Back in the early 1980s, Minneapolis psychologist Gary Schoener and colleagues wondered if the recession was affecting the mental health of people living in Hennepin County. "We were convinced there was a problem," said Schoener, then chairman of the Council on Mental Health Programs.
How right he was. The study revealed "personal adjustment problems showing up in all kinds of places. It was fairly clear that we were going to be seeing more of those things," he said.
Schoener is, again, seeing more of those things. "We're busier than ever...
We are, too. It would seem odd, given that money is the problem, that people would take on a new expense, like therapy. This is especially true, given that insurance coverage is not as good as it used to be.
Financially challenged companies are cutting back on health insurance coverage, or cutting out coverage completely. Deductibles and copayments are growing, too. "The standard percentage paid by the insurance company used to be 80/20," said licensed social worker Suzanne Harman. "Now it's 70/30 or 60/40."
I will reduce my fee periodically to accommodate a client out of work, and/or go to less-frequent scheduling of sessions, because if someone has lost a job or is teetering on the edge of bankrupty, it's the worst possible time to be out of therapy. But of course eventually that will put me in a bind, too.
And it's not just lower-income families who are affected ... "Families where the main breadwinner is in the mortgage and housing industry are just being killed by this. Therapy is a luxury for every family."
That worries Lesli Kramer, a psychiatrist in private practice in Eden Prairie.
"People, when they're struggling, get more and more immobilized," she said. "It's harder to pick up the phone, especially for those who have never been seen in the mental health system. There's still a stigma. Add economic barriers, and that takes it to another level entirely."
Copyright (c) 2008, Star Tribune, Minneapolis
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