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I Needed A Therapist That Took Insurance—So I Tried the Headway Online Directory

I’ve been seeing the same therapist for several years and while I like her, she does not accept my insurance. I’ve also recently started taking a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, so recently, my out-of-pocket expenses for mental health each month have started to feel too high.

Even though my current therapist does have me on sliding scale pricing, which means I pay a lower fee for each session based on what I am able to afford, and her sessions count toward my out-of-network deductible, I still only see her once a month because of the out-of-pocket cost. If I could see a therapist in-network, I would feel more comfortable seeing them weekly or every other week because I would only have to pay my $30 deductible each time.

So I started looking for a therapist who took my insurance—but with little success, despite years of searching. I tried using my insurance’s website to find an in-network therapist, but there have been slim pickings, and most providers aren’t accepting new patients. Plus, as a new mom who works three days a week and does full-day childcare two times a week for my son, I don’t feel like I have much time to devote to searching for an in-network therapist.

So when I found Headway, a free online therapist directory that only features therapists who accept health insurance, I was immediately intrigued. Not only does it help you connect with therapists who accept insurance, but it also handles billing and scheduling for you. There are also licensed marriage and family therapists, or LMFTs, who often otherwise don’t accept insurance for couples or family counseling. I gave it a try and while the first therapist I chose wasn’t the perfect match for me, Headway made it super easy to find a variety of therapists that all took my insurance and had availability.

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We Tried 80 Online Therapy Services—These Are the 8 We Recommend That Accept Insurance
How I Searched for a Therapist
It’s easy to find a therapist with the Headway directory. The homepage greets you with the invitation to “Let us find your mental health provider,” with search boxes below where you can fill in your location (“Where do you live?”), concerns (“What can we help with?”), and insurance carrier (“Not sure? Skip for now”). From there, you can start browsing the therapist directory.

Note that even for virtual appointments, you have to be physically present in the state in which your counselor is licensed. Aside from insurance type, you can also use filters to input your mental health concerns (these include ADHD, anger management, infertility, trauma, or stress, with 20 different concerns listed overall).

Headway
Headway

Those are just some of the base filters—you can also specify if you’re looking for talk therapy, medication management, or psychiatric care, and sort by the therapist’s availability, ethnicity, gender, language spoken, whether they’re virtual or in-person, and their therapy modalities (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, strengths-based therapy, and trauma-focused therapy, with nine modalities total). You can even look up a particular provider by name.

Headway FIlters
Headway

You can filter therapists based on who accepts your insurance, and when you click on the “cost” tab of any therapist’s bio, you’ll see a list of insurance they take. Not only that, but Headway claims its therapists typically have availability within a few days. That was huge for me.

Headway Benefits
Headway

If you decide to move forward with a therapist you find on Headway, first, you’ll be asked to create an account and upload your insurance details. There are over 30 insurance plans listed in the dropdown menu. Once you input your details, you’ll see a list of practitioners in your state. While a surprising number of therapists were licensed in my state and took my insurance (19 with openings soon, to be exact), many of them were “licensed professional counselors,” which is not the same as a psychotherapist. For example, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers typically have more training and experience and may diagnose mental health disorders. I wasn’t bothered by this, though, and ultimately chose a counselor. I wanted someone who was a bit older than my current therapist, who’s a peer (and maybe even a little younger than I am), and also, ideally, someone who had kids.

I preferred virtual talk therapy with a woman, leaving me with 17 options who accepted my insurance and had ‘openings soon,’ which was undoubtedly more than I’d seen using my insurance plan’s website.
I saw a quick snapshot of each therapist in their bios on Headway, including a photo, specialties (such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD), a few words they’d use to describe their approach (like “direct,” “solution-oriented,” or “holistic”), and their next availability for sessions. I scrolled through the results page and clicked on several therapists to learn more. That’s when I saw details about their availability—there were several therapists who took weekend appointments and one who scheduled as early as 7 a.m. The latest appointment I saw was 6 p.m..

Headway
Headway

I noticed that sometimes the bio snapshot would say the therapist had availability in the coming days, but when I clicked to learn more, they didn’t actually have availability for two or more weeks.

It’s worth noting that the Headway directory is primarily comprised of licensed therapists and counselors—if you’re looking for a psychiatrist or advanced practice nurse to help with medication management, they might be harder to find.

How I Set Up a Therapy Appointment
Once I’d decided on the counselor who seemed like a good fit, it was super easy to schedule. I chose the date and time that worked for me; this counselor had both in-person and virtual timeslots available, which were indicated by either a video camera or chair graphic (the chair represents “in-office”).

Headway
Headway

I pressed the green “Book Session for [Date]” button and was prompted to add my insurance info, which only took a second, then my credit card info. Then I filled out a quick form about topics I wanted to discuss.

It was nearly as easy as buying a shirt online, and I could book a session for just four days later (there was an even sooner one that didn’t work with my schedule).
Immediately after scheduling, I received an automated email from the counselor confirming my appointment. It also said that my session would be around $30, which was the “best estimate while we work with your insurer to get your exact rate.” The email said I’d be charged after my first session. I also received a welcome text, a second email from the counselor ensuring I lived in Oregon, where she practices, and a bunch of paperwork to complete.

Headway Text
Verywell Mind / Hannah Owens

One of the things I didn’t like was that I had to sign and scan some of the documents physically. Fortunately, I have a printer that does that, but it could have been a big hassle if I didn’t have one, and was still more time-consuming than an electronic signature.

My Therapy Session
The day before my session, I received a message from my Headway counselor reminding me to complete the paperwork. The messages look like they were sent from the provider (and they were), but they came through Headway’s messaging service via the email address @providers.headway.co, so it was all discreet (the platform is HIPAA-compliant). One little snag was that my paperwork wouldn’t go through to the Headway email account, so I had to forward it to my counselor’s business Gmail account. It wasn’t a big deal, but it would be ideal for all correspondence and paperwork to stay in one secure place.

My session was scheduled for an hour and 15 minutes—I received a secure link to the video chat before the appointment.
It was easy to sign in, and my counselor was there already; she mentioned it was her first time using this new video platform, and her laptop was at a strange angle (tilted up instead of straight on), but the audio was clear.

My counselor was kind, empathetic, and a good listener, but I didn’t feel like she was as astute as my current therapist (which could also be a result of the fact that I’ve known my current therapist for years).

I appreciated that she was willing to share an appropriate amount about herself; she has grown children, for example. She was solution-oriented and suggested I prioritize sleep and one-on-one time with my husband. In the moment, those suggestions felt a little trite, but I did think of her words after our session and took her advice. She told me at one point that I looked tired, which is fair because I am, but also… no.

We realized halfway through that she hadn’t sent me one of the intake forms that dove into my health history and why I was seeking therapy. While that would have been more work for me upfront, having that information would’ve helped the session go more smoothly.

Our session ended after just 50 minutes, which was fine with me, as I prefer shorter sessions.

Cost and Insurance
Since my insurance was accepted, I ended up paying my normal office visit co-pay, which was $30, charged to the card on file at the end of my first session. Other than inputting the details from my insurance card into Headway, which probably took about a minute, I had zero involvement with the insurance process, which I so appreciated.

However, when I logged into my insurance site to see the claim, it hadn’t yet been listed. This isn’t unusual—sometimes it takes a while for my claims to show up—but for that reason, I’m not comfortable saying with 100% certainty that all I paid was $30.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Headway
It’s important to note that on August 25th, 2023, a class action lawsuit was filed against Headway alleging that Headway shares private user information, including information about the mental health conditions of its website’s visitors, with Google.

Pros and Cons
I thought it was easy and efficient to find a therapist on Headway, though there are a few things I’d like to see improved.

Pros
Website is easy to navigate

Many filtering options when searching for providers

Therapists and counselors have a lot of availability

You can filter by your specific insurance company to find a provider

Headway handles billing your insurance for you

If your insurance is accepted, you’re only responsible for your copay

Cons
No app; all bookings must be done through the website

Not many psychiatrists or advanced practice nurses who can help with medication management

I had to sign and scan some of the intake forms physically

Not available in every state

Final Thoughts
I was impressed with my Headway experience and was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I could find and schedule an appointment with a licensed professional counselor. It was hard for me to warm up to a new provider because I have a trusted therapist I’ve been seeing for years. I may try it again and filter specifically for a therapist (someone with a bit more training) because it was amazing that my insurance was accepted, and the process was seamless.

I was also happy to see how many providers were in my area. I prefer virtual appointments, so it’s nice to have the option to see anyone in the state.

User Survey
We surveyed 180 users of Headway, and they seemed to agree with me that Headway delivers on all fronts:

83% of users rated the directory as good or very good overall
82% felt that the directory was easy or very easy to navigate
62% were able to find a therapist who met all of their needs
64% are still using the therapist they found on Headway
76% said they were likely or very likely to recommend Headway to a friend or someone like them
Personally, I recommend Headway to anyone looking for a counselor or therapist covered by their insurance.

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