This is one of seven interviews with young professionals about their experiences with therapy and its costs. When JE graduated from college, her parents gave her a graduation present that many young Americans wish for: they promised to pay for her health insurance and her college loans. It was better than getting money, she says. After college, her parents continued to pay all the co-pays for the therapy sessions on top of her health insurance coverage, while she paid her rent – “just $1,000 a month” – and living expenses. JE, who has been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, also known as manic depression, has been in therapy since she was 14 years old. While in high school, she experienced intense ups and downs and a period – when she was on Prozac – in which she felt very emotionally detached and was unable to access her emotions. She was on Prozac for only a year. It wasn’t until junior year of college that things started to “unravel”, says JE, adding: “I stopped being able to do my work.”
To tackle her disorder head on, she saw a school therapist until she ran out of free sessions, then began seeing a therapist recommended by a family friend. She has been seeing the same therapist on and off for about seven years. At one point, JE aged off of her parents insurance and was without health coverage. Her therapist set her up with a sliding-scale price of $50 session, far below the full-priced rates of $100 or more. When the Affordable Care Act took effect in the fall of 2013, JE’s parents helped her purchase a platinum preferred provider organization (PPO) plan through the healthcare exchange. This means her insurance covers visits to any healthcare provider. It is worth it to pay more for a top-level insurance plan, she says, but added that her current Obamacare plan isn’t as good as her previous plan. “If I had a health plan that costs nothing, I wouldn’t even use it because the co-pays are so high, the deductibles are so high,” she says. A few months ago, JE got a new restaurant job. She makes enough money to pay the $40 co-pay for her weekly therapy sessions and the $30 co-pay for her medicine. With bipolar II disorder, JE can’t imagine going without therapy. “The best chance I had of feeling OK – when I was feeling crappy and wanting to get well mentally – was to talk therapy and take medication,” she says.
Therapy has especially remained important as she has gotten older and has found herself spending less time with friends. “My therapist helps me see patterns that my friends can’t. The older you get, the more work friendships take. Because we all have more responsibility, because our lives are so crazy, the people I used to talk to [every two weeks], I’ll see them every two months. It’s an understandable thing. There are things I tell my friends, but I don’t really have time to talk to them. I’ve got shit to do.”
This article first appeared The Guardian, 18 February 2015.