Tips for Locating an Allergy-Informed Counseling Provider
by Tamara Hubbard, MA, LCPC
You realize your anxiety levels are rising to a level that impacts your daily life, and nothing you're doing seems to be helping.
An anaphylactic reaction occurs, and now you can't stop worrying about the possibility of another reaction.
Your child starts exhibiting excessive checking or safety behaviors, such as repetitive label-reading, not wanting to touch surfaces, or not eating foods outside of the house due to their worries.
These are just a few of the many reasons why those managing food allergies might decide to seek support from a licensed clinical counseling professional. No matter why you've decided you're ready for counseling, you'll need to look for a provider to work with, preferably one that understands food allergies or allergic conditions.
However, that's not always an easy task. Therefore, here are helpful tips to aid you in finding a licensed clinical counseling provider to help you when you need it most.
Besides the Food Allergy Counselor Directory, there's not an easy way to find an allergy-knowledgeable counseling provider. With this in mind, below are other avenues that might help in locating providers who can support the psychosocial needs of those managing allergies:
- Ask your allergist - Some allergy offices have a list of allied healthcare providers they refer to, including counselors, social workers or psychologists.
- Registered dietitians - Dietitians are another group of allied healthcare providers that are available to help those managing allergies. These professionals might know of or routinely collaborate with allergy-knowledgeable counseling providers, or at the very least, have a list of providers they feel can be helpful.
- Inquire in local support groups - Chances are, someone in your local support group (online or offline) has worked with a counseling professional that they've found to be helpful. Even if they haven't, they may know how to locate one near you.
- Call hospital allergy departments/clinics - If a local hospital has an allergy and immunology department or food allergy clinic, call to see if they have providers they routinely refer patients to. Sometimes these providers will be hospital employees in the psychology department, and may have longer wait lists for appointments.
- Counseling/therapy directories - There are a number of therapy provider directories out there, including Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Therapist Locator, Psychologist Locator, and the ADAA Therapist Directory. Directories such as these typically allow people to search providers based on various criteria: location, clinical focus, therapy type, client age, and insurance.
- Insurance companies - Insurance companies will typically share a list of local mental healthcare providers that are in-network if you call and ask for one.
Here's additional provider criteria to consider when evaluating counseling professionals that don't state they focus on food allergies or allergic conditions:
- Chronic Health Conditions - While they might not focus on allergic conditions specifically, providers that specialize in helping those managing chronic illnesses might have a better understanding of life with a medical condition and the social, emotional, and familial impacts.
- Anxiety Focus - As anxiety is often a common component when managing allergies, seeking a provider that understands and treats anxiety is important.
- Client Ages - If you're wanting support for a young child, then it's beneficial to look for a provider that works with kids. The same goes for looking for a provider that works with teens or adults. (Note: Some providers work primarily with the parents/caregivers when addressing anxiety in young kids.)
- Treatment Modalities - When dealing with the emotional impacts of allergic conditions, much of the work will focus on identifying/shifting thought patterns, skill-building, and improving resilience. The most commonly utilized therapy modality to address these goals is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is an evidence-based method. Other common modalities that can be effective when addressing anxiety or trauma are: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Therapy, and BioFeedback. Additionally, providers trained in Family Therapy are helpful in addressing how the allergy affects members of the family.
Let's say you've located a provider online or through another avenue. Now what? Most counseling providers will offer a brief free consultation phone call so you can ask them questions and they can share more details about their services.
When you call the provider, here are a sample of questions you might ask to assess whether they're a good fit for your counseling goals:
- What's their understanding of food allergies, allergic conditions, or chronic health conditions? Have they previously worked with those with allergies?
- If they treat anxiety, how so? What counseling modalities do they use?
- Do they include the parents/caregiver in sessions when working with kids?
- How do they structure their sessions, and what should you expect?
- If you'd like to know, feel free to ask questions about their schooling, training or professional experiences.
- Ask about fees, billing, and insurance. This is a great opportunity to ask these questions up front, as some providers will be in-network with insurances, while others aren't.
If after that initial call, you don't feel that the provider is a good fit, it's absolutely okay to call others. Counseling is as much about the therapeutic alliance and relationship as it is about theory and therapy modalities that are used.
Hopefully the aforementioned tips are useful in helping you successfully locate a counseling professional that will provide the support you need. I'll conclude by sharing a few additional thoughts to keep in mind:
- Teletherapy - Some provide counseling in-office as well as via HIPAA-compliant web-based platforms (known as teletherapy). This can be helpful if the provider isn't local to you. However, it's important to keep in mind that not all insurances cover teletherapy, so you'll need to confirm this with your insurance company ahead of time (if using insurance). Additionally, telehealth guidelines are still evolving, and may differ based on state as well as counseling designation (i.e. social work, counseling, family therapy, psychology). This means that some states require that those engaging in teletherapy services do so with a provider licensed in that state. Be sure to check with your provider about teletherapy guidelines to ensure they're adhereing to ethical guidelines.
- First Sessions - If you've never attended counseling before, it's hard to know what to expect. Typically, the first couple of sessions are primarily information gathering sessions. This is when the provider will ask questions relating to why you sought counseling and what things you'd like to address. Together, you'll establish treatment goals which will help guide the therapy.
- If You're Just Not Clicking - If after a few sessions you feel like you're not building a rapport or clicking with the therapist, it's okay to let them know this. If after exploring this, you still don't feel like the counseling is helping, it's absolutely alright to let the therapist know that you'd like to discontinue sessions, and then seek out another provider. If you don't feel comfortable with the therapist or confident in their skills, that can affect the outcome of counseling and the achievement of your goals.
About the Author
Tamara Hubbard is a licensed clinical professional counselor & family therapist in the Chicagoland area. She provides general counseling and food allergy-specific counseling to individuals and families. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, and an Allied Health Professional member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Learn more about Tamara Hubbard, LCPC, her training, and her counseling/consulting services at www.TamaraHubbardLCPC.com.