What if I Can’t Afford Mental Health Services? 7 Ways to Get Help on the Cheap
What if you can’t afford mental health counseling? You read up on all the mental health blogs, you keep yourself informed, you study everything you can. But healthcare costs are so high, and if you don’t have insurance, it can be a huge challenge. Especially if you’re struggling with your mental health.
The demand for treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few, is increasingly on the rise. When demand for something goes up, so does its cost.
It’s estimated that around one in five adults experiences a serious mental illness in the United States, and that around 56 percent of them don’t get the mental health help they need. The percentage may be higher among teens-the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an exponentially increasing suicide rate for teens.
It’s not just about cost, either. Unfortunately, in our modern American society there’s an unfortunate negative stigma regarding mental illness that intimidates and therefore discourages those who would otherwise consult a mental health professional.
Another problem arises because our health care system today in the U.S. does not treat mental health as thoroughly as it does physical health. Insurance often doesn’t entirely cover mental health exams or therapy, and those professionals who accept insurance often have to jump through plenty of hoops to get reimbursed by insurance providers.
What’s the use? It’s enough to make anyone want to give up.
Not to worry, here are seven ways you can get the mental health help you need, at minimal to no out-of-pocket cost:
- Several private mental health care providers frequently determine their fees by a sliding scale.
Most mental health care providers are very understanding and empathetic. They really want to get you help, and will be willing to negotiate something that works for you.
Some therapists do not accept insurance coverage, but, again, depending on your income (don’t forget your tax return!), you can get quality mental health care for as little as $10 per hour.
It’s not uncommon for professional mental health offices to ask patients how much they can afford, and do their best to work something out. If the office employs has interns or medical student on staff, they may be able to charge even less.
- If you have healthcare, find a professional within your network; if not, find a federally-qualified health center near you.
Insurance providers typically have a pool of mental health care professionals they work with, but typically cover at least a significant portion of visits to professionals outside of the company’s local network.
If you don’t have insurance, you can get help at a local social services agency, a student health center if you’re a student, or at other federally-qualified and funded health centers in your community.
If you’re eligible for Medicaid, you might qualify for free therapy (being below a certain income level is what qualifies individuals, so be sure to have documentation from your previous year’s tax return.
Some people try to check themselves into an Emergency Room, but this isn’t the best idea, especially if you don’t have insurance, because you could get stuck with a huge tab. Also, ER’s typically aren’t equipped to counsel individuals and work with them to help improve a mental health situation over an extended period of time. Only look into an ER if you find yourself in the middle of a critical crisis.
States and local communities also may offer fully-, or at least partially-funded mental health services. At the writing of this article, Georgia had become the newest state offering some kind of mental health service for free, via a smart phone app.
And don’t forget about NAMI. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a helpline offering free help 24 hours a day. Simply text NAMI to 741741.
- University hospitals employ and train medical students who can work for lower fees, and many of these hospitals are not-for-profit.
Most university medical programs have psychology/psychiatry programs, and most university hospitals offer on-the-job training to medical students, interns, and residents, based on an income-determined sliding scale.
Many state-funded non-profit agencies, and even private agencies offer top-notch mental health consultations and therapy at reduced rates for those whose lower incomes qualify them.
- Local psychotherapeutic training organizations often provide free consultations for up to two years.
If you’re willing to commit to going to therapy three to five times weekly for up to two years, you can get high quality, thorough mental health treatment by a professional in training, closely supervised, and very focused/specific.
- Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is another available option.
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective (OPPC) is a not-for-profit organization that will match what lower- to middle-income individuals and families can pay to get mental health services. Those who need it can get good care, without hanging their mental health professionals out to dry. Rates range from $35 to $55 dollars per hourly session.
- Finally, never give up on yourself. The resources you need are waiting for you.
It may take some patience and due diligence on your part to find the right mental health professional, and in the meantime, your smartphone may be of more benefit to you than you’d thought.
Putting technology to work for good, what’s known as tele-mental health has become an increasingly valuable resource for states and communities to provide mental health care.
Some obstacles exist for the providers in terms of licensing (a provider can’t live in California and consult with someone in Colorado, for example), but tele-mental health is officially a growing thing and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Check with your local healthcare network/hospital system to see if they have these services available.
- In case of emergency, get yourself to a clinic or call for help.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you are in a mental health crisis and needing immediate assistance, get to your local community mental health clinic. Such clinics can often offer low-cost therapy, as they are funded from organizations like United Way.
Another available option is to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273.TALK) if you are prone to harm yourself or someone else. This is another free resource, 100 percent confidential, and available 24 hours a day.
Are you having a hard time finding a mental health professional that you’re comfortable with? Is the stress making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.
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