I Need Therapy But I Can’t Afford It

therapy - photo by nico nordstrom

There are a great many therapists in this world. The need to go to therapy and to openly embrace that your mental health could benefit from seeing a professional with the qualifications to help work towards your emotional well-being is not an easy step. No one likes talking about their personal feelings, but with the right individual who is able to listen and assess without making you feel overwhelmed, therapy can be an extremely useful tool. Unfortunately in the United States treating your mental health is not so easily affordable.

I had been terrified of seeking help for depression and anxiety in the U.K. I thought of all the worst case scenarios- from having friends know about personal struggles to the fear that it could affect my plans to apply for citizenship. Treating my mental health was, again, part of my plan to effectively recon my experience in the U.S. One of my first deliberate moves was to find a therapist that could work with me and for me. In therapy there are no quick-fixes or second session periods of enlightenment. Most of the time you’re picking and choosing what to say while hoping your therapist picks up at the real problems you’re trying to disguise so you don’t have to say them out loud. Seeing a therapist in the U.K. would have cost me next to nothing. I knew that I would have to pay a small amount for therapy in the U.S. but my mother assured me under the umbrella of her healthcare plan I would be covered from any enormous costs.

My first encounter in therapy was as a child when my mother enrolled our household to see a local therapist who in retrospect was unqualified and unprepared to take on the high level of abuse we  brought into her office. She was of the opinion that fathers and mothers are meant to be respected as the adults. Her objective was to get our family into sharing our feelings, and sharing activities in order to have us bond closer to one another. Every week we’d sit down—sometimes individually, sometimes with one another—and make a plan for the week. Pick somewhere to go, think of something to do, prepare an event to share as father and daughter. The next week we’d come back to have me tell her calmly that I didn’t want to do anything or share anything with my father. Nothing could engage me in this plan and I remained unmoved in my stance. When I furtively attempted to move forward under her directives I would return to her counsel insisting that I felt no different, even when things had gone smoothly. Going to see a film or playing soccer in the yard wasn’t going to change how I felt even then when I knew deep inside that my father was a horrible human being.

The second therapist I visited in high school assisted tremendously with my turbulent one-sided love affair with a boy in class, but continued to push when I affirmed that I had no intention of reconnecting or working on a relationship with my father. Neither of us could move past this so I ceased going until my mother brought me in to meet her therapist Jaclyn. Jaclyn was sweet, considerate, and never took anyone’s side regardless of age or dominant role within the broken family structure. It made sense to return to her practice where I felt confident, secure and pleased with our connection. Unfortunately, she had moved upstate. A new, fresh-faced therapist was ready to take her place and happy to acquire her mentor’s patients into her own portfolio.

I liked her, despite her overtly cheery disposition. I knew there were some thoughts I could never share openly unless I wanted to do permanent damage towards her positive outlook. I sat each week and worked towards communicating what was burdening me on a superficial level: I hated my job, I hated the U.S., I missed the U.K., I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity and learning that had once been a prominent part of my life. I tried hypnotherapy once at her request as she claimed it would help progress the work we were doing tenfold. I laid on her office couch for an hour pretending I was in a meditative state and feeling foolish knowing I would have to navigate telling her how appreciative I was for the session but we would not be doing this again.

The bills started coming in monthly, nearly $100 a week for 45 minute slots. My mother kept reassuring me that once the deductible was met I would no longer have to pay out-of-pocket. I had one week of therapy with no cost and then a new year of coverage began where I ended up looking ahead to continue paying a high premium. Like many Americans she seemed to think that a deductible of $2,000 was reasonable, led to believe their health is a monetary factor that can be turned into a lucrative industry. Knowing that therapy, although helpful initially, wasn’t really getting me where I needed to go in order to function happily, I decided to take it a step further and see a doctor for antidepressants.

Arriving in the medical plaza, I ran mantras over through my mind to justify that taking drugs for my depression was a healthy choice to make. I had never taken any medication before except for essential oils and herbal combinations that could be bought in a Whole Foods. I had been strongly against taking anything that had the potential to augment my mood or mind significantly. Yet here I was with a doctor who seemed unconvinced I was really suffering. I stayed for 10 minutes and was released with a prescription that cost $300 for a month’s worth of peace. They didn’t even work and I was charged another $100 for being harassed about my depression for 10 minutes of his time on a Thursday afternoon.

Then came the biggest setback of all: I found out my health insurance was under my father’s coverage. He, of course, had removed me the minute I moved to the U.K. but that meant that all the money I had been forwarding to help me through the conditions living with him had fostered all those years ago was going towards his future medical savings. I was finished. I withdrew from therapy and from going to the doctor altogether. I still am under his provider in case of major medical injuries but I refuse to go to see a medical professional otherwise.

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This leaves me in a position like so many others where the cost for our mental health needs is forgone in order to save money in tight places. 45% of Americans feel there is a significant barrier to mental health in the United States with most paying out-of-pocket up to $5,000 a year. This makes having a mental disorder one of the most costly conditions in this country to treat and to live with daily. Even if I chose to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace I would still be looking towards paying between $100-200 a month for either a bronze or silver plan without qualifying for any financial help. In between all other bills even this reasonable amount, (and I admit that this is reasonable) it’s simply a cost that I cannot afford to spend.

I know I’m not alone in this and although there are resources here for mental health, another part of living with mental illness it that it’s exhausting to treat. It’s the cost, the buildup of anxiety to find the right therapist for your needs who is able to pull out of your treatments the correct care to help you move forward. I’m sure there are many talented, qualified, extremely wonderful doctors and therapists in my area who would be willing to assist me. Still it would take me weeks to set up appointments, attend a reasonable amount of sessions, and then  decide whether to continue on with them or start the process over again. What if they referred me to someone who was less capable or who made me feel every time they asked a question like hiding under a rock? I’d have to take time off work, readjust my finances, and it’s just something that I’m pushing to the wayside to manage for as long as I can on my own. 

image courtesy of Nico Nordstrom

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