We’ve hit the year mark of living life with COVID and it seems that there’s a collective sense of utter burn out. It is common these days to feel stressed out, irritated, impatient, and just not motivated to do anything anymore. Maybe your anxiety has noticeably increased and you’re just not the same person you used to be. You don’t understand why you feel so upset all the time. But when you try to talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling, they say they’re feeling the same way too! What are you supposed to do? Well, it might be time to talk to a therapist.
Therapy can be a wonderful way to talk about how you’re feeling and learn ways to cope with the stress and anxiety you’re going through. People love therapy because it’s an opportunity to have a completely objective and unbiased opinion from someone who knows how to support you. Unfortunately, therapy can also be really expensive. And if you don’t have insurance or have a high insurance deductible, it can make accessing therapy services downright impossible.
Many people think therapy isn’t possible because of the cost. And let’s face it, if you don’t have insurance, it can be very expensive; most of us don’t have hundreds of dollars to shell out for each session. Or perhaps you do have insurance but there’s a huge deductible to meet first. Not to fear! I have some suggestions for you. Finding affordable and accessible mental health care is possible! Here are some of my favorite options for finding low-cost therapy services.
You’ve gotten your insurance situation squared away, or decided that you don’t want to apply for health insurance. You’re ready to start looking for a therapist. Directories are a great way to find your new therapist. You can typically search based on your individual and specific needs. Good Rx is an online “marketplace” where you can find a provider and schedule an appointment in a matter of minutes. Appointments start at $65. There’s no waiting room, no paperwork, and no insurance required. Here’s an added bonus: GoodRx is also a great way to find coupons and discounts for medications in your area.
Psychology Today: this is a great online directory of therapists and psychiatrists. You can filter your search by location, insurances accepted, and specialties. It’s free to use.
Similar to Psychology Today, Good Therapy is a directory of therapists and psychiatrists. You can filter your search by your specific needs such as location, insurances accepted, and specialities. It’s also free to use.
There are many great therapy websites that offer lower cost online therapy while you’re in the comfort of your own home. Most offer phone, video, and/or text based therapy options and you typically pay a monthly membership fee. Here are some of my favorites:
Open Path Collective is an online directory of therapists who offer online and in person psychotherapy sessions between $30 and $60 per session ($30-$80 for couples). It is based on financial need and there is a one-time, $59 lifetime membership fee. BetterHelp: is an online therapy service in which you are matched with a therapist and can meet via phone, video, and/or text. Services are billed monthly and range anywhere between $60-$90 per week, depending on your location. They also have an app. Similarly, Talkspace is an online therapy service offering phone, text, and/or video therapy. Prices are a little higher and start at $99 per week. They also provide an app. Finally, Amwell offers both mental health and physical health providers. It’s a slightly more expensive option, but you’re guaranteed to be able to be seen by someone 24/7.
If you do have insurance coverage, check out your benefits. Most plans cover mental health services. However, you will probably need to meet your deductible first. Contact your insurance company or look at your benefits online to see what is covered. Here’s a tip: some insurance companies will even partially reimburse you for out of pocket therapy sessions in case you want to work with a therapist who doesn’t accept insurance. I recommend using these questions when contacting your insurance company to find out about mental health benefits:
- “Does my plan cover mental health benefits? If so, how many sessions can I have each year?”
- “Do I have a deductible and if so, how much is it?”
- “How much is the copay I have to pay for each session?”
- “Do I have out-of-network benefits?”
- “Do you cover teletherapy?”
Headway: this company has paneled with these 5 major insurance companies: Aetna, United, Cigna, Oscar, and Oxford. All therapists listed on this directory will accept these insurances so you already know you’ll be covered. Headway does all the hard work for you, all you need to do is pay your copayment.
What To Do If You Don’t Have Insurance
There are plenty of low cost therapy options but before I talk about that, let’s take a look at how you might be able to get affordable insurance. Yes, it is possible! This varies state by state but a good place to start is checking out the Affordable Care Insurance Marketplace. You may know this as “Obamacare.” Here you can be directed to your state and begin the process of finding affordable health insurance. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for a government subsidy and end up paying less per month. Navigating this process can be a little daunting because it can be confusing to know what type of plan will suit your needs. The Marketplace offers free phone support with insurance agents who can help you understand the process. *Good news: due to COVID, the deadline to apply has been extended until May 15th and in some states, you may be eligible for a subsidy even if you make a higher income.
Here are the main things to consider:
- You’ll either be paying more each month in order to have a lower deductible OR
- You’ll be paying less each month and have a higher deductible.
Another free or low-cost insurance option is Medicaid. Medicaid is a government funded insurance plan for individuals and families with low income and resources. Every state has their own eligibility requirements but basically, to be eligible, you must meet low-income guidelines such as age, pregnancy and whether you’re disabled.
If you’re young and healthy, you may want to consider enrolling in Short-Term Health Insurance.
As the name implies, it’s only for a short-term (364 days). The good side is that it is usually really inexpensive. The bad side is that it typically doesn’t cover a lot of services and doesn’t cover “pre-existing conditions.” As with other plans, eligibility varies by state. This is a good option if you want to have coverage “just in case.”
Here are a few more ideas:
- If you’re under 26 years old, you may be eligible to be covered under your parent’s insurance plan.
- Similarly, if you are married or in a domestic partnership, you may be able to be covered under your partner’s health insurance.
Also, many jobs offer low cost health insurance plans. Check with your Human Resources Department.
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): EAPs are outside companies that offer medical and mental health services to many companies. More and more employers are partnering with EAPs in an effort to improve the overall well-being of their employees. Often, these EAPs will cover between 8–10 therapy sessions and are free for you to use. Ask your Human Resources department if this is offered or check your employee handbook.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI has a telephone line that offers free assistance and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach the helpline at 1–800–950–6264. This is a great resource not only for emergency situations but also for guidance on where and how to access additional free resources in your area.
Local universities: Many university health centers have graduate students who are studying to be psychologists and offer a reduced or sliding scale. These students are supervised by licensed psychologists.
Negotiate: Many therapists offer a certain amount of reduced fee or sliding scale therapy spots. It can’t hurt to reach out and see if they can offer you a reduced rate. You’d be surprised how many will say yes!
Apps: For those of us on the go, there are now so many therapy apps. Some connect with you a live therapist with whom you can speak to but others offer pre-recorded podcasts, videos, and DIY programs. Here are some of my favorites:
- Talkspace, Betterhelp, Regain, TeenCounseling, Mood Kit, 7 Cups, MindDoc, and Mindshift.
- Try checking out some meditation and relaxation apps such as: Calm, 10% Happier, Insight Timer, Meditation Nest, Breathe, and Mindfulness.
It may take some time to find the right therapist to meet your needs and you may hear a lot of “no’s” before you hear that one “yes,” but don’t give up. You don’t need to suffer alone; help is available.
I’d be happy to talk to you further about therapy and offer any support I can. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website, www.ruthiekalai.com