This is one of seven interviews with young professionals about their experiences with therapy and its costs.
When she was in high school, Jenn asked her parents for something that not many teenagers want: weekly trips to therapy. She had been struggling with depression and drinking, and Jenn figured it was time to ask for help. Since then, she has been in and out of therapy for years, and most recently started seeing a therapist again about a year and a half ago when she was unemployed. “I was really messed up,” she says. “I was having – in the middle of a perfectly good day – thoughts of suicide. I would be mid-conversation, talking to people I liked and ‘You should kill yourself’ would pop in. That is a red flag. That’s when I was like, ‘I have to get a therapist immediately.’” Therapy helped, but it came with an added stress: health insurance and its costs.
At first, Jenn was on her parents’ insurance, with co-pays of only $10 to $15. Months prior to Jenn aging out this summer, her mother’s company switched to a Cigna plan that required Jenn to pay for each session in full until she hit a deductible. Her therapist gave her a sliding-scale price of $90 a session so she could afford to continue seeing him. Even at the $90 price tag, therapy was worth it, according to her. “I’ve had to cut down on my smoking because I couldn’t afford it. But I am not going to cut down on my therapy. Therapy is one of the few habits I have that is more expensive than smoking,” she says. Less than a year ago, she got a job at a theatre in New York and enrolled in her work’s insurance plan, United Oxford. She is back to paying $10 to $15 per week in co-pays. If she really had to, she says, she could probably stop seeing her therapist right now and be OK. But when she started, she says, there was “no way” she could have gone without therapy.“With nothing else to grasp on to, especially when you are not in a relationship, when you don’t have a job or your career is not going well, and you have no creative outlets – when you have none of that, it’s important to find something.” She had friends, but friendship is different from therapy, Jenn says. “With a therapist, that conversation is all about you. You get in there and you are not responsible for hurting his feelings. … With your friends, you are censoring yourself to make sure that they like you. You are censoring yourself because you know your friends’ issues and you don’t want to exacerbate their own issues that they might have. Also, it’s super rude to monopolize the conversation.”
The years of therapy have taught her that a therapist doesn’t just go in and solve all your problems, either. “In high school, when I started going, I thought that therapy would be this magic wand and I wouldn’t feel sad anymore, that they would come in and put a name on my crazy and that they would solve it. That’s not how that works,” she says. “Therapy is not a magic wand.”
This article first appeared The Guardian, 18 February 2015.