How much is your sanity worth? For those of us who can add up the amount we spent on legal fees and settlements perhaps the answer is “a lot.” Spending more money on a therapist while still dealing with the financial aftermath of divorce may seem irresponsible or a waste. It’s not. But how much is a therapist really worth?
I first started going to therapy when I was in my early twenties. I’d realized that my dysfunctional childhood was causing me problems in my relationships, I didn’t like my job, and counseling seemed worth it. When I told my Aunt that I was in therapy and on antidepressants she treated it like a shameful secret. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone” were her exact words.
While society’s perceptions of mental health have changed since then, and I was even asked during our custody mediation if I’d sought therapy to deal with my abusive father, there are still many misconceptions out there about mental health and depression. Which unfortunately feeds into how health insurance companies treat it.
It was a hard decision to make but I cut some corners in order to afford therapy. And I don’t regret it.
After we finalized our divorce I had to switch health insurance. My therapist was no longer in-network and since my deductible options consisted of “sell an organ,” or “get a second mortgage on the house,” I knew that I’d be paying her out-of-pocket. True, I could switch to a therapist in-network but that would mean starting over.
Sometimes it can take several tries to find someone that you click with – this was the fourth therapist I’d been to in eight years. Since my insurance company wanted to treat mental health like any other Doctor – just switch, it’ll be fine! – I was stuck. It was a hard decision to make but I cut some corners, worked my single mom hustle, and continued our bi-weekly appointments at the rate of $150/hr. It was worth the money. No matter how good or bad your marriage was, divorce can rock your self-esteem. You may doubt your decision-making skills, berate yourself for signs you may have missed, or realize that some of the reasons your marriage failed have to do with your own issues. And you may worry that therapy will be more of the same – being told all the ways in which you’ve screwed up.
Therapy is not getting beat up again. It is not being told you were wrong, or foolish, for past decisions. Often, it is being told you made the best decision at the time with the information you had available. It is being guided to your own realizations – ah ha! moments that can profoundly shift your life. It is emotional self-care.
A good therapist listens, asks the occasional question, and creates a safe space for you to express every aspect of yourself. Even the ugly stuff. Because even the best of us have probably said something in front of our kids about the divorce that we shouldn’t have. Broken down or vented or lost our temper. Therapy doesn’t just help you identify the why and help you cope, it helps you forgive yourself. The world could use more forgiveness.
Therapy doesn’t just help you identify the why and help you cope, it helps you forgive yourself.
Not going to lie – therapy is not always easy and it does require a commitment to both yourself and the process. The first few sessions you may not feel like you’re getting anywhere. You may just talk about your cat peeing on the carpet, or burst into sobs the moment you sit down and spend most the time crying. It’s all part of getting comfortable revealing yourself to another person. Give it a shot. It’s worthy it. Fork over the $150/hr or investigate the many options for sliding, income-based fees, insurance coverage or cheaper group therapy. Don’t assume you can’t afford it.
It’s not a waste of time. Walking out of my sessions I can feel both drained but also freer and lighter. Each session is a step back to not just “me” but a better, improved version of my old self. It’s given me the courage to walk away from two not-so-great post-divorce relationships despite the voice in the back of my head saying – What if you end up alone?!?! – and feel at peace with my decision. Bubble baths and wine are great for one aspect of self-care, but don’t forget about heart and soul. Get therapy. It’ll be worth the money. I promise.
Yes, therapy is always worth the cost if you think you need it – and even sometimes when you do not think you need it (but actually still do). Therapy is an investment in yourself and in your own personal well-being. And you are always worth the investment. The money you put in might be steep, but self-discovery, healing and tools for well-being you can get in exchange can be, well, priceless.
Traditionally, people concerned with mental health believed that what mattered was not what happened to us but the way we responded to the things that happened to us. While that isn’t completely true – what happens to us matters quite a bit – in order to respond well to events that can cause significant emotional upheaval, stress, mental turmoil, or even trauma, you need the tools to be able to cope. And that’s something that therapy can give you. And these are tools you can use to cope with life forever. At some point, you may even be able to become your own therapist.
Therapy is especially important when you need to process trauma or extreme grief, such as experiencing the death of a family member or close friend. Divorce is often compared to a death as a similar traumatic experience – the death of (one of) one’s most important relationship(s), the death of a certain vision of a happy future imagined. Therapy can be invaluable in helping to ease this grief and to heal trauma over time. It’s extremely difficult for one to overcome these powerful emotions by themself.
And while therapy can be worth the cost after divorce, it can also help to prevent divorce and save a marriage. Couples counseling can be an essential tool in the kit for maintaining a healthy marriage or fixing a broken one before it’s too late. You can learn to better listen to your partner and empathize with their wants, needs and goals, and it can help them do the same for you.
We’ve already said that therapy can be looked at as an investment in yourself. But what if you looked at therapy as an actual financial investment. If therapy pays back over time, then it’s really worth the cost – and perhaps even more than you might have paid to begin with.
There have been studies done that show that there is a correlation between getting therapeutic help and increases in your income. According to data from a study by the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), there is a measurable financial benefit to going to therapy that can compound over time.
And while this benefit was more pronounced for men (13%) suffering from things like depression and anxiety than women (8%), there was a marked increase for both genders. Is an 8% increase in your income, compounded year-over-year, worth the initial investment in therapy?
You may think that therapy isn’t worth the cost because there’s nothing a therapist can do or say that you couldn’t do yourself, or read in a book. But you’d probably be quite wrong about that. After all, we aren’t born knowing how to skillfully deal with all of life’s situations or how to emotionally handle them a priori. You have to learn these skills, and you don’t generally learn them in grade school.
Therapy has also changed a lot over the years. It is no longer simply the passive act of lying on the couch while a an old man head and just says, “and how does that make you feel?” over and over. There are many different and effective forms of therapy deployed by counselors now including:
Many of these different types of therapy now have lots of evidence-based research backing and supporting their effectiveness. This is not mere quackery and gives an understanding as to why therapy can be worth the cost for so many people in need.
Also, gone are the days when you must be in therapy for many years or forever. Many of the evidence-based forms of psychotherapy – including CBT and DBT – are specifically designed for short-term therapeutic work. They teach you the specific tools and skills you need in a short amount of time to deal with your actual problems that affect your daily life. You aren’t spending years on end talking about your childhood. Instead, you are actively learning how to improve your life and be happier, healthier and more at peace with the world. Doesn’t that sound worth it?
Therapy has been worth the cost for many people, sometimes in combination with pharmaceuticals and sometimes without them. And while like most things in life therapy isn’t perfect, the chances are excellent that therapy can help you.
Studies have shown that on average, people with emotional or other mental struggles that go to therapy are better off than 79% of people who do not. Therapy is generally as effective as medication, and sometimes the combination works best. But I always recommend talking to a professional first before deciding which course of action or combined treatment is best for you.
The thing about medication by itself is that yes, it can help you relieve your symptoms, but you aren’t necessarily dealing with the underlying causes of those symptoms. If you stay on your medication forever, that might be okay, but medication can also lose some effectiveness over time. Without dealing with the root of the problem, you may slide back into depression, anxiety or other symptoms of emotional disorders.
Therapy may be worth the cost if your insurance is paying for most of it, but what if your insurance isn’t? And even if you are technically covered for behavioral and mental health, it’s often the case that the best mental health professionals do not accept most or any insurance. That is because the bureaucratic costs often make accepting insurance not worth it for them.
While this is an unfortunate situation, I highly recommend you pursue therapy if you need it even if you don’t think it’s worth the steep price. For one, there may be ways to make your therapy more affordable. For example, some counselors are willing to take some patients on a sliding scale or at a significant discount if they can’t afford to pay the full cost. This is especially true with some social workers, who are often as good or better than maybe other licensed psychologists.
Depending on your other financial specifics, you may even be eligible for community health clinics or centers that offer inexpensive or even free therapy. And you can certainly admit that free therapy would almost always be worth the cost! Also, don’t forget to check into online therapy services such as Betterhelp or Talkspace which may also be more affordable than traditional individual counseling.
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