Guide to Understanding Off-Campus Referrals

Your Referral

To help us serve as many students as possible while providing high quality care, the MU Counseling Center provides time-limited individual counseling services in addition to our other clinical services. When clinical staff believe that ongoing or specialized treatment is in a student’s best interest, the student may be referred to another service including an off-campus provider. This guide is designed to help students get connected to off campus services.

Our staff are committed to matching you with services most appropriate for your mental health concerns. You may be referred to pursue outpatient individual therapy, but there are other types of treatment we may recommend (e.g., intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, residential, inpatient).

Please note off-campus services are completely separate from the MU Counseling Center. We try to tailor our recommendations to match students with providers who frequently treat college students or who work with your particular concerns. However, we do not supervise any particular agency/provider nor do we guarantee a particular provider will be right for you. After obtaining information about options, you will need to make a decision about which providers are most appropriate for you. If transportation is a concern, there are some providers near campus. You are responsible for any payment and there are different options for paying for off-campus mental health services (e.g., low cost/sliding scale; health insurance), which are discussed below.

Low Cost / Sliding Scale Services

There are a few community organizations and agencies that offer mental health services for a low cost or sliding scale fee that is usually based on your income. In some cases, these services are provided by master’s or doctoral-level students who are supervised by licensed therapists. If you do not have health insurance or if you are choosing not to use your insurance at this time, our clinical staff will provide referrals that offer services for a reduced fee. There may also be providers in the community who are willing to offer a lower cost because they realize that some students cannot afford their full fees. If there is a particular provider you would like to work with, you may check with them to see if they offer services at a reduced cost.


Please determine your insurance benefits before attending your first appointment. To do so, call the customer service number on your card and ask to speak with a representative. Be prepared to provide them with your name, insurance ID number, date of birth, and home address. If you are covered by someone else’s insurance plan (e.g., your parents), you may need to provide their information. You may also use your insurance’s website to find out information about your benefits.

Tell the representative that you are interested in understanding your mental health benefits, sometimes called “behavioral health” benefits. Not all insurance plans provide mental/behavioral health benefits.  Providers may be considered “in-network” or “out-of-network.” In-network providers are typically covered by your insurance at a lower cost than out-of-network providers.

Consider asking the following questions:

  1. Does my plan cover mental health outpatient visits?
  2. What is the difference between “in-network” and “out-of-network” providers?
  3. How does my coverage differ if I see a provider who is “out-of-network”?
  4. Must I see someone on the provider list?
  5. Is there anything I need to do to have my sessions covered by insurance?
  6. For how many sessions can I be seen?
  7. What is my co-pay (dollar amount you are responsible for at each visit) or co-insurance (percentage of the cost of each visit you are responsible for)?
  8. Is there a deductible (amount you need to pay before your insurance starts paying their portion of the cost) that I need to pay? If yes, how much is it? How much has been paid to date and how much do I have left to pay?
  9. Do I need pre-authorization or a referral before meeting with a provider?

If you will be submitting claims:

  1. What information will you need from my provider for my claims to be paid?
  2. Where do I send my claims?
  3. Approximately how long does it take to receive reimbursement?

Contacting Providers

 After you receive off-campus referrals, the next step is to contact potential agencies or individual providers. They may have a website where some of the information below is explained.

  • In many cases, you will likely not reach someone directly by phone when you call.
    • If this is the case, leave a clear voice message stating your name, phone number, a brief description of the reason for your call (i.e., your interest in asking some questions and scheduling an appointment), and the best times to reach you. Providers will likely leave you a voicemail in return.
  • Providers may be able to answer some questions before you make an appointment. To be an informed consumer, these are possible questions to ask before scheduling an appointment:
    • My concerns are ____ and I am looking for a therapist/psychiatrist.
    • Do you have openings for new clients? What is your availability (e.g., days/times)?
    • What is the cost per session? What are your payment policies (e.g., forms of payment accepted, when is payment due, do you offer payment plans)?
    • I have ____ insurance. Are you an in-network or out-of-network provider?
    • I do not have insurance. Do you offer any discounts or other arrangements such as a sliding scale for students?
  • If you are able to speak directly with the provider over the phone, below are some additional questions to consider asking. You can also ask the following questions during the first session. These questions will help you to get a sense of whether a provider may be a good match for you.
    • My concerns are ____ OR I have been feeling ___ and it is affecting me ____.
    • Do you have experience addressing these concerns?
    • What is your approach to working with these concerns? What is your counseling style?
    • Do you have a professional license? If yes, what type? If no, are you being supervised by someone with a professional license?

The first appointment

You will likely be asked to complete and sign some forms, either ahead of your scheduled appointment or when you arrive. These may cover services, payment, confidentiality, and questions about your history.

The first meeting is often used to figure out why you are seeking help, what your concerns are, family and social history, and questions to help get to know you better, establish your goals, and give you both an opportunity to decide if you are a good match.

You have the chance to ask questions, which may include the length of sessions and how often you will meet, what to expect during sessions, whether there will be “homework” or other assignments between sessions, and how long you can expect treatment to last. Let the provider know what you believe may be most helpful to you, and discuss any past experiences you may have with treatment.

 Finding the right fit

Because providers and clients work together, it is important that you feel comfortable with the provider and that they have the skills to address your concerns. If you have some concerns about working with the provider, it may be helpful to share them as they may be able to adjust their style. If you decide that your provider is not a good match, it is okay to try meeting with someone else. However, it is important to recognize that when you are working on concerns that are difficult to share, it is not uncommon to feel somewhat uncomfortable initially with any provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Why am I being referred off-campus? The MU Counseling Center provides brief individual therapy services to best serve as many students as possible. Some students have concerns that are best supported by off-campus providers who can offer more sessions over a longer period of time or they may need services that campus does not provide.

 Why do some students prefer off-campus care? Students may prefer to see a provider off-campus for a variety of reasons. Some students feel off-campus treatment is more private, others prefer to have a wider choice among providers, and private providers may also offer more availability (e.g., evening and weekend appointment times). Off-campus providers may also see students throughout their time at Mizzou.

 Will my health insurance pay for off-campus care? Health insurance can often help with the cost of off-campus psychological services. The best source of information about your coverage and benefits is your health insurance company.

 What if I don’t have health insurance or I don’t want to use my health insurance? The MU Counseling Center maintains a list of community organizations and agencies that offer mental health services for a low cost or sliding scale fee that is usually based on your income. There are also providers who realize that some students can’t afford their fees and may be willing to offer a reduced fee.

 What if I have trouble finding a provider or I don’t like anyone on the list I have received? A good match between provider and student is important. We cannot guarantee the match and quality of care you receive from private providers, and it is important to make a choice that works for you. Sometimes the first provider you meet will be a good match, but other times this is not the case. If none of the providers on your referral list are right for you, contact our referral coordinator to receive additional referrals.

 How do I get information about the person to whom you referred me? You can obtain more information about a provider by asking that person about their credentials and many have a website with additional details. You can contact the state licensing board of a specific profession to confirm that person’s license and qualifications. In Missouri, you may find this at: