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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

New walkway at The Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, 2024. Credit: Andrew Brodhead

Options for Care Outside of CAPS

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Clinicians at CAPS can help you get connected with some of the many excellent therapists and psychiatrists who provide mental health care in the community surrounding Stanford. CAPS has a Referral Coordination Specialist who can provide personalized support for understanding your benefits and finding resources for mental health. Call us to  request a Referral Coordination consult.

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  • Who is licensed to provide mental health services?
    • It is important to choose a provider who is licensed to provide therapy or medication. Licensed providers agree to abide by a professional code of ethics, are overseen by a practice board, and must meet specific levels of education and testing to maintain their licenses.

      Providers with the following types of titles/licenses are able to provide individual therapy:

      • Psychologist (PhD, PsyD)
      • Clinical Social Workers (MSW, LCSW)
      • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT)
      • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCC)

      Only Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are able to prescribe medication. Most therapists can refer you for medication evaluation and management when indicated. Some Psychiatrists provide both therapy and medication management.

      • Psychiatrists (MD)- these providers are able to prescribe medication
      • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)- these providers are able to prescribe medication
  • How do I use my insurance for therapy?
    • You can contact your insurance plan directly to request details of your coverage and referral options. Info on this page can help you do this.

      • I have Cardinal Care Insurance
        • Aetna is the insurer for Stanford Student Cardinal Care. Mental health services are covered with a $25 copay for visits if you see an in-network provider. There is no reimbursement for out-of-network providers. You do not need a referral to see a therapist or psychiatrist.

          Locally and in California: Most students find it easiest to use web-based search tools provided on this site to find a local therapist who accepts Cardinal Care (Aetna). You can enter Aetna or Aetna Student Health as the insurance in any web search tools. For local searches, Welltrack Connect has partnered with CAPS to build up the Cardinal Care (Aetna/Aetna Student Health) provider base. On the Welltrack Connect site you can get detailed info about providers and send messages directly to them. We recommend on the site, that under insurance you check all three boxres: Aetna, Aetna Student Health, and Stanford Cardinal Care Aetna to get the most results and options.

          Aetna Student Health Customer Service at 888-834-4708 provides direct assistance with referrals in your local zip code. If you contact Aetna directly using the support line, please complete the online contact form here to give us feedback on your experience. We want to be sure you are receiving the referrals you need. 

          You can also search for providers directly on the Aetna Website here. We recommend checking out this Decoding Mental Health Provider List –this will help you reduce confusion as you review lists of in-network providers and decide whom to call for an appointment.    

          Out of state: Your Cardinal Care plan is Aetna and it is a national plan. Find providers anywhere in the United States by searching here, or by calling Aetna Student Health Customer Service at 888-834-4708 and asking for a list of providers in the zip code where you will be.

          International needs and Cardinal Care:  Cardinal Care has a program called International On Call. the On Call number is on the Aetna/Cardinal Care card, and listed below:

          toll free from US:  1-866-525-1956. 

          international:  00-1-603-328-1956.

          On Call can help the student find a psychiatrist. The provider may require payment up front, and you ca submit claims and be reimbursed at Tier 2 benefit level.

      • I have a different insurance
        • This is a general guide for students with non-Cardinal Care insurance who need assistance understanding their mental health benefits and obtaining referrals. If you want more help, CAPS offers personalized Referral Coordination services, described at the bottom of this page.

          Please note, each insurance company has its own system in place, but the procedure to obtaining referrals is common to many insurance plans. If you are not sure what benefits you have under your plan, we have made some guidelines to help you get that information.

          If you already know your benefits and are seeking providers who take your insurance, you can search Welltrack Connect as well as other sites under Options for Care Outside of CAPS, to find local providers who accept your Insurance. Just check the box for your insurance and location, and click "search"

          Click below for specific instructions detailing how to:

          You may use this Decoding Mental Health Provider Lists guide – link if you are looking for providers in the San Francisco Bay Area- this will help you avoid a lot of confusion related to large clinics.

      • I Would Like Additional Assistance Navigating My Mental Health Benefits
        • Students with Cardinal Care and other insurances can get referral assistance by calling 650-723-3785 and speaking with the CAPS Front Desk staff. CAPS also has personal Referral Coordination services available to students who do not have Cardinal Care and could benefit from more in-depth personal consultation to find a therapist or psychiatrist outside of CAPS and other relevant resources. If you think you may benefit from referral assistance, call 650-723-3785 and inform the CAPS Front Desk staff about your interest in off-campus referrals.
  • I want search tools to find a therapist or psychiatrist
  • I Am Seeking Low-cost or Sliding Scale Therapy Options 
  • I Am Seeking Financial Support to Help with the Cost of Mental Health Services 

      Undergraduate Students:

      • If you are currently enrolled and registered for classes, fill out the “medical/dental expense form” for assistance from the Financial Aid Office and meet with a Financial Aid Advisor. 
      • If you are low income or first generation, and are not registered in classes, or if you are enrolled in classes but Financial Aid options you received were not sufficient to cover medical expenses, you can apply for funds through the FLI Office (First gen and/or low income- FLI). Fill out the Opportunity Fund application and meet with a FLI advisor.
      • If neither of these options are sufficient, you may also work with your Residence Director to see if you are eligible for further assistance through the Dean of Students office.
      • LGBTQ+ students- In addition to the above resources, the QT fund is a grant program offered regularly through Queer Student Resources and Weiland- you can apply when the application cycles are open, for additional support of any kind, including mental health costs.

      Graduate Students:

      • There may be general financial support available through graduate departments to assist you in getting health insurance, Summer Access Fee, or other medical coverage expenses. You can meet with your department, or, if you want more support and information first, meet with a Graduate Life Office (GLO) Dean. GLO Deans are happy to support Graduate students. 
      • If your department is unable to provide sufficient assistance with your medical expenses, you can apply for Emergency Grant in Aid. Graduate Life Office (GLO) Deans can assist with this application. There is also a “Graduate Student Aid Fund” available through the Financial Aid Office.
      • FLI office (first Gen and/or Low income- FLI) is for Graduate students too- connect with them to learn more- they can assist FLI Grad students with Grant in Aid and other programs.
      • LGBTQ+ students- In addition to the above resources, the QT fund is a grant program offered regularly through Queer Student Resources and Weiland- you can apply when the application cycles are open, for additional support of any kind, including mental health costs.
  • Contacting therapists/psychiatrists- a how to guide
    • Many of the web platforms in the search tools tab, allow you to email a therapist privately from the site to arrange a call or set up an appointment. 

      However, you may still need to use the phone to connect with the therapist to confirm they meet your requirements (insurance they accept, specialties they work with, experience with issues you want to address, etc) and some therapists decline to use email for confidentiality or other reasons.

      If you use the phone for contact, know that most mental health clinicians do not have an administrative staff answering phones, so you may need to leave a voicemail and be prepared to answer a return call.

      It is best to select a minimum of 3-5 providers, and reach out to all of them in one sitting, as it is common for practices to be full or holding a wait list- the more providers you contact, the better chance to link with a therapist and an appointment time that works for you!

      How-To Guide: Connecting with Therapists/Psychiatrists over the phone or email

      For any phone call, expect to get confidential voicemail and to leave a voicemail. In your first communication with a provider, provide this information on the voicemail, or in the email message:

      • Your name 
      • Your identity as a Stanford student
      • If you received their name from someone, tell them who referred you (eg: Stanford CAPS or the name of your CAPS therapist)
      • If you plan to use insurance, share your insurance name (eg: Cardinal Care student health insurance through Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, United, etc.) and ask if they are currently accepting new clients with your insurance plan. 
      • Your preference for follow up (you can give both options for phone and email, but let them know if one is best- phone or email)
      • Your phone number and what times/days are best to contact you directly. Let them know it is okay for them to leave a voicemail on your phone. 
      • Your email address and that it is OK for them to contact you and on email if they are willing to use email. (some therapists and MDs will not use email)
      • Request that they contact you to let you know either way, if they have an opening or if they are full.


      • Make sure that your phone has voicemail set up and the voicemail box is not full. 
      • Answer calls that come in, even if they are “unknown” number, to avoid missing the call-backs from therapists
      • Check your spam or “other” box in your email to prevent missing responses or reach-outs from therapists via email
      • Don’t hesitate to send a follow up message or call if you do not hear back in 48 hours.

      How to interview and choose: 

      You may find it helpful to spend a couple of minutes on the phone with several clinicians to get a sense of who you feel a connection with. 

      You may also choose to meet with a couple of different clinicians, then decide who you feel most comfortable with. It is okay to talk with or meet with a couple of different people, then make a decision about whom you would like to continue with. You are welcome to tell the providers you are doing this. 

      For example, “I am talking with a couple of therapists to get a feel for who might be the best fit for me. I’d like to talk with you for a couple of minutes about how we might work together. If this feels like the best fit, could I call you back  or email you to schedule an appointment?” 

      If you talk with or meet with a couple of therapists, you may find it helpful to ask about the following when you are trying to get a sense of who might be a good fit: 

      • Tell them a little about how you are feeling and what you are struggling with. Ask how they might help someone with your concerns. What experience do they have helping someone with the types of problems you are experiencing? 
      • Could they describe their approach to treatment? 
      • What are their specialties? 
      • What hours are they available to see you?
      • Any other questions you have for them
  • Mental Health Care Away from Campus 
    • If you will be away from campus for summer break, a leave of absence, study abroad, or other reasons, get a head start in connecting to mental health services while you are away. 

      In the US:

      Urgent Mental Health Needs In the United States

      For urgent medical or mental health crises while you are in the U.S., call 9.1.1 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

      Non-urgent care in the US for students

      • TimelyCare (for all enrolled students)
        • TimelyCare is offered as a supplement to the extensive existing in-person and virtual services offered by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Vaden Medical Services, and other Vaden and on-campus resources. This no cost service offers enrolled students residing in the United States virtual medical and mental health care 24/7, 365 days/year and up to 12 scheduled mental health therapy sessions per academic year.    

          NOTE: WPO, an existing no cost therapy service for Stanford students, will remain in effect until December 2023 through the transition to TimelyCare. WPO provides 3 therapy sessions in the US per 6 month period. Student access to WPO in the US will end in December 2023.    

          TimelyCare does not replace any protocols for students in crisis. This service is only provided as another option for students who are seeking ongoing therapy or want to speak to a provider immediately.    

          To access TimelyCare    
          Go to or download the TimelyCare app.   

          Explore TimelyCare FAQs to learn more
      • Aetna (for students with Cardinal Care)
        • Your Aetna Student Health Plan allows you to choose where to receive care from a network provider*, please note out of network coverage is not covered in your EPO plan. Find a doctor, hospital or pharmacy.   

          Explore Aetna Student Health   

          * Network providers are independent contractors and are neither employees nor agents of Aetna Life Insurance Company or their affiliates. 
      • Use search tools to find local provider
      • Contact your insurance provider for referrals
        • You can contact your insurance directly for available therapists and help connecting. Call the customer or patient support line for your plan, and ask for referrals in the zip code where you will be living. You can also share specialties and identities you need and they can assist you in obtaining names. If you have Cardinal Care, please see the section above on on "using my insurance for therapy" and click on "I have Cardinal Care" for information.

      Support outside of the US when students are in a Stanford-Affiliated Program:

      URGENT Support: 

      Connect to Crisis24 
      Stanford Dedicated Hotline: +1-443-716-2305 

      Access Crisis24 Horizon Platform 
      Go to

      Download Mobile App 
      Download from the Apple App store, Google Play or search for Crisis24 Horizon Mobile. 

      Logging In 
      1. Open the mobile or web app, enter your Stanford email address, and tap Sign In. 
      2. On the next screen, enter your university credentials and again tap Sign In to enter Horizon. 
      *If it is your first time logging in, enter your Stanford email address under "Register." (You may also be prompted to add a mobile phone number.) 

      Desktop: Go to Preferences, located under your name on the top-right, and set up your preferred notifications.
      Mobile: Follow the prompts to enable Push Notifications and Location Services to receive alert notifications based on your current location. You can monitor and receive notifications for other locations by adding them to your main dashboard.

      Non -Urgent Support: 

      If student is an undergraduate and in the BOSP (Bing Overseas Study Program) they may have access to free local mental health care via the program. Students are requested by BOSP to disclose any and all health needs, including mental health needs, prior to travel, so BOSP can assist them with resources. If the student is open to it, they can sign an ROI and you can also consult with BOSP staff about recommendations. 

      If the student is a graduate doing field work or is a grad or undergrad doing another Stanford-affiliated program not associated with BOSP, it is also important they communicate with the program about medical needs ahead of time, to access resources that may be available and get support for these via their department. 

      International care and Cardinal Care (applicable to all students currently enrolled in Cardinal Care) 

      For students enrolled in the Stanford student health care plan, Cardinal Care, Cardinal Care Aetna has a travel assistance program called International On Call Travel Assistance Services

      The On Call Travel Assistance Services number is on the Cardinal Care Aetna card, and listed below: 
      Toll free from US: 1-866-525-1956 
      International: 00-1-603-328-1956 

      On Call Travel Assistance Services can help a student find a psychiatrist in the location. The provider may require payment up front. A student can submit claims for covered incurred costs to Aetna and be reimbursed at Tier 2 benefit level. More information can be found about Tier 2 Benefits in Student Health Matters

      To file for reimbursement with Cardinal Care/Aetna of covered, incurred costs outside the US: 

      Use this link for reference, and for electronic claim filing options. 

      You may also mail claims to the address on the back of the Cardinal Care /Aetna ID card: 
      Submit Claims to: 
      Aetna Life Insurance Company 
      P O BOX 981106 
      EL PASO TX 79998

New walkway at The Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, 2024. Credit: Andrew Brodhead