Budget-Friendly Ways To Get Support For Your Mental Health
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so now, more than ever, it’s important to talk about mental health. In our society, it is still seen to many as taboo to talk about mental health and that can make it difficult to find the help that is truly needed. Plus, our healthcare system is still broken, so many people cannot afford to get the help that they need, even if they want to seek it out. That’s why it’s so important to talk about the more budget-friendly options that exist out there right now. If you are uninsured, or if your healthcare plan doesn’t include mental healthcare coverage, here are some other options to look for.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were an increasing amount of online options for mental health support and therapy. Now, online therapy is even more accessible than it was before. But if you don’t have health insurance and you still need access to a mental health provider, there are many apps and other platforms to choose from.
Code Blue is an app that will alert your support network when you’re in need. Specifically designed for teens, this app lets your family or friends know in real time when you’re being bullied or feeling depressed or suicidal.
PTSD Coach is an app that was developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans deal with PTSD symptoms. The app is also available to civilians, and it connects you to resources and support in your area.
Talkspace is probably the most well-known therapy app. It connects you with a licensed therapist via chat. You do have to pay for this therapist, but it can be a great option if you don’t have health insurance that covers therapy. You can add video therapy for an additional cost.
Betterhelp is another online therapy app that you’ve likely heard about. You can specify if you’re looking for individual therapy, couples counseling, or therapy for your child.
For more apps, check out this list, which includes ratings on ease of use and effectiveness.
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
If you’re not as interested in using an app, but you still need support from a licensed therapist, check out the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective. According to their website, this collective is “a non-profit nationwide network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing in-office mental health care—at a steeply reduced rate—to individuals, couples, children, and families in need.”
Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most, if not all, therapists are conducting their sessions virtually. But if you’re looking for someone you can see in person once the world is a little safer, this might be a great option for you.
To join the collective, you pay a fee to become a member. From there, you can search and find a provider in your state who you think might be a good fit. Your income level does play a role here, as many of the therapists set their fees on a sliding scale. If you’re seeking affordable therapy because you’re uninsured, underinsured, or cannot afford to pay the full rate out of pocket, Open Path is a great option for you.
Therapists go through training, just like many other professions. This means that they need to accumulate practice hours in order to get the certification they are working towards. A great way to find affordable therapy is to become a client at a training clinic.
Training clinics are usually located near or as part of universities. You would attend sessions with a graduate student who is supervised by a licensed psychologist. These clinics typically charge for sessions on a sliding scale, which could be as low as $0, if that’s what you can afford.
To find one near you, you can browse the Association of Psychology Training Clinics for member clinics.
Perhaps you aren’t ready to see a therapist one-on-one, or perhaps none of the options I’ve mentioned seem right for you. It might be worth searching out a local support group that addresses issues that you are dealing with right now, whether that is bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or addiction issues.
You should also ask any therapist you’re interested in whether or not they offer group sessions. This could be a much more affordable option to start with until you’re ready to move up to individual therapy sessions.
Medicaid, in the United States, is a federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. It currently provides health coverage to over 72.5 million Americans, including children, pregnant women, parents, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Depending on your circumstances, you might qualify for Medicaid
Not all mental health providers (and care providers more generally) accept Medicaid. Make sure that when you’re doing your research on therapists that you find one that specifically accepts Medicaid. You don’t want to have a session only to find out that you have to pay out of pocket. To make this research even easier, use this tool from Psychology Today where you can filter for therapists who take your specific insurance, including Medicaid.
If you are currently uninsured for any reason - perhaps you or your partner lost your job this year - there are still insurance options available to you. The Affordable Care Act is still in place, which means that marketplace insurance still exists for you to enroll in. Any life change that impacts your insurance status qualifies you to enroll in health insurance through the marketplace. If you have not had a life change but you are uninsured, keep your eyes open in November! From November 1 until December 15, enrollment is open for health insurance under the marketplace. Visit healthcare.gov to get the information you need and, if applicable, get connected to the marketplace for your state.
Make sure, when you’re enrolling in marketplace health insurance this November, that you specifically find an insurance plan that covers mental health services. Look at the fine print: are therapists only at certain locations that are very inconvenient to you? Do you only get a certain amount of therapy sessions per year? Depending on what you personally need, it’s important that you fully understand what kind of mental health coverage any plan you get includes.
Double Check Your Existing Insurance
If you do have health insurance, but you aren’t sure whether or not you have mental health coverage, you should double check. Call your insurance provider and get the details about your coverage. Sometimes it’s not enough to check online, and it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information. Get a person on the phone and ask them your questions. Knowing the details will make a world of difference when it comes to your mental health.
Good luck and take care of yourself.
This piece was originally published on my ForbesWomen column.