Tips for Affording Mental Health Care

You can afford professional help—whether or not you have insurance

Many mental health providers are willing to work on a sliding fee scale. Don't be shy about asking.
No matter how depressed, sleepless, or anxious you feel, the high price of professional mental health help can seem prohibitive—who can afford $100 or $200 an hour for therapy? Even if you have insurance, mental health costs can quickly add up with long-term treatment. Plus, mental health benefits often come with separate deductibles to meet, co-payments, and annual caps. For some tips on lowering the cost of therapy—with or without insurance—we consulted Ruth Montag, director of the Resource Center at Mental Health America, a national nonprofit group that helped nearly 10,000 people find resources for mental health care in 2008.

Q: What do you recommend for people with mental health problems who have maxed out their insurance coverage, or are losing their insurance?

A: When someone is already in treatment, we suggest they start by asking their therapist about the possibility of reducing the fee or working out a payment plan. Another strategy that we use is to tell people to try to get at least an initial consultation or a couple of visits with a private therapist, someone recommended in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliances directory, even if you know you cant afford treatment on an ongoing basis. Especially if youve had trouble getting treatment that works, that provider might be able to get to the heart of the matter in just a couple of visits—such as finding the right mix of medication. Then you stand a better chance when you go into maintenance treatment with someone who is more affordable.

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As told to: Jeanne Lee
Last Updated: January 12, 2011

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