Suspicious therapist's office?

Ok, so my wife was planning to try a new therapist today. She’s had the appointment set up for a while, and they called this morning to tell her that she needed to bring pay stubs with her to prove that she could pay for their services. She told them she planned to pay in cash and would bring it with her. They said they didn’t accept cash or credit cards. They would accept a check, but they needed to know our household income, so they would need both her paystubs and mine. She argued with them about this for a while because she didn’t feel comfortable giving those to them. Finally, she got frustrated and cancelled the appointment.

So what happened here? Is this something they want to do to make sure she’ll come back after one visit and be able to afford continuing therapy with them? If so, what difference does it make? She could pay for today’s session. If she can’t pay for the next one, she just wouldn’t go. Even if they saw our pay stubs, that would not prove ability to pay, or that we would pay or whatever.

Any idea why a place would have such strange policies? BTW, we can afford to pay. That’s not really the issue.

Oh, I should add that they had called her a few days ago to tell her that her insurance would not cover her visit because they do not have a PhD or MD on staff. I guess they only have psychologists with a B.S. (or would it be a BA for psychology?). This was a bit odd, but she was planning to just pay for it herself.

Absolute horseshit. Run away as fast as possible. In fact, I’d report them to the police and the BBB or Chamber of Commerce of your area.

That’s a #1 scam right there.

I’ve been asked for that information, but I was checking out a sliding scale place so they needed it to calculate my fee. If she’s paying full price out of pocket, they shouldn’t ask for that information. I’d be put off by that. I also think it’s strange that they don’t accept cash. I wouldn’t go there unless it was based on a strong recommendation given by someone I really trust.

Well on the one hand it’s easy to see why a small firm or an individual therapist doesn’t want to accept cash, and can’t accept credit cards.

But to be a real psychotherapist, you need a PhD in psychology or a MD in psychiatry. Anyone else is a poseur. MSW does allow some kinds of therapy, but certainly not psychotherapy.

Furthermore the pay stub business is ridiculous, and I think they should be reported not just to useless local business groups, but also to the APA (if they claim to be a psychotherapist) and the state licensing authority and also possibly the state attorney general.

When warning bells go off about your therapist, run the hell away.

I thought one had to be at least a PhD to be a psychologist.

This place is giving off all kinds of shadiness indicators. I say punt, they can’t be the only game in town.

I’ve gone to therapy on and off for a decade now, and in a variety of settings, and all of those things have happened to me:

I’ve been asked for a pay stub (but like Leah said, it was to determine a sliding scale fee).
I’ve been required to pay by check.
I’ve seen an MSW. Actually, I’ve seen many, many MSWs. Very few of my therapists have had PhDs.
I’ve gone to a practice that chose not to accept insurance. I submitted my receipts to my insurance company.

It sounds unusual that they would request a paystub to insure that you could continue services but not extraordinary. Honestly, if it were me, it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. I’d want to see how I got along with the therapist in question - that would be most important. A good therapist is hard to find. But if I might offer some unsolicited advice, cognitive behavioral therapy was the most helpful for me and has the best track record when it comes to depression. It might be worth it to seek out a therapist trained in CBT.

You mean there’s a place somewhere in this country where I can give therapy with just my psych BA? Wow.

What’s a #1 scam? I don’t get their angle, but like to keep myself informed on this sort of thing. Or did you just mean that it’s very suspicious, sure to be a scam?

It varies by state.

Do you even need that? I think the requirement is that you have to be working toward a degree, or some such fuzzy language.

In drug treatment circles, the #1 job position for people getting out of treatment is… drug treatement counsellor! :)

#2 is used car dealer.

You have mentioned that your wife suffers from depression. Assuming her depression is not severe, then cognitive behavior therapy is what’s being used for treatment of non-severe depression these days. There should be plenty of CBT people around who do work with an MD/Phd and therefore would be covered under her insurance.

If her depression has been diagnosed as severe, then she really shouldn’t be seeing anyone who is not working with a psychiatrist. I know there are a ton of horror stories about psychiatrists out there but if you look at the underlying statistics, you’ll see that in fact psychiatrists do help about as much as any other specialty helps other people; ie most of the time.

I would not bother with this new therapist unless for some reason they are the only show in town.

Ah, I didn’t realize. That makes sense.

This is not true for mental health counselors, unless you’re talking about that 50th state… But substance abuse appears to be a different ballgame.

The term “psychologist” is protected legally in all US States and Canadian provinces, and is defined by the professionally association for psychologists (the American Psychological Association [APA] in the US and the CPA in Canada). In almost every North American jurisdiction, psychologists must now be holders of a PhD, PsyD, or EdD. There are exceptions to this, Quebec having recently changed the laws allowed people with Masters level qualifications (e.g., MSW, MA, MSc) and appropriate training to see clients as “psychologists”. In Quebec, this has been changed but many are grandfathered and may continue to see clients with their existing credentials.

No one who is unlicensed by the APA or CPA may call themselves a psychologist legally, and any complaints should be immediately sent in to the APA or the CPA for investigation.

The term “therapist”, on the other hand, or even “psychotherapist” is an unregulated term. Pretty much anyone can call themselves a therapist.

I urge you to seek out the APA or CPA Web sites and use their psychologist finder tool to locate a local, qualified psychologist for your mental health needs. Accept nothing less.

They want both people’s pay stubs? I can think of all kinds of things they can do with that information. Identity theft combined with whatever other other personal information they gather before and during a therapy session.

The only person I’ve ever given that to is my mortgage company, and I can completely understand because they are extending me a multi (hundred!) thousand dollar line of credit. They have to be SURE I can pay, in theory. But some service provider? My god, I’d laugh in their face if they asked me that. Imagine you want to hire a clown for your kid’s birthday and he asks you for you and your spouses pay stubs and personal information before he signs up for the job. The sheer audacity.

Now if it’s a sliding scale based on income, that’s another thing. Robert Sharp didn’t mention anything about that, though.

My pay stub has my banking account number and the last digits of my social, but they could be easily whited out. It confuses me that you wouldn’t give your pay stub in this situation but say it’s okay when a service provider uses a sliding scale. If it’s sensitive information, it’s sensitive in all cases, right?

Yeah, but I think his beef is that he can’t discern a reason that they’d need it, which makes it seem shady. Kind of like those ebay/craigslist scams where people want to pay for something by signing a check over to you for more than it’s worth and having you pay them back the difference. You might do some weird thing like this for someone you knew if they wanted to for some reason (I’m pretty sure I have at some point), but when there’s no reason that you can see for a person to do it that way, and it’s someone you don’t know or have any particularly compelling reason to trust, a red flag goes up.

As someone who has a BA in Psychology this frightens me, a lot.

(I have a real degree too, it was an easy double major).

I can understand the uncertainty. But I just suspect there’s something in between “I’m not sure why they’re asking for this,” and “This is an identity theft ring!!” I’m sure I’ve given my social at the doctor’s office.