Can’t afford therapy? Here is help

The race to find mental health treatment can feel like a marathon when you may not have the energy or ability to even make it to the starting line. You may be faced with limited affordable options and a lack of therapists available.

“Before the pandemic, we didn’t have a sufficient workforce to meet the country’s mental health needs,” says Vaile Wright, who has a PhD in counseling psychology and is the senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association. “And that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

According to the APA’s 2021 COVID-19 Practitioner Survey, 43% of psychologists reported an increase in the total number of patients compared to 2020. At the same time, 41% of psychologists said they couldn’t keep up with demand and 46% felt burned out.

Luckily, there are multiple ways to access care at different prices, including telemedicine options.

Use resources you may already have

Your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can connect you, your spouse or partner, and your children to various services, including short-term counseling. Check your benefits to see what your EAP offers, if you have one.

If you have school-age children, your guidance counselor can be a helpful resource, not just for academic matters, but for more personal, social, and behavioral issues as well. College students may also have access to free or low-cost on-campus counseling services.

And don’t forget about family doctors and gynecologists. Annual health screenings, which are free with insurance companies, are an opportunity to talk about your mental health. Your doctor may prescribe medication for you or refer you to other doctors. dr Carlene MacMillan, co-chair of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Consumer Affairs Committee, recommends making time during your routine appointment to talk about your mental health.

“When you’re mentally and physically healthy, it’s easier to take care of everything else,” she says.

Look for providers who will cover your insurance

You can look for on-net providers through your health insurance provider, but MacMillan warns that the information there may be out of date. Check it out again with Psychology Today (yes, like the magazine). The site has a search tool that you can use to find therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups. According to MacMillan, this tool’s search results may be more up-to-date than some insurance databases.

Alma and Headway are two other websites where you can search for providers who will accept your health insurance.

Ask if therapists offer discounted rates

Many therapists reserve appointments for patients who cannot afford the full hourly rate. Ask therapists in your area if they accept patients on a tiered scale, which means they lower their rates based on your income. And if you’re open to group therapy, it can cost less than a one-on-one session with a therapist.

You can also look beyond private practices. “Most places, at least cities, have community mental health centers that offer a sliding scale,” says Nance Roy, chief clinical officer at The Jed Foundation, or JED, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the mental health of teens and young people to support and protect adults.

Open Path is a nonprofit organization that can help you find affordable care when your household income is less than $100,000 per year and you either do not have health insurance or your insurance plan does not provide mental health benefits. You can join their mental health collective by paying $59 for a lifetime membership. From there, you can access therapy for a fee of $30-$60 per session for individual counseling, or $30-$80 for couples or families.

Contact teaching hospitals

Hospitals and universities in your area may offer programs where you can see a clinician-in-training supervised by a licensed physician at a lower cost. Look for local teaching hospitals or colleges with psychology programs.

Get virtual help

The use of telemedicine has expanded due to COVID-19, when privacy regulations were adjusted to give patients more ways to communicate with healthcare professionals. Even with the return of in-person appointments, virtual appointments are still an option that’s especially handy for anyone who previously had to take time off work or pay a babysitter to attend meetings.

“The ways you can access mental health care is where the disorder really took place,” says Heela Gonen, vice president of strategic partnerships and communications at BetterHelp, an online therapy platform. “You see that people are not going back.”

Mental health platforms like BetterHelp and Brightside allow communication with a therapist via video or phone call, or via text message. For children and teenagers, MacMillan recommends Little Otter and Brightline.

Add some self-care

While seeking a therapist or between appointments, it can be helpful to incorporate mindfulness practices into your day, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or just going for a walk and observing everything around you.

“The research clearly shows the value of mindfulness in promoting mental health,” says Roy. “It’s not about stopping the thoughts, it’s about letting them pass.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.

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Sara Rathner writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @sakrathner.

Getting therapy when cost and access are a barrier article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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