Finding therapists, mental health resources that don’t break the bank

Depression alone is a $210.5 billion annual burden on the U.S. economy. 

For most, healing comes with a large price tag. And with unemployment hitting record highs during the pandemic, mental health resources and therapy sessions might hit the back burner. 

But Chelsea Goldman, a therapist in South Carolina, believes that anxiety-inducing personal finance problems are reason enough to pursue mental health resources. That said, she recently shared with Reckon multiple ways to fit therapy into your budget.

More from Reckon South on mental health: Pandemic got you numb? Therapists have a word for it: Compassion fatigue

Insurance & itemized receipts

If you have insurance, the first step in finding therapy is asking your insurer for a list of mental health providers in your area, Goldman said. Your provider should be able to let you know where you can go at no cost to you. 

“If there is a therapist you are interested in that does not take your insurance but takes out-of-pocket payment, you can ask for an itemized receipt and submit it to your insurance provider for out-of-network benefits,” she said. 

The reimbursement from your insurance company will not be much, but if you are attending weekly therapy, it can save you a chunk of change. 

Sliding scales

If your therapist takes self-pay, some will offer a sliding-scale payment plan. In a sliding-scale situation, therapists will adjust the cost of your therapy sessions based on your income or budget. 

For example, a therapist might charge a base rate of $85 per session but drop it down to $65 for clients with tighter budgets. 

“If ever you find a therapist you think is a good fit, I think it benefits everybody and anybody to go ahead and ask if the therapist has a sliding scale,” she said. “The worst thing that happens is that the therapist says no.” 

If you are struggling to have a conversation about payment with a therapist, consider your end goal and the value that therapy will have in the long run. “Think about the conversation as one little step to getting your foot in the door,” she said. “One little question at the beginning is worth it all.” 

Goldman recommends approaching the conversation through email if you are feeling anxious about the topic of money. 

More from Reckon South on mental health: Southern therapists on preparing for colder, darker days

Universities in the area? Hit them up

If you are a student at a technical school, community college or four-year university, you might be eligible for a couple of free counseling sessions.

“Even if they aren’t your favorite counselor, it’s still someone to talk to for a bit until you save up to see someone else or graduate,” she said.

Although this situation is more rare, some larger universities offer these counseling services to the public and almost always offer a sliding scale, Goldman said. It’s not as common, but if you do live in a larger college town, it could be valuable to check for those opportunities. 

Pro-bono therapy

Licensed professional therapists are required to offer one or two pro-bono therapy sessions a year. 

“We all fall on hardship,” Goldman said. “Let’s say a client who typically comes weekly has something happen and they have to start coming once every two weeks or even once a month. I would probably give them some free sessions somewhere throughout that time period if I think that level of therapy is still needed.” 

Goldman said asking for pro-bono therapy can be approached in the same way as requesting sliding-scale payments. In a similar vein, some therapists in more rural areas sometimes barter. For example, a client might trade a product like eggs from their farm in exchange for a therapy session. 

“It sounds weird, but it is an ethical option,” Goldman said. “Boundaries do come into play here heavily. You couldn’t barter for free drinks at a bar. That’s not going to work.” 

Employee Assistant Programs (EAP)

Some state jobs, non-profit jobs or companies with “quality” human resource departments offer an Employee Assistant Program. These include a few free counseling sessions to get your foot in the door and shave off some of the costs. 

When utilizing these programs, Goldman said, it’s wise to find a therapist who also takes your insurance if you have it. That way, you can keep that therapist after the free sessions run out. 

Online nationwide services, apps

The pandemic has opened up the doors for more online or video-call services. Here are two online therapy groups that Goldman recommends: 

Headspace is a non-profit therapy group that primarily offers online mental health care. Clients pay a one-time membership fee of $59 to enter their system and access virtual therapists with reduced rates.

Goldman said Headspace does a great job of focusing on mindfulness and meditation. 

Better Help is an online mental health resource that you can access from anywhere. The program also has a phone app. One of their missions is to offer affordable, convenient therapy services and they serve individuals, couples and teens.

Better Help’s services can cost users from $60 to $90 depending on the resources you select and clients are billed every four weeks. 

For more Reckon mental health coverage, click here. 

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