Families face several barriers when it comes to getting mental health treatment. One is the inability to reach mental health providers. Access to mental health care may be improved by policies that address this barrier. Despite the Affordable Care Act requiring medical insurance to cover mental health treatment, many Americans still face barriers preventing them from getting the needed services. These include cost and accessibility.
Barriers also include cultural and language differences. To address these issues, providers should provide culturally competent and inclusive care.
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Look for Discounts
The cost of mental health services is a common barrier to care. But if you are willing to do some research, there are many ways that you can access therapy at an affordable rate.
One option is to look for low-cost community clinics that provide no or subsidized counseling. These clinics are often run by graduate students who receive training under the supervision of licensed therapists.
Another option is to check with your employer. Some companies offer free counseling through their employee assistance programs. You can also find online counseling services that offer low rates or sliding scales. You can even attend a support group.
Ask Your Employer
Many employers offer employee assistance programs that cover the cost of mental health services. These programs can help employees struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, trauma or grief.
Some local nonprofits may have professional therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists who work pro bono at a reduced rate for low-income patients. These professionals typically volunteer several sessions weekly or monthly at community mental health centers and other clinics.
Calling or texting the warmline or hotline will allow you to have a free consultation with a therapist. Volunteers and peer advocates run these lines and may be available in several languages.
Check Your Insurance Plan
Despite the Affordable Care Act, which requires that medical insurance companies cover mental health treatments, many people still struggle to pay for therapy. The cost of copays and deductibles can be prohibitive for people to seek help.
In many communities, mental health services are free or very affordable. Nonprofits like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective provide locator tools that connect patients with therapists who offer reduced rates.
Additionally, many programs offer free or discounted therapy sessions if you’re employed and can access an employee assistance program (EAP). Contact your employer to find out if this is available to you.
For many people, telemedicine is a less expensive and more convenient way to receive care than an in-person appointment. Telemedicine services can treat complex clinical cases, and mental health treatment is no exception.
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, hospitals implemented a telemedicine program to help their patients continue accessing care without having to travel to in-person appointments. This helped reduce exposure, and patients were more engaged because they didn’t have to leave their homes.
Nonprofit organizations match low-income individuals with therapists; fees range from $30 to $50 per session. The organization also provides training for therapists to work with low-income patients.
Check With Your Employer’s EAP
If you have an EAP at work, they may offer several services. They can help you get free counseling and access to other helpful resources. These resources can include things like a mental health locator, free or discounted treatment options, and even online support groups.
The best EAP providers will also have a dedicated hotline for workplace concerns. This allows employees to report issues such as a co-worker’s abusive behavior or on-site substance abuse. They can then refer the employee to an affiliate who can handle the situation.
Some EAPs will also have community sessions where employees can talk to behavioral coaches and therapists about their problems. These sessions can take place via video, phone, or face-to-face.
Look for a Sliding Scale
Therapists often use a sliding scale to reduce their hourly rate based on an individual client’s income. This structure allows lower-income clients to afford therapy services, and it can help therapists balance their books.
Using a sliding scale can also increase client engagement and connection to sessions. Clients may be more likely to routinely attend sessions if they can do so without worrying about the impact on their budgets.
In addition to finding a therapist who offers a sliding fee scale, check with local community mental health clinics. Many post-secondary schools also offer free or low-cost therapy sessions with therapists-in-training or as part of their continuing education programs.
Never hesitate to contact a hotline and tell them what is happening if you are experiencing a crisis. You can call 211 if you’re not sure which hotline to dial. Don’t give up on your search for a therapist. You can find the right therapist by talking to local resources, employers, insurance companies, and online resources. Prioritizing your mental health is not a matter of sacrificing your finances.