At Well+Good, we firmly believe that wellness is something every person should have access to. Everyone deserves to feel good and be well. But it's certainly hard to ignore the fact that having a flush bank account can open more doors—particularly when it comes to accessing mental health-care services like therapy.
It's something that came up during a recent Well+Good TALKS focusing on mental health. Therapy can have profound benefits on someone's mental health, but it's rarely affordable or accessible. There aren't enough therapists or psychiatrists in the U.S. (which increases wait times and causes mental health deserts), and the average therapy session, depending on where you live, can cost upwards of $200.
"I do think the cost of therapy makes it inaccessible to many people," said Sad Girls Club founder Elyse Fox during the event. "I find myself at times, like, 'Oh wait, let me make sure I have enough money to go to therapy this month.' I can only imagine the heavy weight of that for a 10 or 12-year-old girl."
Black Girls Breathing founder Jasmine Marie said that Black people are more likely than white people to struggle with both finding a therapist they click with and being able to afford treatment at all, thanks to systemic racism that affects their access to quality health care. "When you take a Black woman and her unique experiences of being a woman who is Black and tie that into finding a therapist, we talk to participants and they're often saying, 'Do I have health insurance? What are the out-of-network costs and deductibles?' This gets in the way of traditional mental health care."
While Marie said the affordability of therapy needs to be addressed through policy change, she said that there are some underutilized resources people can seek out for more accessible, affordable therapy options. Black Girls Breathing and Sad Girls Club are two resources she urged more people to seek out. "They are filling the gap in the ability to be accessible," she said. "[Black Girls Breathing] has 150 free slots per session that women can access. There's also the option to opt-in at a lower rate of $5 to $25 to join."
Besides finding online communities that are meeting mental-health needs virtually, Therapy For Women founder Amanda White, LPC, said there are some providers who offer therapy that many people don't think about. "I'm a really big fan of nurse practitioner psychiatrists," she says. These are nurses who receive additional training and certification in mental health care, and are able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. "They tend to be a little bit less expensive and often have more time to meet with you. They are also a great person to talk to about medication, if you're trying to get a sense of it that's something that you need," White said.
Marie says many universities and state health departments also offer free therapy sessions. "You have to do a little more digging and Googling what is in your community and what accessible programs are being offered, but there are resources out there," she says.
The burden for accessible and affordable therapy shouldn't fall on those who need it, which is why policy reform is so important. But, unfortunately, change can be slow and especially in this dark year, access to mental health resources just can't wait. But as Fox, Marie, and White have highlighted here, there are resources to turn to in the meantime. (And for more intel on mental health during COVID-19, be sure to watch the full discussion in the video above.)
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