This is one of seven interviews with young professionals about their experiences with therapy and its costs.
AK, a 27-year-old in New Jersey, has been in and out of therapy since she was in high school, when she began seeing her mom’s therapist and was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, also known as manic depression. Through college and beyond, AK struggled to find the right treatment as well as the right therapist. She was prescribed medication, which she says didn’t work for her. “I felt worse; I felt depressed all the time,” she says, adding that she stopped taking the medicine a few years ago. Over time, though, things got better. AK finished college, and got – and held down – jobs. She has never mentioned her condition at work. “I wish someone had told me that – when I started this – that life gets better, then it gets worse, then it gets better, then it gets worse,” she says. “It goes up and down. It’s just how it is. And you just have to keep going, every day. The $10 co-pay she paid while on her mother’s insurance wasn’t much of a problem,” she says. Scheduling around her jobs in retail and at Comcast, on the other hand, was.
“You are expected to be available all the time and even when I wasn’t getting 40 hours a week in retail, I still was working two jobs to get as close to 40 hours as I could,” she says. “It just wasn’t much money and I couldn’t turn [the hours] down. I had to work all the time, as much as I could, to pay for my student loans.” A year ago, AK turned 26, aged out of her mom’s insurance, and enrolled on one of the plans offered through the Affordable Care Act. Finding out that her therapist isn’t covered left her saddened. “I like him so much, and I have been through so many [therapists], it’s a real investment of time and emotions to start again,” she says. When she switched insurances, AK stopped going to therapy and has not gone back since. Even if her therapist was covered, she says, “right now my co-pay for a specialist is $30, which is a real hardship for me. I just can’t afford to go”.
AK says those seeking out help need to be patient. “When you are in the state of mind where you realize you might need help, you probably need it right now. And it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time to get an appointment. It takes a lot of time to find the right person,” she says. “Therapists have different styles and it’s OK not to like your therapist. … I have been to I-don’t-know-how-many therapists, and this last one was really the best.”
This article first appeared The Guardian, 18 February 2015.