Sunday, October 12, 2008

Free...therapy?

As someone who is training for and working in the field of mental health, we are all taught how hard it can be to find someone to help with problems or issues in our lives. There is an inevitable stigma that follows the idea of "therapy". For those of you unfamiliar with the experience of therapy, let me advise you, a) we do not have you lie on a couch to talk about yourself, thats a personal choice for you; b) not every therapist will ask you in-depth questions about your childhood, believing that's where you problem is (although there are still some out there that do); c) by going to therapy does not mean you are crazy, everyone has problems, and this is one of the many common ways to resolve personal problems; d) its important that you feel comfortable with and trust your therapist. I've had bad experiences myself, so if that person creeps you out or is not connecting with you, find another therapist.

In addition to feeling comfortable with the idea of going to therapy, there another issue of finding a way to pay for it. The hourly rate can be pretty ridiculus! I've been looking around at possible sources to receive free or close to free therapy, besides private practice, which is typically far from free, and here is what I know of or have discovered.
  • Students - If you attend a college or university, it is likely your school has a counseling center which will serve you for a smaller rate if not free. I've seen universities where you will be charged after the first session (for very cheaply in comparison to private practice rates), or sometimes it costs nothing at all, all you have to do is make the appointment.
  • Health and Human Services-type-organizations run in your local county - Often times your local county will have therapists and psychologists on board that are working for free to earn hours toward licensure, and fees are assessed on a sliding scale, meaning they assess fees to you for services based on your income, family size, and other financial obligations. You may have to do some searching on the internet for these services, like checking out your county's website, or typing in "[your county] mental health center" on google. In addition, many private practices to incorporate a sliding scale fee, but you won't know until you ask around. To look for services in your area, check your phonebook or type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to get a list of practices with their websites that might provide this information.
  • Check your insurance policy! I was shocked to find that my insurance company, pending authorization, lets me see therapists in private practice for only $20 co-pay per session. (Not to say $20 isn't a lot, but it is much cheaper than the normal cost). However, the risks with using your insurance is that diagnoses are released to them. If your comfortable with that, go for it. If your insurance still has a crappy co-pay rate, check on it occasionally in the upcoming year. With the recent approval of the bailout bill, there was also a "mental health parity" bill approved, which means that insurance companies must be fair in assessing fees for mental health treatment - meaning they have to cost the same rates as it would be to treat a physical condition.
  • Group Therapy/Support Groups - Group therapy is a commonly used method due to the fact its cheaper since only one or two therapists are needed to serve a large amount of people in a group at one time. In addition, people learn greatly from their peers as well as with guidence from their therapist, so a lot of times its a win-win situation. Good places to look for these are health and human services type organizations from the county, non-profit mental health organizations, and hospitals. Again, type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to look at websites of practices that offer these services. Looking at my local hospital's website, there are numerous support groups for free, however, due to the fact its a hospital their support groups are more aimed towards those with physical conditions.
  • Online therapy/support groups - Due to my personal circumstances, I use these and find them to be helpful. Its also nice if you do not feel like going to actual group therapy, however, I don't believe you will get as much out of doing this online. It's a very different experience. One of my favorites is Dailystrength.org, which provides support groups for all different types of medical conditions, as well as other life circumstances that can cause a potentially great amount of stress. In addition, its also like facebook or myspace where you have a profile page and can journal and set goals for yourself. You're also likely to find support groups in places like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups, all you have to do is search for it. If you can't find what you are looking for, consider starting one! I'm actually liking this a lot, so give it a try if you think it would be useful to you.
  • Student Training Centers - If you are close to a university that offers graduate programs in counseling or clinical psychology, then you might be in luck! Often times these programs will have clinics set up in university buildings which offer therapy for relatively cheap due to the fact that it is a training facility for students who are supervised by professionals.
If you are having some personal struggles in your life that you think you would like to open up about, but not your wallet, consider trying some of these options. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to comment or email frugalgreengirl@gmail.com

Good luck!

1 comment:

Meg said...

These are such great suggestions; I'm was a graduate student working in an on campus mental health facility last year and the sliding scale is fantastic option for many student and members of the surrounding community to gain access to therapy. Keep up the good work!