Therapy can be great. It can also be expensive.
The Affordable Care Act provided a mandate for insurers to cover mental health care as an essential service. But consumers can discover a wide gap between what is technically covered by their plan and what they can afford. If your plan has a high deductible, you could be forced to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket before coverage takes effect. Or you might not be able to find therapists in your area who accept your insurance. In some parts of the country, there are not enough mental health professionals to treat the number of people who need them. And depending on your cultural background, there might be a stigma around seeking traditional talk therapy.
“In many circles and communities, especially communities of color and immigrants, you just don’t say you’re getting help outside your home,” said Curley Bonds, physician and psychiatrist and chief medical officer. from Los Angeles. Departmental Department of Mental Health.
Part of the stigma with therapy may come from not knowing what it is or who it is really for. The idea of ââ”seeing a therapist” might conjure up the mental image of a wealthy, decadent person lying on a couch complaining about his mother. Or a complete stranger in a dark room asking you to reveal your darkest secrets, then throwing you a handful of drugs. But none of those stereotypes reflect reality, said Katrina DeBonis, psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at UCLA.
âA lot of people think that therapy is that indulgence as opposed to effective treatment,â she said. “They might think therapy is for the rich. Part is realizing that it’s not true. And it can be in combination with drugs or instead of drugs.”
Before giving up on therapy altogether, DeBonis recommended that you make sure you have the right details about what your plan covers. Call the number on the back of your insurance card or visit your insurance website and find out what mental health coverage is available. She said a number of plans are contracting with telehealth platforms or other virtual therapies.
If this is not available, or if you prefer to take a different course of treatment, there are still many free and inexpensive alternatives to traditional therapy.
If you need help now
If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, there are free ways by phone and texting to get help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available at (800) 273-8255; it is also available for Spanish speakers at (888) 628-9454 and for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
If you cannot or do not want to speak on the phone, the Crisis Text Line provides crisis counselors by SMS (send “HOME” to 741741), WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Free alternatives to therapy
Your workplace, school or place of worship: Check with your employer to find out if your job offers an employee assistance program. These programs often cover several free sessions with a counselor.
If you are a student, check with a school counselor.
In both cases, the sessions are subject to the usual confidentiality constraints. In other words, the person you are talking to will not go to your parents or other family members to tell them what you have been talking about. DeBonis said to ask about these privacy limits so that you are fully informed of your rights.
Many churches, temples and other places of worship offer free confidential support and advice.
Help lines: Help lines are generally intended for people in crisis. If you’re not up to the crisis but just need to talk to someone, LA and Orange County offer what are called ‘help lines’ where you can chat or get away from it all. anything that crosses your mind, including anxiety, drug addiction, or loneliness. Beyond immediate assistance, the person you talk to can offer advice and referrals for other resources if you need them. The Los Angeles County Emergency Line is available from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at (855) 952-9276. The Orange County phone line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (714) 991-6412.
Local Resources Via 211: Calling 211 from anywhere in America will put you in touch with someone knowledgeable about your local resources for all kinds of things including mental health, rent assistance, and mortgages , transport, child and elderly care and vocational training. 211 is available 24/7 in California. Call 211 and ask what your local government offers for mental health needs.
Support Groups: Most places that offered in-person support groups before the pandemic are still going the virtual route. The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Urban Los Angeles offers weekly Zoom Peer Support Groups led by trained facilitators for people living with mental illness or their families. Self-Help and Recovery Exchange has a regularly updated calendar of volunteer-run support groups, including those who meet on Zoom or in person at locations in Culver City and downtown Los Angeles. Group topics include addiction, substance abuse, grief and loss, anger management, and a variety of mental health issues.
Online Peer Support: LA County offers free 24/7 peer support through the iPrevail platform. You must be physically in LA County to register for the free account. A number of other cities and counties also offer free or subsidized iPrevail support; if not in your area, it’s $ 9.99 per month. 7 Cups offers free 24/7 peer support with an option to upgrade to a licensed therapist for $ 150 per month.
Social Media Peer Support Groups and Forums: There are many places on Reddit and groups on Facebook where people share their issues and experiences and seek help for a wide range of mental health issues. On Facebook, you can type in the issue you are having and browse the available groups. On Reddit, look for subreddits based on particular conditions or experiences, or start in more general places like r / findareddit, r / KindVoice, and r / internetparents.
Because the people you talk to are not trained professionals, their expertise and experience may vary, said Bonds: âYou just want to be careful of things that are not managed by professional organizations. There may be different levels of quality. . “
Pandemic-Specific Resources: The LA County Mental Health Department has released information and resources for people with anxiety, panic, grief, stress, frustration, depression, or other health issues. mental health due to the pandemic. The department has also partnered with UCLA’s Public Partnership for Wellness to offer a resource guide specifically for frontline workers, county employees, and education and care workers.
Meditation: âHave you tried meditating? It might sound trite, but really, the experts say you should try meditating. âPracticing mindfulness can be helpful,â DeBonis said. “It’s free and evidence-based for many mental health issues. Not everyone takes it right away, but it’s worth a try.”
Guided meditations and the development of mindfulness practices can be powerful tools in supporting mental health. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer free trials, then paid versions afterwards. If you’re in LA County, Headspace is still free. There are also free videos on YouTube, free meditations available through Spotify, and a number of podcasts available in the many places where you can listen to podcasts.
Low cost alternatives to therapy
Sliding-Scale Clinics: There may be therapists or clinics in your area that offer services at lower rates depending on your ability to pay. Google âsliding scale therapy near meâ to see what’s available.
Graduate schools and teaching hospitals: If there is a college or teaching hospital in your area, they may offer therapy sessions at reduced rates with clinicians still in training. Contact them and ask what they are offering.
Therapy Apps: Apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp offer therapy via text, phone, or video, typically for less than the average cost of in-person sessions. They charge a per-session, monthly, or annual fee, often with upselling for additional sessions or services.
Other Mental Health Apps: If you’re looking for apps that are suitable for a particular condition, problem, or type of treatment, you can browse over 200 in One Mind PsyberGuide’s database. You can specify that you are looking for apps focused on things like “chronic pain”, “dialectical behavior therapy“, “PTSD”, “borderline personality disorder”, “productivity” and more. Click on an app name in the database to see the cost (some are free), credibility, user experience, and research based on the type of treatment used.
Books and Workbooks: Bibliotherapy is its own sub-discipline of therapy. But you don’t necessarily need a licensed librarian to find value in books or workbooks.
âYou can make a lot of progress on your own if you’re motivated and can access a book from the library or from Amazon,â DeBonis said.
DeBonis and Bonds offered some recommendations. Both mentioned âWherever You Go, There You Areâ by John Cabot Zin and âThe Feeling Good Handbookâ by David Burns, which DeBonis says takes a similar approach to cognitive behavioral therapy. Bonds said that Ellen Bass’s “The Courage to Heal” is good for traumatized people. He also recommended “Overcoming Depression” by Lawrence Shapiro and the anthology “Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us” edited by Cheryl Giles and Pamela Ayo Etunde.
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