/call_a_hotline.html
    • (Please note that mental health and emergency resources vary greatly from country to country. UCS did not create, and does not maintain, this website, and cannot guarantee all resources remain consistently updated.)
  • Detailed Guide to Find a Qualified Counselor in China (in Chinese)
  • For students in South Korea:
    • Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours): 1393 
    • Mental Health Crisis Hotline (24 hours): 1577-0199
    • Life line (24 hours): 1588-9191 / www.lifeline.or.kr
    • JoongAng(central) Suicide Prevention Center: 82-2-2203-0053 / spckorea.or.kr
    • Seoul Suicide Prevention Center: 82-2-3458-1000 / suicide.or.kr
    • Gyeonggi-do Suicide Prevention Center: 82-31-212-0437 / mindsave.org
    • Gangwon-Do Suicide Prevention Center: 82-33-251-1970 / gwmh.or.kr
    • Gwangju Suicide Prevention Center : 82-62-600-1930 / gmhc.kr
    • Incheon Suicide Prevention Center: 82-32-468-9911 / imhc.or.kr:6032
    • Daegu Suicide Prevention Center: 82-53-256-0199 / dgmhc.or.kr
    • Busan Suicide Prevention Center: 82-51-242-2575 / suicide.busaninmaum.com
    • Support Center for a family who has lost their family member to suicide: Korea Psychological Autopsy center ; 82-2-555-1095 / psyauto.or.kr / warmdays.co.kr