Seeking Mental Health Services at Kaiser

Parent Q&A

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  • Looking for recommendations for therapists with experience supporting girls with inattentive ADHD. Someone in Oakland would be ideal and if you know of anyone within Kaiser, that would be phenomenal. Or if you have any tips on getting Kaiser to pay for out-of-network support, please share. Thanks so much in advance!

    Dr. Ellena Chen is based in Lafayette (downtown) and is in private practice, so not ideal for you. However, she is super experienced with girls w/this profile. My kid (12, inattentive ADHD, anxiety, gifted) has been working with her for a year now. Ellena is smart, intense, engaged, and super helpful w/ parent consults as well. She is sometimes able to provide a little bit of sliding scale, but her prices are otherwise typical for Bay Area psychologists. She shared with me that some of her clients have been successful getting partial coverage from Kaiser (we haven't tried yet but plan to). She said to start with your pediatrician. It seems like this is especially true in more acute cases, and possibly ones where the kiddo is 2e and you can prove you need her specialization in that population, which is our hope. However, they are probably more likely to outsource and pay for difficult/acute cases than simpler/less critical ones. And they might be more likely if there's already an established therapeutic relationship (?)

    I can't say for sure, and maybe it depends on your advocacy, but my understanding in interactions with them is that Kaiser will not provide therapy for ADHD (which is ridiculous, of course, since it has global impacts on one's life and is not some sort of "school problem"!). However, if you have another diagnosis such as anxiety, they will--with the caveat that access to regular-enough therapy and finding someone your kid fits with is more dubious/difficult because mental health is famously such a weak suit for Kaiser. Maybe, with strong advocacy and an emphasis on the non-scholastic impacts of ADHD, they will be more responsive than just offering a class and some parent handouts... I hope others who have actually been through it will have more advice for you! Good luck:)

  • Bipolar teen and Kaiser

    Sep 27, 2022

    My teen is newly diagnosed bipolar. We may be switching to Kaiser in January. I know there is a strike right now going on with some mental health care workers - psychiatrists I believe. Does anyone have experience getting good help for their bipolar child thru Kaiser? Our current health care is not great but she does have a psychiatrist that is readily available and I can text him even on weekends. that's about it though. No other services.

    IMHO when a family signs up with Kaiser, they must accept from the outset that all mental health services and expenses will be added expenses and a world to navigate on their own. The Kaiser strike encompasses all professional therapists, MFCCs, LCSWs, PhDs, etc. Nancy Pelosi is starting to get involved with this strike. 

    The short story about Kaiser and their mental health department is that they are grossly understaffed and their mental health providers are overbooked which is why they cannot meet for frequent (i.e. weekly or even biweekly) appts. My son has mild ADHD and had very intermittent contact with their teen ADHD specialist who was very gifted with teens but ultimately left. This is why the mental health department periodically strikes because they do not feel they are able to treat their clients at the level that is needed to sufficiently support them given their extreme caseloads. We ended up supplementing my son's Kaiser with an outside therapist. Otherwise, we really like Kaiser.

    It would be a mistake to switch to Kaiser.  When my child was utilizing their mental health services he had  numerous different psychiatrists and therapists within the space of a couple years. They have horrible turnover and no consistency in care.  There is a reason their mental health workers are striking. And why Kaiser was sued for their poor mental health services. It would be a huge disservice to your teen

  • Hello Berkeley Parents.

    We have a 17-year-old daughter who has been struggling with depression and anxiety, exacerbated by the school closure during the Covid shutdown. We have Kaiser as our health insurance carrier and we like them for routine and preventive care and I'd like to keep it for that reason.  However, their mental health care has been extremely disappointing (that is not even strong enough to express my feelings about that, but that's for another time and place).  We have found a non-Kaiser therapist who finally seems to be making a bit of a difference, but it is expensive to pay out of pocket.

    I have read on some of the thread about mental health about having to buy separate health insurance to pay for these service and I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations  any particular health insurance carrier that I can get for my daughter specifically for this purpose? I would appreciate if if your recommendation is accompanied by your own experience with these insurance carriers.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    I have not heard of an additional mental health insurance.  We have the same struggles with Kaiser for the same exact reason, and after a life time of being a member there I'm finally biting the bullet and switching to Cigna this open enrollment.  What I have done in the past is burn through our FSA account to pay out of pocket for non-Kaiser therapists.  Do you have and FSA or HSA option attached to your Kaiser insurance?

    My experience has been that I don't want to see any therapists that take insurance. We now build the cost of self-pay therapy into our monthly budget. We've had really bad experiences with in-network therapists and finally gave up. 

    I’m a longtime Kaiser patient and parent. KP is obligation to provide medically necessary mental health coverage. One should not have to get additional insurance. That said, mental health services from KP are abominable for the most part. I suggest you tell file a grievance with KP outlining the treatment your child needs. Ask you current outside therapist for help. State that you are not getting medical necessary treatment. Write that you want KP to pay for the out of network therapist. . Once you submit KP has 25 of so days to respond. They will say they are providing adequate care and will probably deny paying out of network. But ask! You can then appeal to the DMHC, a state agency that has doctors review claims. KP may be ordered to pay. Do this while you continue to get therapy that’s helping. 

       I cannot speak to your insurance plight. I'm sorry.  Our experience was & has been mostly without any insurance.  It's been tough.

       My adult son is diagnosed with bipolar --as well as epilepsy, learning challenges and PTSD.   Unfortunately, until he was in his 20's we were living in Texas at the time, with zero insurance, and very little support from the schools, from public services, etc.  We're here now, in California.  The services, mostly free, are so much better. 

      About your daughter, please check with the local branch of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The East Bay meetings are held in a church in Albany. While your daughter isn't yet 18 (which seems to be the entry point) the staff know a lot about the resources in this area  --- for various degrees of mental challenges   

    You will learn a lot by attending one of  NAMI's support groups.  There you'll find parents who know the ropes quite well regarding what insurance has worked for them.

       Also, please give a call to the local Regional Center.  It's possible they can help or can refer you to someone who can.

       All the best to a dear mom who loves her daughter. 

    I don’t have a positive recommendation but avoid MHN. Hardly any providers are included. Most of the people on their list of supposed don’t accept the insurance when you call them. And hardly any of those who do have openings. So the idea of finding a good fit is out the window unless you are really lucky. 

    Have you asked Kaiser to pay for the therapist you found? Kaiser used to lay for outside therapists through Beacon insurance . You tell the Kaiser mental health felt you found a good therapist not in their department and they approve them, set you up with Beacon and you get a number of paid sessions that you have a copay for. I had 9 months of outside therapist treatment through Kaiser. If I had wanted more i think I could have had them. (Car accident trauma) Not sure now but I think the lawsuit their behavioral health department was subjected to resulted in this deal.  Pretty good. Only restriction is finding a therapist that takes Beacon. Never had the slightest push back from Kaiser. (About 2 or 3 years ago.) it went quickly and smoothly.

    Thank you for all your replies. I appreciated all of them.

    We are preparing to negotiate with Kaiser to at least foot some of the costs that we are having to incur with non-Kaiser therapist.  We are fortunate enough to have found one who was available and who seems to be helping my daughter, but $200 a pop, it adds up quickly. I am looking into switching to a UHC plan in the open enrollment if it doesn't work out with Kaiser. Her therapist would still be out-of-network, but they still reimburse. It' stressful enough trying to figure out the care she needs, I really don't need to have a stress of figuring out how to pay for it.

  • Hello Berkeley Parents.

    We have a 17-year-old daughter who has been struggling with depression and anxiety, exacerbated by the school closure during the Covid shutdown. We have Kaiser as our health insurance carrier and we like them for routine and preventive care and I'd like to keep it for that reason.  However, their mental health care has been extremely disappointing (that is not even strong enough to express my feelings about that, but that's for another time and place).  We have found a non-Kaiser therapist who finally seems to be making a bit of a difference, but it is expensive to pay out of pocket.

    I have read on some of the thread about mental health about having to buy separate health insurance to pay for these service and I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations  any particular health insurance carrier that I can get for my daughter specifically for this purpose? I would appreciate if if your recommendation is accompanied by your own experience with these insurance carriers.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Hi, I am also with Kaiser and have found their mental health approach disappointing. I researched it further because it does not make sense. What I found out is that they cannot find nearly enough therapists to fill the tremendous need. 

    Following your post. I have the same feeling about Kaiser and we will change for Cigna, hoping it will be easier to find a therapist who cares for my 16yo who is struggling at school and loosing self confidence.

    I would be careful about switching to PPO to get better mental health care. We had both Cigna and Blue Shield during a 2-year break from Kaiser due to an employer change. Kaiser is bad, but the others were no better. With Cigna I had to call 35 therapists to find ONE that took their insurance (even though all 35 were listed on their site as preferred providers that took Cigna). I had a few sessions with that one person, a LCSW, but she was very new and inexperienced. With Blue Shield, it was even worse. I called over 30 and none actually took Blue Shield. They all said they would provide a "super bill", but the PPOs only pay a small fraction of those fees as they're considered out-of-network. I have heard some people have success getting Kaiser to pay for outside therapists, so that might be an option.

    We were with Anthem Blue Cross before switching to Kaiser in June. We couldn't find a therapist that was covered Anthem either so have been paying out of pocket for therapy both with Anthem & Kaiser. Psychiatry is covered, and we were lucky to find a great one with Kaiser (Dr. Westlake). Good luck!

  • We are looking for a psychologist or psychiatrist focused on adolescents dealing with suicidal ideation, psychosis, depression, anger, hurting self and others. Ideally, they are able to meet in-person (not virtual), and are on Kaiser—but willing to pay out of pocket too. The teen lives in the East Bay but open to locations as we are finding it very difficult to find anyone willing to take new patients immediately.  The teen has already called suicide hotlines, gone to the ER, etc. We just really need to find them ongoing help. Thank you.

    I am so sorry, and understand your panic. I had a very good experience with Dr Yuriy Dobry with my daughter. He is in Burlingame so a bit of a drive, but he was worth it. Google him and give his office a call. A very nice man who knows what he is doing. I wish you all the best.

    I am just so sorry that you're going through this. I don't know anyone, but I really feel for you.

    My daughter who suffers from clinical depression has seen two excellent psychiatrists and is currently working with an NP from Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates ( They’re currently taking new patients and I’ve been very impressed with each doctor that my daughter’s seen from PCPA. 
    It’s been over 10 years assuring my daughter has the best care team and it’s paying off! I’m unaware if they also provide psychologists for new patients also seeing a physiatrist. It’s harder work finding the ideal psychologist because they must be a great match for the patient since they monitor how well the medication(s) work for the patient.  Unfortunately, the psychologist she’s currently working with in Oakland is not currently taking new patients. 

    Best of luck to you. It’s a heartbreaking journey finding the care team that’ll be best for your child. Sorry I don’t have any personal experience with the Kaiser system

    If you are with Kaiser you should call them. They will set up an intake session with a psychiatrist. 

    Sorry I can't help you with Kaiser. If they can't provide you with a therapist, then you can request that they find you one from one of their affiliate lists. It used to be Beacon or Magellan. Maybe you could try Elise Geltman whose office is right near Kaiser in Oakland--she used to be a Magellan provider, i think. Or you could try A Step Forward, a practice located in Concord that used to have an office in El Cerrito right by the BART STATION. Anna Weisberg is the Clinical Director: her practice is full right now. We thought she was great-- maybe a little more trauma focused than what you seem to be seeking--but capable of handling the challenges you've listed nonetheless. I know they just brought on some new clinicians who seem to have availability. If you are interested, call the main number 925-685-9670 x101 and to DIana Jones, their office manager. , will take initial information to get things started. Here's the website:

    Also, you may already have gone to a Willows in the Wind meeting, but that can be both a comfort and a good source of resources for parents. They are a little more residential treatment focused than you need, but parents are encouraged to come and ask for help even if they are keeping their child in their home community. They have meetings in both Oakland and San Rafael--virtual right now:

    Good luck and hang in there...I'm with you in spirit...and am hoping that things ease up. It takes time, but healing can happen. 

    A parent who has been there. - S

    Based on the symptoms you described, it sounds like your teen really needs a higher level of care than basic outpatient therapy and psychiatry. It is likely they will require a higher level of care like an intensive outpatient (IOP) or partial hospitalization program (PHP). In Kaiser, you will need to advocate strongly - make sure you document your teen’s symptoms and risk factors, especially the fact that they are suicidal and self harming, and share that documentation (eg, send over email) with the mental health care team. Kaiser does have PHP and IOP programs. You will need to strongly advocate for mental health services within Kaiser and do not let them off the hook. They need to be taking this situation very, very seriously.

    My friend's child had a serious mental health emergency and got an appointment with a psychiatrist right away at Kaiser.  I would call and tell the details and that your child is not safe and needs an appointment urgently.  Then ask to talk to a supervisor if you don't an appointment.  I don't think a psychologist is the first step.  I think a psychiatrist can make an assessment and help with a plan to care for your child.

    If you are with Kaiser, insist on residential care if the situation is urgent and beyond ability to handle/ care. Kaiser must provide residential care for patients in CA for serious mental illness such as severe depression and psychosis —it’s been settled by legal action. I know, I was a co-plaintiff with my son in a class action suit against Northern and Southern KP. It’s expensive and they don’t have facilities so they have to contact out but they must do it under law— MHPA. Tell them you believe you child needs residential treatment and you want an evaluation. There are specific measures KP must follow. The case was Dion v KFHP and it mandates residential treatment when medically necessary. 

    By now your situation is hopefully resolved. I just want to mention for others going through something similar, I agree that outpatient therapy may not be enough of an intervention for  someone struggling that acutely. It can take time to get approval for inpatient treatment. Important to know, a way around this is to go through the emergency room. If suicidal ideations and/or potential self harm is involved, they will very likely transfer to psych without having to wait more than a day or two.

  • We're choosing between Blue Shield of California and Kaiser (Oakland), and are entering into a therapy-heavy period for our daughter, ourselves, couples counseling and possibly family therapy. This question may be moot because every therapist I talk to doesn't take insurance anyway, but I'd like to hear your experiences with either insurer on this question (or any). 

    Thanks in advance!

    Definitely not Kaiser. We've paid a lot out of pocket for therapy because Kaiser is so bad.  We like a lot of what Kaiser provides, but I can't believe how awful their mental health services are. They really aren't interested in that type of long term care. They will throw antidepressants at you, check in with you once a month, and decide that's all you need. They even misdiagnosed me, but when I went to a psychologist I paid for out of pocket, I was finally diagnosed properly - in my 30s -  in the first session. And the treatment was finally appropriate and effective for what I was dealing with. Kaiser has a great Peds dept, I had my kids there, I like their women's health. Their pediatric orthopedists are great. Mental health? Absolutely horrible. 

    I suggest going to the websites of Blue Shield and Kaiser, do a provider search on each by web or by calling customer service, then call a few of the therapists that come up in the search to see if they are taking new patients and if so, schedule a phone or zoom consultation. We have Health Net and had absolutely no trouble at all via this process in finding several therapists to choose from.

    You are wise to think about this before entering a therapy-heavy period. My family has been in a therapy-heavy period for an extended time. We have a Blue Shield of CA High Deductible PPO plan. I have not been able to find therapists that accept insurance throughout all of our years in various combinations of individual, couples, and family therapy. That said, I have been able to get a small portion of our costs (~30%) reimbursed after paying out-of-pocket. It's not much, but every little bit helps.

    The claims for reimbursement take some time to set up and manage. Blue Shield has gotten better with the over the years and now has a straightforward online portal. Ask the therapists you are thinking of working with if they will provide a superbill for submittal to the insurance company (specific information is needed to file the claim). I keep a spreadsheet to track appointments, claims, and reimbursements, as occasionally Blue Shield will deny a claim for some reason (usually I've made an error inputting information) and not notify me. The good news is claims can be submitted within a year of the date of service, and I have not hit a max. coverage level despite years of therapy for various combination of family members. (Given the track record, perhaps the effectiveness of the therapy should be considered—ugh.)

    Good luck in finding good-fit therapists. They are worth the time, money, and effort. 

    I've been a member of Kaiser for 15 years and have found their mental health division to be almost non-existent. I've gotten referral to them and learned the wait time was ridiculous. For couples counseling, we were sent to a weekly workshop; it bore no resemblance to couples' therapy. I've continued to see my own therapist and have paid out-of-pocket for all of it. I hope someone has better news about therapy at Kaiser. Best of luck to you and your family. 

    I have not used Kaiser but everything I have heard from other parents in this situation is Kaiser really lacks resources for this. With BCBS you can choose from among many therapists around the area. That said many are booked and we have sometimes had to go outside of the network to find appropriate care. Many many therapists do not take insurance because they pay so little. Still I think BCBS is a better bet. 

    Kaiser does certain things very well-psychiatry/psychology is not one of them. I recommend Kaiser overall and you could certainly try a therapist there.  You might get lucky.  But my advice is to plan for private therapy.  Best of luck.

    Hi - I've been a Kaiser member for years, and I think there are many problems with their mental health services.  Mental health practitioners went on strike a couple of years back objecting to the understaffing.  There was also a recent article about their underhanded workarounds to poor response times to calls  - they hired an outside agency to answer first time calls, but then didn't essentially change access to first time appointments.  It's almost impossible to get regularly timed individual sessions with a counselor due to understaffing, and Kaiser's whole emphasis on mental health services is time-limited group referrals.  So you can go to a group for your depression, but even that is limited to a certain number of session (6 I think).  Definitely try other options - I've seen a private practice therapist for a long time due to their poor performance.

    Thank you so much for asking this question!  Blue Shield paid my therapist fairly easily.  Just google Kaiser Mental Health Care and you can find info about that.  But I am wondering too about this general question.

    We have Kaiser and it's not been good for therapy. They mainly offer groups, and can't really see anyone including kids for individual therapy more than once a month (and even then, appointments are frequently cancelled.) We were offered for our teen to see a private therapist but it turned out that no one actually takes the plan that Kaiser offers for that. We ended up paying out of pocket. I would check the exact coverage on Blue Shield but it may be better.

    Thanks everyone! Here and everywhere I'm hearing a universal thumbs down on Kaiser mental health services. I was leaning toward Kaiser because it was fantastic in SF when my daughter was little, but I now almost don't want to go with them on principle. Blue Shield PPO or HMO?

    If Blue Shield PPO is an option for you, I would suggest it. We have a Blue Shield HMO and have found the mental health provider options very limited—we pay out of pocket for private therapists. I'm not sure what the PPO offers, but usually you can get some kind of reimbursement for out-of-network providers.

    I see all the negative comments about Kaiser, and I was very surprised by my own experience. In the wake of a rather difficult illness, my Kaiser primary not only suggested that I consider treatment with Kaiser Behavioral Medicine, he made certain that I got an individual therapist. I have probably been lucky that things worked out for me, but it doesn’t seem to me that Kaiser Beh Medicine is always a hot mess.

    Hi, sorry for the late reply. We have been quite successful getting mental health care for our son at Kaiser Oakland. He was diagnosed at Kaiser with ADHD and OCD. The clinicians we've interacted with have been excellent overall and available. They have groups classes and individual sessions. I will say that we did go outside of Kaiser for weekly therapy that my son needed for less than a year. We were fortunate to be able to pay out of pocket for that. I have had Kaiser for years and have been quite happy with the care I and my family members have received there. 


    Responding to the person who recommended Blue Shield PPO. I am a member, and I am not happy. Most providers are not in the Blue Shield PPO network. You get "reimbursed" for "out of network providers", but since this is 30% of the "allowed" amount, it is rarely higher than $40-50 per session - at a time when therapists charge $150+ per session. You have to provide a superbill via mail and now online as well, that in 3 out of 4 cases somehow "gets lost" and never is processed. Their online portal lost 2 out of 3 claims I submitted- after I got a confirmation that they were received! Long story short - they do everything they can to not pay. The providers on their list are either so bad that you should not go there, or are completely booked. Sorry for being the bearer of bad news. 

  • Our son confessed that he has been thinking about suicide several times this summer. He says he doesn't like himself or his life and wants the pain to go away. He had a traumatic birth and he and I (mom) had a challenging time with attachment in the early years. He has a history generalized anxiety, moodiness, and is easily dysregulated by hunger or lack of sleep. He's been having trouble falling asleep lately so his sleep deprivation is aggravating everything. He blames his 7yr old younger brother for all his troubles and has been physically and verbally aggressive with him on a daily basis. We're with Kaiser and we've been playing phone tag with the Richmond Psychiatry dept all week. We're willing to go outside of Kaiser. We just want to find someone asap who would be a good fit to work with him and the whole family, as necessary. Hoping to find someone in the Berkeley/Albany area if possible.


    i would advise you to keep advocating for your son at Kaiser Richmond.   All three of my kids have been seen by therapists there, including a psychiatrist.  You do have to go through a Friday morning intake program, but it is truly worth it. I was so impressed with the quality of therapists and very happy with the psychiatrist.

    Don’t allow their messy intake system to turn you off!   Once you are in the system, it is very easy to make appointments and their quality of care is very high, especially for the price. If you have to, call every day until you get through to someone and schedule that first intake appointment. Good luck, we have been there as well. 

    I hope Kaiser is responding to you immediately given your son's state. Please contact a suicide hotline if they are not.
    Kaiser's psychiatry dept should make time for him immediately given he has suicidal thoughts. Ask to talk to the department manager. In the longer term, they can also give you an outside referral through Beacon or Magellan for a psychologist or counselor as counseling is not their strong point. However, they need to be able to schedule your son right away as he is in a crisis situation.


    I cannot say enough wonderful things at the Kaiser Oakland Child Psychiatry team.  We tried Walnut Creek and Richmond and thankfully ended up with Mario Raya in Oakland.  Our daughter was suicidal and has anxiety and ADD and Mario and his team helped her through many rough times when we didn’t have any idea how to help her.  The group classes at Oakland really helped our daughter see that it wasn’t just her having these feelings, so be sure to sign up for as man group classes as you can. Good luck!

    I am sorry to hear that you and your son are going through this. Try Reyna Cowan, PhD (510) 601-0232. She is located in Rockridge near Trader Joes. She is a very competent therapist. My son saw her for anxiety related issues when he was about 9 years old. They had a great connection and he actually looked forward to going to therapy. 

    I’m not sure if she sees kids, but Dr. Amanda Carroll at Oakland Kaiser is my life-saver. She specializes in anxiety depression.

    I'm sorry I don't have a therapist recommendation - I just wanted to reach out to you because I have felt so worried for you and your son after reading this yesterday. I can relate with my son who is older now but vocalized similar thoughts and we have a similar history of difficult birth and difficult behaviors which caused bonding problems, moodiness, dysregulation. It is so hard and sad to deal with. The one thing I thought I would suggest, since you mention that sleep is a big problem, and maybe you already tried this, is melatonin. We used that with my son for a couple of years and it was a god send. Of course no one wants to give a child mediation or supplements when it can be avoided, but if sleep is a real problem and it is a potentially crisis situation, then it is definitely worth it. Melatonin is generally considered safe but who knows. I use it often due to jet leg and find it very helpful.  We use a sublingual form (so no pill swallowing) you can buy at Whole Foods or probably Safeway - it comes in doses of 5mg, 2.5 mg, 1mg - we used 1mg and I would split it in half, so only .05mg - Source Naturals

    Our son is 14.5 and finally getting better. We don't live in the area so I can't recommend anyone but his current counselor uses hypnosis for 1 year now plus talk therapy - and I think that has helped - or something has helped as he is finally in a much better place (and we have tried everything basically since about 2 years old from regular therapists, occupational, speech, psychological, cranial therapy, special diets - all of which helped I guess it's just a long slog of sticking with it.)

    Problems going to sleep at night often have to do with "racing mind" usually a symptom of ADD etc - I also had this starting as a teen up to late 30s and a really good acupuncturist got rid of it for me in one session after decades of dealing with it (Dr. Wu Healing Center in the Richmond district of San Francisco). So far I haven't brought my son to an acupuncturist so I don't know if it would work for him. The other thing that has helped for us/him is regular swimming - swimming is a sport that often kids with ADD or on the autism spectrum or other difficulties find really beneficial and a way to make some friends. The last thing I will mention is consider sending him off to a YMCA sleep away camp next summer - they are GREAT, no electronics, nice kids, super supportive friendly atmosphere, charming cabins, beautiful settings, affordable. My son has gone twice and thrived due to their atmosphere of friendly acceptance and fun activities in nature - so much better than him sitting around at home bored and sad - there he was outside, made friends that he still keeps in touch with, got a change of scenery and away from the life/routine which was like a downward cycle. My son didn't want to go, but once we arrived and he saw the friendly kids and camp counselors, he could barely bother saying goodbye to me. Of course not possible if you feel he is really in crisis situation or a real risk - but something to think of, and a break for you and family.

    I am very sorry you are dealing with this, it is a sad and scary thing for your family and your son and I hope someone has a good therapist recommendation for you.  


    First of all, my heart goes out to you, and your whole family. It sounds like parenting your 11 yr old has been very difficult. I’m responding with a recommendation:

    Sheri Glucoft Wong  LCSW

    1715 Solano Ave


    Working with Sheri has transformed our family — she is really that excellent. She is very expensive (we are at top of sliding scale, $275 per hour) but I want to emphasize — every minute will be valuable for all the members of your family. 

    If this helps at all, my son who is now 15 had a childhood eerily similar to what you are describing. We had started OT at age 5, play therapy, CBT, you name it. Nothing seemed to really make a difference. Sheri spent 3 months getting to know us and was the only provider to recognize signs of asperger’s/ASD. It seems that kids who are right on the edge of ASD can often first be diagnosed with mood disorders (anxiety, depression) but what happens is that the typical emotional dysregulation is exacerbated because no one around the child understands what’s going on. I realize that this may be oversharing but I really never felt joy in my experience of my son until Sheri helped me understand what was going on.

    feel free to mention us - Ava and David - if you call her. 



  • Hi there, 

    I am looking for referrals for a therapist through Kaiser's Magellan provider. This is the first time Kaiser has ever sent me through them and upon entering their "find a provider" system online, I received over 10,000 therapist names. The "narrow your search" filter was pretty useless. The website is (if that rings a bell to anyone). 

    I'm specifically looking for someone in Oakland or Berkeley who specializes in women's issues, relationships, anxiety, mid-life kind of stuff. 

    Please reach out if you have any referrals! Thank you in advance! 

    I was also approved by Kaiser to be referred via Magellan to find a provider. Unfortunately, I called over 50 providers (about two months ago) and didn't find a single one with openings for new patients in Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, El Cerrito, and Richmond. I didn't try Oakland. I told my PCP, and she expressed that was the sad state of mental health care in this area. There is a major shortage. I'm not saying you won't find one, just that I gave up trying to find one, and looked for other options beyond my insurance approved ones- namely, meditation, yoga, and support groups. 

    My KP intake counselor recommended I use psychology today's much-better search feature to find someone who takes magellan and has specialty in the area I needed.  [ ] Do note that magellan will take it upon themselves to assign you to someone at random - so it is vital you pick someone, call them to ascertain if they will take you as a magellan patient (reimbursement rate is low so they may not be open to taking more magellan patients).  If they say yes, you call Magellan and tell them you want X person and that you've confirmed they will take you, they then give you the authorization number to give to your provider at your first appointment.   They bill Magellan, and then Magellan bills you for your Kaiser co-pay.   Do this quickly or Magellan will assign you out before you can make your own choice.  Very hard to 'un-do' that assignment once they do it for you!

    Frankly I didn't end up liking the person I saw, and everyone recommended to me wouldn't take Magellan due to the low reimbursement rate.   I ended up deciding it was worth the investment to pay out-of-pocket to see someone highly regarded.  I hope you have better luck finding a fit.  (In transparency I needed someone with experience in postpartum depression which is more niche and likely harder to find a good therapist generally, let alone one in a small network.)

    I had the same FRUSTRATING experience. Then I found Nancy Ewing, Ph.D. in El Cerrito. She is in the Magellan network and she knew exactly how to get to the heart of my anxiety. Good luck! ❤️

  • My 16 yo daughter's therapist has recommended we shift her over to Clearwater Clinic for DBT group and individual therapy there as well. She has anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and has tried some self-harming behaviors when things get difficult.  On the other hand she is bright, talented, creative, and a great student, who has strong friendships with smart, down to earth kids. 

    I have a whole bunch of questions both financial and about the treatment.

    I would love to hear from people who used Clearwater. I know one person who did it with her daughter and it helped her but not her daughter. In her case insurance covered it. Also is there anything else around that is more intensive than once a week therapy but less intensive than day treatment? Does Kaiser offer anything? Our experience with Kaiser groups is that they weren't very helpful. Kind of on the surface and lots drop ins. We had a great therapist at Kaiser but she left and my daughter couldn't connect with the new one so we moved her to a private therapist about a year and half ago. 

    We currently pay for everyone but me to be on Kaiser through my job.  When I look at other plans I could buy out of pocket (Blue Shield) it's confusing but it looks like they also would only cover a percentage of Clearwater treatment and that's after a high deductible is met. Can anyone who has used Clearwater tell me if it was effective for your child? Did you find a way to get it covered by insurance? How much did you end up spending (back of an envelope calculations looked like $20,000 for a year).  I'd be so grateful for any relevant information on Clearwater or the insurance issue or other treatment options. Feel free to contact me privately if you prefer. I just feel kind of overwhelmed trying to figure all this out and could benefit from your experience. Thank you. 

    hi, Kaiser has a DBT program modeled the same way as Clearwater, but it's only available in Richmond.  And, the Oakland psych department is very territorial - I had to go through a lot getting them to agree to continue providing therapy and urgent care to my son in Oakland, while going to a psychiatrist in Richmond.  That said, if you don't mind switching therapy (and psychiatry if needed) to Richmond, you could sign up for the DBT program there.  The program requires that the teen sees a therapist who's a part of that DBT program as well.  I hear the program is excellent, and the price is covered by your insurance so it's just copay for sessions.  

    My son and I ended up doing Clearwater, because he was clinically depressed and it would have been very difficult for us to get to Richmond Monday evenings (that's when the program was scheduled last year and most likely now as well).  I paid out of pocket for two modules.  They were very helpful to me, and I hope my son got something out of them as well.  He participated yet said he hasn't learned much. Just like with anything, one has to want to learn, and in my son's case he went to classes because he had to.  I've seen families where parents came to the class, but their child did not.  I've seen families that did all of the modules twice, and the kids would storm out or walk out of the class while parents were still there (and the moderator would follow them out to check in on them).  

    I suggest you do Kaiser DBT if logistics allows - note that both Clearwater and Kaiser require parent participation.

    If you have more questions, I'd be happy to answer them, just ask the moderator for my contact.

  • Hello,

    In recent months my nearly 9 year old daughter was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety. She attended the Kaiser therapy group for anxious kids and it was a positive experience. My husband and I also attended a parenting class for anxious kids which was great.

    She has been seeing a therapist one on one at Kaiser that we like, however the erratic schedule for the therapy is too difficult for us. We are considering private therapy for her outside of Kaiser, and wondering how to find a child psychologist that specializes in these issues. Does anyone have a recommendation? It would also be great to hear about other resources out there for kids with OCD. Thanks

    I have a 9 year old with anxiety and some other conditions (not OCD but not out of the ballpark), and we are also a Kaiser family who has done the anxiety group. My suggestion is to hang onto the therapist at Kaiser that you like (assuming your daughter also likes him/her). Accommodate that schedule. Not because it's cheaper but because the benefits of a therapeutic relationship accrue after some trust is built between the child, the parents, and the therapist. If the therapist you have isn't an OCD expert, they should be consulting with other Kaiser professionals who are to supplement their knowledge and best serve your daughter.

    I also can share that my 9 year old's anxiety has been helped by Prozac. It is not a great feeling to put your small child "on drugs" but when it helps them sleep and handle daily life so much better, I don't regret it.

  • Hello, Has anyone had any experience with or knowledge of DBT programs at Kaiser Richmond and the Clearwater Clinic?

    My 16 year old son has been depressed and even checked himself in the hospital when he had thoughts about taking his life. He's been working with a therapist since, and is also on medication.  Those things help, but he's still up and down a lot, and hasn't stayed up for longer than a few hours at a time.  His Kaiser psychiatrist recommended DBT program at Kaiser Richmond, which sounds good but is hard to get to from Oakland at 6 pm on Mondays (that's when it takes place, for about 6 months).  Most likely, my son would have to stop seeing his current therapist if he enrolls in the Kaiser DBT program.

    I have also looked into a private DBT program that's not covered at all by our Kaiser insurance (I asked), called Clearwater.  Of course, it costs several times more than the Kaiser one in Richmond, but it's very close to where we live and they don't mind if my son continues seeing the same therapist he's been seeing, as long as that therapist supports DBT (he does).

    Please share your thoughts on those programs! 

    First of all, I'm so sorry to hear that your son is struggling like this--I can very much relate as we went through a similar situation three years ago with our then 15 year old daughter. While she still struggles at times with depression and may do so throughout her life, she has learned strategies for moving through it and being productive. She's now applying for college--something we couldn't have imagined three years ago. So hang in there: these waters you're navigating are really rough and frightening. Be sure to get lots of support for yourself: This will help you stay sane and in the best position to help your son.

    Neither my daughter nor I have ever taken the Kaiser DBT classes, though a friend of mine thought the adult class was very, very good. Her teenage daughter did not like the teen course--she was a little appalled at the level of glorifying drugs and sex that occurred in the class. DBT classes are fairly "scripted"--so I'm not really sure how all that sharing occurred, and it may not always be that way. Hopefully, others with direct experience will respond to round out the picture. As a teacher myself, I can imagine that the tone in the class would vary depending upon who teaches it and who the clients are (just like any class taught anywhere). 

    Although we were Kaiser patients, we decided to attend Clearwater's program--and we attended the class altogether. It was very well taught--and yes, it was expensive. We also signed up for parent coaching every two weeks because we needed to work on being more effective and united in our parenting. That added to the cost, of course, but in our case it was worth it. There were some family dynamics at play that contributed to my daughter's depression, and both my husband and I benefitted from taking DBT. If you want to keep costs down, it might be worthwhile to enroll your son in the Clearwater course and take it for free yourself at Kaiser. DBT is generally considered most valuable when the whole family understands the skills and concepts. As a parent, perhaps one of the most important skills to work on is "Validation"--and there are great resources for this on the internet. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to develop good validation skills when your loved one is depressed--especially when this person is a teenager.

    I also want to add that DBT skills can be valuable for anyone--it's very practical and full of skills-based solutions and ideas. The content would help just about anyone understand what motivates people, why some people get angry or easily annoyed, and what to do when you're feeling depressed or angry. Plus these concepts are taught by someone other than yourself--and since many teens aren't listening to their parents as a source of wisdom--this can be enormously helpful. I'm a huge fan of DBT. And/but, because Kaiser has a DBT program, they tend to recommend it broadly. I'd want to know if your son's therapist agrees that DBT will help him in particular. Since your son has suicidal ideation, it's really important that the most effective course of treatment is offered to you.  At any rate, DBT is like Vitamin C--it can't hurt, and it could be really helpful. 

    Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about DBT or other resources/support for you.

    The Clearwater Clinic is excellent. They helped my severely depressed, suicidal, anxious daughter. She recovered and I attribute much of her recovery to the outstanding therapists at Clearwater.  In addition to weekly therapy, she and I took a 20-week class at Clearwater, which was very helpful. I had to learn how to best support her; DBT skills were not intuitive for me. This is the best money I ever spent.

    There's a therapist in Emeryville that takes Kaiser insurance and uses DBT and CBT in his practice.  This therapist is also using EMDR very successfully with many clients.  His name is John Bieda, jr and can be reached at (415)254-8203 or  He helped me with getting Kaiser to cover my sessions with an outside therapist.  He told me he mostly works with adults but works with teens as young as 14/15 years old on occasion.  

  • Hi, I'd like to hear about your experience with having part of your child's mental health care come from Kaiser Oakland, and part from Kaiser Richmond.  For example, does anyone have a psychiatrist in one location, and a therapist and/or group therapy and classes in another?  And if so, how is this working out for you?

    My understanding is that it is technically possible but pretty difficult to do this in practice. You need a referral from someone at the specific facility to enroll in a children's mental health group, plus they can be very hard to find out about if your child's "quarterback" isn't there. I would say get your quarterback (LCSW, psychologist, or psychiatrist) on board with your child's specific needs and go from there with having them help loop you in to all the groups your child might fit with.

  • My son, 11 years old, is displaying fairly serious OCD and anxiety symptoms.  We have Kaiser coverage and I was wondering if anyone has experience with pediatric Mental Health services for Kaiser members.  Overall, Kaiser gets some pretty low marks for their Mental Health services, so I was wondering if any parents on here have experience?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Overall, it's not a coordinated approach, and very difficult to 1) locate and 2) get access to the services you need for your child. I wish I had some concrete advice for you, but after 2 years with my now 8 yo on the mental health side (with anxiety), I don't really. You need to get a mental health "captain" assigned to your child, which will probably be a MSW. Pick your facility (go with Oakland unless a compelling reason to pick Richmond or San Leandro, Oakland has the most staff and resources [which isn't saying much]). You will likely be funnelled to a group, which I felt was very much a mixed bag for anxiety, since my son DEFINITELY picked up on some of the other kids' anxiety triggers. The different facilities don't talk to each other, and Oakland staff don't know what is offered at Richmond (for example). Your son's medical doctors also aren't automatically able to see his mental health records, so much for coordinated care and the whole person.

    You may also decide to go out of pocket for a private therapist. Only you know if that's a reasonable financial choice for you, but our copay for each group was $50, and private providers can start around $100.

    Thank you so much for your reply.  This is what I was afraid of - lack of coordinated care and being automatically funneled into a group.   Thanks again.

    Hi, I am sorry to hear about your son's issues. My son also began to display the same kinds of symptoms at around the same age. We received excellent care from Dr. Alex Klein (psychologist) at Kaiser Oakland, along with Dr. Gershon (psychiatrist). My son is now 13  and he is happy and thriving after a rough couple of years. Some things that helped:  weekly group therapy at Kaiser and one on one therapy as needed, Zoloft and an occasional Benadryl for anxiety spikes, lots of exercise (walking, kickboxing, Fitness Blender videos), and a very stable home routine. We also got our son a dog which has been so good for him. I wish you the best of luck. 

    Good luck. I didn't have the best experience with pediatric mental health at Kaiser, though we have had good luck with adult mental health.

    We currently see a wonderful pediatric psychiatrist at KP in Pleasanton for my 8 yo son. It did take a bit to get in to see this dr but he is terrific and well worth it. Before that, we had to work the KP system: referral from our pediatrician, initial visits with a psychologist, attempt to address issues with therapy (two solo visits with psychologist), and a brief attempt at the anti-anxiety group therapy. Once it was confirmed that meds were needed, we started seeing the psychiatrist and it's been smooth since then. We do have to be flexible about appointments bc it's clear there are more patients than the dr could ever see. We've also seen a neuropsychologist at KP Oakland who was extremely helpful. Overall, I'm pleased with our experience, so I'd give it a go with KP before exploring out of pocket options. I've had a few "non-KP" friends struggle getting good pediatric mental health support too.

    I have found an AMAZING therapist named Dr. Schabes in the Kaiser in Antioch (sorry). But she has rocked our world! I know you will see low marks but honestly most people do not understand that therapy takes homework. I know Antioch is a bit of a drive for you but honestly she is AWESOME

    We have really liked working with Dr Klein at Kaiser Oakland for our son's OCD. (He was the same age as yours.)

    Ask for a referral to Magellan. That's their program that allows you to see providers in the community. There's a little bit of paperwork to jump through, but it ensures you can get one on one therapy (psychiatrist, therapist or both). It's even better if you can request a provider you want to see. That can be complicated to find out who takes Magellan. 

    I highly recommend PCPA providers. They have an office that helps schedule so you aren't stuck leaving voicemails. They have offices in SF and Walnut Creek and some providers who see patients in Berkeley. And they take Magellan referrals.

    I've been seeing them for years prior to Kaiser and after I switched to Kaiser via Magellan. 

    Kaiser Richmond has really good pediatric psych services. First you have to make an appointment for an intake group and fill out a lot of paperwork. Then you get set up with a therapist who meets with you and your child to discuss therapy options. Most common is a group of some kind combined with individual therapy appointments. Dr. Purvey is great!

    Bif you can get in to see him, Dr Eyal at Kaiser Richmond is excellent!  He's a psychiatrist, but is sharp and understands the impact on the family system.  Have no idea about therapy options, but if push comes to shove you can always demand to get approval to get out of network treatment. A good place  to look for referrals would be the International OCD Foundation website.

    Best of luck!

    I have to completely disagree with a poster who recommended Kaiser Richmond for high quality pediatric mental health, and also incorrectly described the process to start with Richmond mental health. We just went through it this spring. You have to go with your child to one of their regular Friday intake sessions; it's a half-day and they evaluate the children in a separate room, while one psychologist addresses the parents about the process. Then you have a private short consult with a randomly assigned staff person, and from there your child may or may not get x, y, or z service. The Oakland intake process is different. But that is Richmond's, and I felt it was very inflexible and tough on my child to miss a half-day of school. I also disagree with the specific recommendation for Dr Purvey, who runs at least two of the groups for elementary age kids; I found her to be flip and dismissive of children's concerns. Obviously mileage will vary and no one doctor/psychologist will suit everyone; just a reminder that here on the Internet, people will differ.

  • Our first grader may need some professional help with regulating emotions, managing anger without hitting/crying/yelling, etc. Any current recommendations? We have Kaiser, so it could be someone at Kaiser or outside, in which case we'd be out of pocket. Thanks.

    We sent our son to see April Netzer in Albany. She was reasonable for out of pocket costs.

    Good Luck

    We have Kaiser but decided to pay out of pocket for a private therapist (Kaiser would have been much cheaper but lots more hoops we didn't want our son to endure and we were able to have more input on who he saw and were able to find a good fit). I'd recommend our therapist, Kimberly Koljat. She does play therapy, drama therapy, and filial therapy. She doesn't take insurance, though, so she's totally out of pocket. Her email is Kimberlykoljatmft [at] and phone is 415-379-0945. I believe she sees clients in both Oakland and San Francisco. 

    The Kaiser children's mental health program didn't work for our daughter.  There was not enough focus on her issues or our parenting --  just a lot of group programs that didn't help her.  On the other hand, we've been extremely pleased with the child therapy and family therapy at Bay Area Children's Association (BACA) in Oakland. The initial evaluation process is intensive and expensive (four sessions, $1,900), but very worth it, as the psychologist and psychiatrist came away with a pretty clear understanding of her issues.  Even though we have Kaiser, we actually purchased an Anthem Blue Cross plan for just our daughter to use at BACA.  The premium (about $375 per month) plus the minimal copay was far less than the out of pocket costs of the intake process.  We also save money this way for our typical month of services (two sessions per week, once with just her, once with her dad and I).  Good luck! 

  • My 12-year old son is very anxious. We tried sending him to therapy but he hated it and, as nearly as I could tell, got nothing out of it. I heard that CBT could be effective and was looking for someone who might be able to do that with him. Any suggestions about someone who would be good with a smart, funny, stressed out 12 year old boy?

    My 8 yo has anxiety (diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist). We have Kaiser and have done some of their offerings, which tend to funnel children/teens into groups, as well as paid out of pocket for a traditional therapist, which at the time (he was 6.5/7) was not super helpful. The Kaiser group we attended for about a semester was surprisingly useful for my son (the whole time I was really disliking the leader, but guess what, the therapy wasn't for me); and a year later, we have pulled out some of the tools they discussed to try to head off a flareup of anxiety before it becomes all-consuming again. So my rec is to look for a group - especially for a 12 year old, who is a little more savvy and less prone to "adopting" other anxieties aired in the session. That was a big concern of mine because all the kids in the group had different foci, but in fact my son seemed to grasp that he didn't have to worry about X just because another kid did. Kaiser Richmond & Oakland have totally different groups, so feel free to get recs for multiple facilities if you have Kaiser. Your son should have a case manager (MSW or psychologist) at the facility you'll be doing group at. And if you're out of pocket/not in Kaiser, this should all be easier to survey and pick one to try. Good luck, anxiety is no joke but a 12 yo can definitely be part of the solution.

    We also have Kaiser. My now 14 yo did not like the groups there and wasn't progressing with the therapist there either. Now she is seeing Heidi Ronfeldt a CBT practitioner in Oakland. She really likes her and I think she would be good with boys as well. She's very down to earth, good sense of humor, and has gotten my daughter to try things outside her comfort zone. She's expensive and it's too soon to tell if it will make enough of a difference that my daughter won't have to go on medication but I do think she is excellent and would be worth calling. Good luck I know how tough parenting an anxious child can be. 

  • We are new to Kaiser and I would like to explore options for my daughter and hours of anxiety/hormones at age 12. How do I go about it? We do not have an established relationship with a pediatrician which makes it challenging. Any advice/refs would be so appreciated. I prefer Kaiser Alameda or San Leandro vs Oakland. Also- I have heard Kaiser is not very good for mental health - is it true??

    Thanks BPN community--

    Hello! We recently used Kaiser for our son's anxiety issues. We got a referral to the Mental Health department through his pediatrician. I don't think that you need to have a long relationship with a pediatrician to get the referral. My son met with a psychologist but because he is only 7, it was difficult for him to talk about his feelings even though I felt the psychologist was doing a great job with him. We followed her recommendation and had him attend their 5 week "Unwind" class (a more kid-friendly name than "anti-anxiety) and it was helpful. We will now see how he does; if things go well, that's great, but if not the next step will be to discuss the possibility of medication.

    We currently go to the Mental Health department in Pleasanton. However, we have also worked with the department in Oakland and were pleased with our care. Good luck!

    YHello, I recommend Dr. Sue Minger at the Alameda medical offices.  She is soft spoken, but always approachable, andyou speaks directly to my 13 YO son about his health and concerns.  She also asks if Mom should leave the room if there's anything he wants to discuss without me there (and I'm OK with that).  Go online and make an appointment with her or call the Member Services number on the back of your card if will not let you do so (it can be squirrelly).  Inform them you're new to KP and want to book with Dr. Minger. FYI, that's one of my least favorite things about Kaiser:  you have to be assertive and direct them rather than the other way around.

    As far as mental health, yeah, they are rather understaffed.  I recommend Ed Spolarich in juvenile behavioral health, which (unfortunately) is in Oakland.  He helped my son through some really rough times in school.  Because they are understaffed, one generally gets one appointment every three weeks or per month, unless, again, you're the squeaky wheel.

    Another alternative to consider to individual counseling are the group sessions that KP offers at the Oakland behavioral health site.  We've successfully used them for general information sharing, coping strategies and social skills building.  We also met a social worker that we worked with as part of the classes named Adrian Rivera who was very good at getting to root causes of issues, and would have an individual session with a parent and/or child if he felt it would help.

    So, bottom line, behavioral health at Kaiser is crowded, but if you are assertive and insist on services, their social workers and counselors are responsive and caring.  I think it's just a matter of getting a toe hold into the system.

    Yes, in the past they had an inadequate number of clinicians. But they've upped their staff (it will still take 3 to 4 wks to get a first appt so call soon. I go to Oakland and have been pleasantly surprised by the effectivess of my treatment. (I am a trained LMFT.)
    A friend's teen is seen weekly so I know that's possible if needed. Non Kaiser clins can run $130 +. Hang in there

    The mental health part of Kaiser is somewhat separate from the rest- you do not need a referral from a pediatrician, the intake is directly through child and family psychiatry (Google that for the number). The only locations in the East Bay are Oakland or Richmond, so Alameda and Dan Leandro are not possible. Give them a call during their regular hours and they'll take your name and number and have an intake person call you "within 24 hours" to get more information (we went through this in October... It took them 4 days to call me back). Kaiser has been sued in the past, multiple times apparently, so their system is a combination of a reaction to that and their normal standardized set of treatments. From what I hear (not my personal experience in the mental health department), their first step is the same as in their medical areas: first you take a class or series of classes, then if you want to continue on, you may get individual sessions. So your daughter would probably start in their next available anxiety/depression class, then after 6 weeks or so of that, could see a therapist or doctor. The other possibility (probably a result of the lawsuits) is if your child is a danger to herself/others, but then your option is to go to the ER and a member of the child psych team will evaluate to see if they need to do an involuntary 72 hour hold. If your child is not in immediate danger and is safe to send home but does need serious help, at that point you may be able to make an appointment to see a doctor individually without jumping through the classes hoop.

    Personally, we opted to pay out of pocket for private therapy rather than subject our child to that red tape, but we were just seeking counseling, not medication. If we were considering medication, we'd have to jump through one of those 2 hoops first. Since you said you want to explore options, looking into the classes may be a right and good step for you to take.

    Hi - Try Dr. Phoung as a pediatrician (san Leandro). We had her for a very short time but liked her. She was the in between pedi when our pedi from birth transferred and after meeting her a couple of times our kids wanted to go to the "teen"dr (they were 14-15) and didn't like sitting in the waiting room with little kids).  You just need a referral to mental health from whomever you choose for her pedi.  The pedi's at Kaiser do not get invovled much in mental health. Once you get a referral,if you can make it to Union City, I recommend it.  They have great therapists, children psychiatrists and classes to Learn methods on how to lessen anxiety,etc.  They also have support classes for parents.  If you go with a thetapist request one who sees mainly pre teens and teens.  Ask your daughter whether she likes her therapist and if not ask to meet with another one.  Good luck

    Some info you may not have heard (your doctor either, unfortunately...).  If you daughter snores, is a mouth breather, or grinds her teeth - she is probably experiencing apnea, which will cause anxiety as well as other negative effects on her whole system (just as it does at any age).  Tongue tie can cause her to do any of the three, as well as cause other issues.  She may have nutritional deficiencies (D, Bs, iodine, magnesium, etc) and/or an MTHFR mutation (easy blood test or 23nMe) which have been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, bi-polar, and more.   Kaiser may be able to help, or not.  A functional medicine doctor can.  So often these days young girls/teens are being given birth control pills when there are better and more natural ways to deal with menstrual difficulties.  And it is looking like many of those who do not have regular periods for at least two years are not developing enough glandular breast tissue to breastfeed.  Not always obvious, because they can develop breasts - but w fatty tissue, not glandular tissue.  

    If you have Kaiser coverage through UC Berkeley you also have a "carve out" benefit included with Optum providers. Contact the UC Berkeley benefits department or call Optum directly 1(888)440-8225. The website is

  • My husband is bipolar and was hospitalized several times for suicidal ideation.  This had strong effects on my teenage daughters.  My oldest daughter has had to step in and be a parent also to my husband.  I've also had so many people say I should divorce my husband.  I won't divorce someone just because they have a mental illness.  i want us to grow closer as a family and get through this so we can have a better life ahead as a family.  We desperately need family therapy soon and have Kaiser.  I want to find a very good therapist who is good in this particular area of mental illness on the family and has excellent results.  Time is critical right now and I can't afford for us to go to an inexperienced therapist and need someone who can really help.  I know Kaiser may be limited so am willing to go outside of Kaiser but can't afford a whole lot of money.  Thank you!

    I'm sorry that your husband is ill and that your family is being challenged as a result. I commend you for wanting to support your husband in his illness and get help for yourself and daughters. Kaiser is a terrible provider of mental health services for those with serious illnesses. Kaiser has also fallen very short in general in giving adequate, timely therapy to most patients. I know this first hand and you can read about the State of California's findings as well as the $4M penalty assessed against it by the state Dept of Managed Health Care. There are also several pending class action lawsuits against it for failing to provide adequate mental health services as required under both the state and federal mental health parity acts. Kaiser is trying to address its deficiencies by hiring more therapists but it lags in providing the services it has s duty to provide. If you a fortunate enough to find a good KP therapist with the skill to work with you and your family, you will probably have difficulty getting ongoing appointments or keeping the same therapist. With that in mind, I urge you to contact Kaiser's behavior health department and request 1) a psychologist who is experienced with bipolar illness and its effect on the family, 2) who is experienced in treating a family, 3) who is available to see your family at regularly scheduled appointments,  4) indefinitely while your husband's illness is acute. If necessary you should request to see an experienced practitioner outside of Kaiser (KP is presently overburdened with members' therapy needs and is contracting outside its network). Do not settle for an inexperienced therapist or one you or your family does not feel secure with. Follow up all of your requests in WRITING to Kaiser so that you have a record. You will probably find Kaiser's offerings insufficient and may need to find your own therapist outside of Kaiser. You should request in writing that Kaiser pay for this therapy as it cannot provide you will what your family needs. If Kaiser declines to pay, you may file a grievance and then file an appeal to the DMHC. Please get the help you need and hold Kaiser accountable.  To avert or address a mental health crisis, you are entitled to the same quality of care you would seek and expect if someone in your family had a very threatening physical illness. Your husband needs serious professional care and your family needs care now. I hope you are able to find it. 

    I want to suggest a support system for you that can be really helpful through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They do some really terrific support groups for family members caring for someone who is mentally ill, as well as support groups for folks living with mental illness. They have a great website and I know there are local groups. Check out  I think this would be a good adjunct to any therapy you undertake. Give Kaiser a chance. Their philosophy is more short term therapy and groups but they do work well in supporting folks who have been hospitalized. I don’t think they do family therapy but you could ask your husband’s therapist if they could include the family in some sessions. You have a big challenge ahead of you and it will take a lot of advocacy on your part. You are not alone in facing this though I know it can feel like that. You are being very brave and I send you my best wishes as you take care of your family through this difficult time.

    I'll just second what the previous responder said about Kaiser mental health.  It's what I've heard from friends who practice in that system, and that they are definitely contracting with outside therapists because they don't have enough clinicians.  Your family has very specific needs, so I would press for that, although you may have to jump through their hoops first.  

I highly recommend Damian Cassels-Jones at Kaiser Richmond. He is absolutely brilliant, astute, kind and compassionate.

I’m not sure if he is available for this specifically, but I know he sees adolescents and adults. If he’s not available for exactly what you need, I’d at least trust any recommendation he makes.

Good luck! 

I'm sorry to say that Kaiser's mental health services are abysmal in the best of times. I also have a daughter in 11th grade. I paid out of pocket for therapy for her when she started high school. After trying the Kaiser route for my own mental health, I decided I couldn't put her through that, knowing that months can be wasted in that system with no relief. I actually love Kaiser for many things, but their mental health services are simply awful. I can highly recommend my daughter's therapist - he was really kind and helped her through so much. He was really easy for her to talk to, but he was out of pocket, and $140 a week adds up. 

I hope your family gets the help you need. Kaiser will not be great if one of the things you want is weekly therapy; they basically don’t provide it, but can refer you out to either Beacon or Magellan, both of which are sadly very poor.  However, Kaiser does have lots of groups, I think I recall a DBT group for teens when we visited the child psychiatry arm of things. The psychiatrists are mostly very good.  You will very likely find more than one group he or you would benefit from; their “model” seems to be group therapy. If I’m not mistaken you can find their behavioral health groups listed online (don’t have to be a member to view them, but would to enroll). Best of luck. 

As you probably know the Kaiser psych dept has gone on strike a couple of times in part because of the poor services they are forced to provide due to not enough staff. My son does have a psychiatrist and a therapist he likes there, but he can only see the therapist about once a month and sometimes it's canceled. At one point they gave us an authorization for outside therapy, but of the long list of therapists on the network they use, only 1 was taking (kaiser) patients and he wasn't a good fit for my son. We must have made 50 calls. Kaiser does have groups, including some really good parenting groups and groups for teens with various issues, and my partner gets CBT there, but your teen will probably not be able to get one-on-one therapy more frequently than once a month.

I wouldn't recommend switching to Kaiser. I have a 16-year-old who struggles with anxiety and depression--there was some suicidal ideation about a year ago, and even so, getting mental health services from Kaiser has been a complete wild goose chase. (Both at Kaiser Oakland and Kaiser Richmond.) If you're not happy with the therapist you're seeing, maybe switch to Cigna PPO. I wish you all the best!


Kaiser has great support groups. My daughter recently started in a middle school age group there that meets once a week, and parents meet separately as a group at the same time with a therapist.