I still cannot forget last week’s tearful opening from Jimmy Kimmel about his son’s heart problems and the health insurance that could leave so many people helpless.
I’ve always been a supporter of the ACA. I think healthcare is a basic human right we all deserve access to when we need it. I’m blessed enough to be able to visit my doctor when I need to and get the medication I require to feel balanced and sane, but so many others cannot.
But that’s not even the overarching topic today. I want to address a service health insurance still has yet to fully cover: counseling and therapy services.
Now I’ve had two major experiences in a therapy setting. The first time was before college. That summer, I dropped to a severe low, so much so that I was actually considering suicide. I had been terrified of medication at that point, but my insurance covered five free sessions of counseling.
I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for that counseling either because it was not for me. Giving me papers about mindfulness and positive affirmations isn’t that helpful. Fully knowing I was only a patient for a short frame of time, the quality of care was definitely surface-level.
My second go-around was through my university’s student health and psychological services. This experience was better in the fact that there was actually some personal growth involved from going to the same person once a week for a solid 4 months.
However, there was a point where I felt like my own necessities for recovery, at that point for anorexia, were steering me away from counseling protocol. I felt more in control of my health knowing that I didn’t have to dread listing every food I ate and step on a scale on a regular basis. Veganism was a form of treatment my counselor didn’t quite grasp. Also, my sessions rarely delved into the reoccurring depression and anxiety I finally addressed after starting antidepressants. I’m grateful for those moments of clarity therapy provided, but right now, medication is my best route.
Except so often, when prescribing medication, doctors also suggest doing some form of counseling, too. Especially when first being diagnosed with mental illness, therapy can be very helpful in being able to pinpoint your emotions and how to handle them.
Everybody is different in how they best treat their mental health. Some do therapy, medication, or both, or neither (although not recommended). When mental health is still a tricky area of coverage with most insurance, options become even more limited. Which means people actively seeking help are being turned away from what they need. Depending on the severity of the illness, people could end up leading a very difficult life when they don’t have to if they received the respect and recognition they deserve.
I don’t care if your mental health is great or not, I believe everybody, at least one point in their life, should do some counseling. It can be uncomfortable to think about yourself, your life and hard emotions, but the insight you can gain is indescribable. Except knowing how expensive therapy is without any means of insurance, it just doesn’t seem practical to try, especially if it takes some trial and error to find a counselor you click with.
Mental health stigma transcends beyond just societal hesitation. Many aspects of life overlook the importance of mental health, including healthcare and health insurance. Mental illness is just as detrimental to individuals as physical illness is, and yet we continue to treat them as very different, distinct things. As if psychology is not science and proven fact. As if wellness only pertains to your visible condition, discluding your brain as an organ.
I might not be using therapy right now, but I could easily see myself going back to it in the future. And everybody should be able to rely upon counseling services if that is what works best for them. People should not have their only insurance-covered therapy be an awkward experience that steers them away from any future counseling. We need affordable means of seeing top-quality psychologists and counselors who have the potential to save lives. If we want to think about mental health differently, we cannot change much without support from professionals. That requires healthcare and insurance. That requires action.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie