Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to talk about our family doctor, dentist, physiotherapist, or other professionals who don’t specialize in mental health?
“I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I’ve had stomach pains for weeks. I need to get it checked out.”
” I’m going to see my physiotherapist for my knees. It’s been painful lately”
” I’m going to the dentist for a root canal”
The list can go on. I’m sure you’ve heard or said similar statements before, but what about:
“I’m going to see my counsellor. I have been feeling depressed lately”
“I booked a session with my therapist. I need to talk to someone”
” I don’t feel like myself lately”
” I’m not okay”
These statements could apply to anyone yet there’s so much stigma tied to them. The reality is that mental health affects us all. It is just as important as your physical health; however, unlike medical and dental care, there isn’t as much coverage for mental health services. “Eighty-five percent of Canadians say mental health services are among the most underfunded services in our health-care system—and the majority agree (86%) that the Government of Canada should fund mental health at the same level as physical health.” (CMHA, 2018).
There are many mental health services that Canadians require, but given that they aren’t guaranteed access through the public system, many end up making out-of-pocket payments for private services. Having to pay so much for these services is one of the many barriers. As a result, many sacrifice their mental health as they cannot afford the cost for help. I was in the same predicament. From my experience with counselling services, I learned that there are ways to get help without spending much money.
** Before I begin, please note that the following tips are based on my experience in the Greater Toronto Area. Some aspects may or may not apply to other regions/countries, but you can always inquire with the service providers!
With that being said, here are some ways you can save money while accessing mental health services:
1. Employment Benefits
Check with HR to see what your benefits are and if there’s coverage for mental health services. I once held a job that partnered with a service provider who offered short-term therapy for employees. All I had to do was call their 1-800 line, go through their intake process (i.e. provide my contact information and answer a few questions) then I was matched with a mental health professional in my area. The employee benefits provided me with 7 free sessions. That was the most coverage I could get , which was a fair deal considering the prices for each session. However, I knew I needed long-term help which is why I started my research…
2. Time for Research: Psychology Today
Psychology Today is an awesome tool to find a mental health professional! (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca?tr=Hdr_Brand). You can search for a professional based on city, postal code or their name. Each professional states their credentials, specialty, treatment approach and payment information. This gives you more freedom to choose someone based on your needs rather than being matched by an agent. As a result, I found an amazing mental health professional! The only caveat was the price. Each session was $100. That made it difficult to book more sessions, but I found a way around it…
3. Check with Your Insurance Provider
Some mental health professionals accept payment through insurance. In other words, you can pay for your sessions up front then you’ll get a receipt to be reimbursed by your insurance provider. On Psychologytoday.com, all professionals list the insurance plans they accept, but I would suggest calling your provider and inquire if mental health care is covered! If they do cover the costs, please take advantage of that! Luckily, my counsellor accepted my insurance and I was reimbursed after each session. As a result, I saved hundreds of dollars while getting the help I need!
One disadvantage to this tip would be that you need to pay the full cost after your session and it could take a few days or possibly weeks to get reimbursed. I would get my money back fairly quickly, but I understand this option isn’t feasible for everyone. Therefore, if paying upfront doesn’t work for you, here’s an alternative…
4. Sliding Scale
Some professionals offer sliding scales! This means that if you cannot afford the fee for their sessions, they will adjust it based on your income. You can see which professional offers sliding scales on Psychologytoday.com or by calling/emailing them if that information is not available online. This is a great initiative for those who want help, but cannot afford the hefty price of counselling. It’s also a good thing to keep in mind if you don’t have insurance that will cover the costs for mental health care.
Some Other Things to Keep In Mind:
Understand that getting help may feel uncomfortable. Overcoming your issues isn’t easy, but with the right professional, you can eventually improve your well-being and get the proper tools to cope. My initial sessions with my counsellor made me want to get up and leave at times. I wasn’t ready to feel a rush of emotions, but she helped me through it. In the end, she was always doing what’s best for me and I thank her for that.
On the other hand, you don’t have to stick with any professional if they are not meeting your needs! It’s okay to find someone another professional! I must admit that my first experience with counselling did not go well. I wasn’t fond of the counsellor’s approach. She wasn’t listening to me and she would minimize my issues. Needless to say, I didn’t continue with that counsellor. That experience is why I started researching cost-effective and proper help. Don’t ever feel the need that you need to “commit” to a mental health professional just because they have the qualifications to run their practice. The end goal is to get help but you need to do it with someone you feel comfortable opening up to.
Your well-being is a priority. Think of it as a TV series. Why continue with the season if you were unimpressed with the first few episodes? (not the best example if you don’t watch television series, but you probably get my point lol). The goal is to improve your state of well-being, and it’s awesome if you can access these services without paying so much right?
All the best in your journey!
Mental Health in the Balance: Ending the Health Care Disparity in Canada. (2018, September 14). Retrieved from https://cmha.ca/news/ending-health-care-disparity-canada