Therapy Makes Sense

Americans have serious improvements to make when it comes to our mental healthcare system. The complex barriers to do so typically who specializes from advocating for real change, but it doesn’t have to be that way. June Gruber and Darby Saxbe at Slate emphasized as much while highlighting five key areas to fixing the broken mental healthcare system. Enhancing child welfare and decreasing mass incarcerations were the first two priorities. The focus then turned to deliberately expanding treatment accessibility and sufficient research funding.

Destigmatization was the very last challenge cited and yet, it is easily one of the most difficult to address. The fact that no single strategy can resolve our collective dilemma makes it that much harder to achieve.

Mental health professionals are equally as passionate when it comes to motivating the change Americans need. For instance, writers at the American Psychological Association (APA) have consistently stressed the behavioral and mental health needs of underserved populations. According to them, “studies show that ethnic minority populations are just as much at risk for mental health conditions as their white counterparts, but receive substantially less treatment.” Children, war veterans, and the elderly are other prime examples of underserved groups susceptible to mental illness. This disheartening pattern of significant pockets of underserved groups is underpinned by larger structural impediments to seeking mental health care such as lax enforcement of mental health parity laws that require insurers to offer a comparable level of coverage as for physical health.

Struggling to find a therapist might seem foreign to some individuals but it’s a vivid reality for countless others. Olga Khazan at The Atlantic revealed how hard it can be while publicizing the plight of Decker Ngongang, a local Washingtonian who struggled to find an appointment with a therapist. His experience is sadly common. For those new to therapy, finding treatment can be a complex and maze-like experience that is unlike finding a physician. This is due in part to how much of the nation’s mental health care is delivered by therapists in private practice in which they are the sole provider and sole employee with no administrative assistance like offices of physicians. In short, it makes it difficult for people seeking treatment to gather even simple information about the availability of appointments. Decker’s difficult experience finding treatment might be further understood by studies that show divergent call-back rates from therapists based on the perceived caller’s race or socioeconomic status, which is a highly disturbing, but thankfully not a common occurrence.

Fortunately, technology has made it easier to address some elements of inequity. Something we take almost entirely for granted is how seamless it is with the Internet to discover niche communities, including specialist mental health care providers. There is good reason to believe that Decker might have had better luck finding treatment had he attempted to find therapists via online searches of those who specialize in diversity or multicultural identity. instead of relying on conventional channels provided by his insurance company. Others could follow similar steps. Searching Google for “lgbtq therapy” could yield multiple private practices that specialize in counseling LGBTQ+ people.

For various but powerful historic, regulatory, and economic reasons many licensed private practice therapists are out-of-network when it comes to insurance. Mystery, confusion, and red tape surround the use of out-of-network benefits when it comes to mental health. Thinking back to Decker’s frustrating experience, it’s likely that no one explained to him how out-of-network coverage works. Nor was he likely aware of the affordable therapy options.

Anyone contemplating therapy ought to investigate the intervention thoroughly. That is because choosing a mental health practitioner is no trivial undertaking. Appropriate due diligence is essential to receiving the best possible treatment. Robert Leahy, Ph.D., at Psychology Today made a point to promote cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a highly effective approach worthy of consideration. At the end of the day, any given treatment plan is negotiated between the psychologist and the client, which is why proper background research is so critical. Knowledge is power and those of us who are better informed are more likely to see promising results.

Suffice it to say that the impassioned drumbeat for change surrounding American mental healthcare is well warranted. Things are not as they should be. Accepting the present status quo is tantamount to collective negligence of our family, friends, and neighbors.