Should You Go a Little Broke for Your Mental Health?
It was September 2015. I was three months pregnant and feeling sick all day. The sight of my husband made me mad, and his smell drove me crazy. To make matters worse, I was also three months into a new position at work.
The toxic work culture was taking its toll – I switched to survival mode. I entirely stopped getting my hair done or ironing my clothes, though I pushed myself to bathe, even though that was a battle.
I cried all the time – in the shower, in the car, on my way home…
Despite all of these stresses, I continued to beat myself up.
“Stop crying, Kara,” I told myself. “What do you have to cry about? Just woman-up and push through.” But the bottom was clearly dropping out.
Still, denial allowed me to function a little longer. That is, until I found myself spending my Christmas vacation alone on my couch desperately searching Psychology Today for emergency counseling.
My Out-of-Network Experience
My first day of therapy started in mid-January 2016. I worked with Toni – a young, kind therapist who gave me the right amount of push and support. But she was also out-of-network. This meant that she was expensive. My health insurance would only partially foot the bill for my sessions because, technically, I could have received similar services from the many in-network counselors and therapists.
And God knows, I tried to go the cost-effective, in-network route. But it wasn’t adding up.
Very few of the therapists I reached out to returned my call for an initial appointment. And with those that did, I didn’t feel a connection. There was no chemistry. I didn’t feel that I could trust, confide in, or feel vulnerable with them, so making progress would have been virtually impossible.
How Much Does Therapy Cost?
When I finally made the decision to work with Toni, I had to call my health insurance provider to crunch the numbers. Each 60-minute session cost $150. I had a $150 deductible, and insurance was willing to pay $55 for each of my sessions. So I had to pay $95 out-of-pocket each session, which amounted to $380 a month.
I religiously attended therapy for 11 months, which meant a total of $4,180 for therapy. And it could have been worse – without insurance, I would have had to pay $7,200. But on the other hand, if I had chosen one of the therapists from my network – which had a co-pay of $15 – I would have only had to pay $660 in total.
Cost of Therapy at a Glance
Therapy without insurance: $7,200
Therapy with insurance (out-of-network therapist): $4,180
Therapy with insurance (in-network therapist): $660
How Much is Too Much?
Based on these numbers, I could have saved big on therapy if I’d settled for in-network therapists. But that’s just it: I would have settled.
From the little nudges she would give me to come in when I was feeling discouraged to the continued support that she still provides even though I no longer see her, I would have to say the only thing that I lost in this situation was money.
I know it sounds obnoxious to write that as many of us struggle with a range of competing expenses – from rent to groceries. But when I made a commitment to investing in my mental health and emotional happiness, I literally had to put my money where my mouth was.
I liken the process of looking for a therapist to that of looking for a partner. While it would have been nice if my husband were independently wealthy, it wasn’t necessary for love. Similarly, I would have been ecstatic to find an in-network therapist that I loved. But I didn’t.
The experience of finding a therapist helped me to truly understand the difference between cost and worth. Cost is the dollar amount that we place on a service. Worth is a little deeper, and extremely personal. Since I valued my emotional and mental health – and realized that I needed support in reestablishing my self-respect and identity – I knew that choosing the more expensive option would make the most sense for me and for my goals.
How Therapy Eventually Paid for Itself
In therapy, I had the chance to rebuild myself and rewrite the narrative that I told myself (and others) about who I was.
Through my inner work, I cultivated the courage to establish and maintain boundaries. I also gained a deep level of respect for my feelings, an awareness of my passions, and a deep trust in my ability to make the best decisions for my own life and for my newborn baby.
In concrete terms, between the time that I started therapy and the time I ended it, I left my toxic position at work and found a new one where I was valued for my contributions; nearly doubled my revenue and client base for my personal business; and felt better in my own skin.
So, should you go a little broke for your mental health? My answer: yes.