So You Can’t Afford Therapy

This is written from an American’s perspective. If you live somewhere with universal healthcare, I’d love to hear your take on things.

There’s no denying that starting therapy is a daunting task, and if you’re tight on cash or are one of the millions who lost health insurance this year, taking care of your mental health may feel like a luxury you can’t afford. However, your state of being is one of the most important foundations upon which the rest of your life is built. A shaky foundation means an unstable structure, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
You deserve to heal. Full stop.

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Keep A Journal

I’ve kept a journal since I was seven years old. It’s a great way to get all the thoughts and feelings out of your head and somewhere tangible, which is usually half the battle of therapy to begin with.
The best part of journaling is that you can do whatever you want with it. If you don’t want to write about your day, then keep a mood chart. Track how many hours of sleep you get. Write it in your phone instead of on paper. It’s your journal, so you make the rules.
Additionally, journaling regularly will end up recording patterns, and actively engages the analytical parts of your brain to recognize the things that repeat themselves; you can take it a step further by challenging the ingrained mindsets you hold and asking yourself why this pattern keeps coming up. This article goes into various tips to get the most out of your journaling, and covers the science that backs up the efficacy of the practice.
My personal tips for journaling: don’t hold judgement against yourself, just write what you feel. Be honest with yourself, even (especially) when it’s uncomfortable.

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Read Self-Help Books

When I was younger, I thought self-help books were useless woo-woo books to make insecure people feel better about themselves. (I was a teenager, okay?)
I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
Let me tell you, they are so much more than what I thought. I began reading The Body Keeps The Score by Dr. Van Der Kolk, and it put nearly the entirety of my PTSD and previous experiences into perspective. I know how to contextualize and verbalize the fears that plagued me, and in doing so they became less terrifying. It’s been a slow process, but that book alone has helped me through so much of my biggest issues. And it’s not the only one out there.
Are you going through a divorce? Were you raised by a narcissist? Recovering from a codependent relationship? Struggling with addiction? Trying to make sense of a new diagnosis? Depression and anxiety rates have gone through the roof this year; are you experiencing these symptoms for the first time? No matter what you’re going through, there’s a book out there for you. All it takes is a Google search, or take a look at the Books page to get some ideas.

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Take Care of Your Body

This is the boring part of self-care that everyone knows about and few people like, and is often rooted in capitalism, ableism, and sexism. Rachel Wiley’s poem “The Fat Joke” holds no punches when she says:

“Fat girl walks into the doctor’s to ask about anti-depressants and gets prescribed exercise instead, because obviously her depression is because of her fat, and obviously fat bodies never exercise and stay fat.”

So I will say this: do what you are able. It doesn’t have to be huge, life-altering choices to reach unattainable goals. If you can’t afford to buy kale every week, then don’t (it tastes like cardboard, anyway). If you can’t afford a gym membership, or running in your neighborhood is dangerous, you’re still going to be okay.
It’s as simple as a glass of water first thing in the morning. Sit next to the window on sunny days. Simple stretches: reach your arms and legs, flex your wrists and ankles, wiggle your fingers and toes — whatever moves, move it a little bit. If you’re feeling up for more than that, great! Eat something regularly. Sleep whenever possible. And if you can’t full-ass any of these things, then half-ass them, because anything is better than nothing at all.
If you have a full exercise routine, that’s fantastic, and you should absolutely keep it up. But take care to prioritize rest over gains. Listen to what your body is telling you.
Here’s the thing: taking care of your body won’t solve all the issues, especially if you’re dealing with a personality disorder or a chemical imbalance. But if you don’t do what you can, you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance.

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Follow Therapists on Social Media

It doesn’t have to be therapists, necessarily. Instagram is a great place to find a multitude of mental wellness accounts that can inform you about disorders, neurodivergence, basic self care, therapy for Black folx, LGBTQ+-focused wellness, disorder-specific care… It’s all out there.
Here are some Instagram accounts to get started, but this is by no means a comprehensive list:
This site also offers suggestions on therapy alternatives that involve interacting with another human.

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Be Patient

Healing is hard, for both body and mind. A second-degree sunburn had me exhausted and in pain for a week; I’ve felt similarly after an intense therapy session. It’s work, whether you’re paying for professional help or not.
It’s okay to have slip-ups. It’s okay to have bad days, or weeks, or months. It’s okay to feel like you’re plateauing after weeks of improvement. It’s okay to be scared to be honest with yourself. As long as you honor yourself by continuing to show up, you’re going to be okay.
If you’re tackling this journey on your own, it’s going to be some extra work but you are worthy of feeling better. Progress isn’t linear even under the best circumstances.
So keep going. You can do it.

Some Reminders

You are wonderful as you are.
You are not defined by what you do.
You deserve good things in life.
It’s okay to say “no”.
What you’re feeling is valid.
I’m proud of you, and I’m so happy you’re here.

Blessed be, lovelies.

2 thoughts on “So You Can’t Afford Therapy

  1. So with the preface I went into this article expecting to hear about the typically exorbitant costs of healthcare in the U.S. I know it wasn’t mentioned but I assume therapy is just as hard to get ahold of as other basic healthcare. I’m sorry but I still cannot wrap my head around such a system😕

    However I live in one of those ‘universal healthcare’ countries and it’s still not without its struggles. I can only speak from my limited experience but – short of an episode that puts you on the radar of the mental health services – you need to self-refer for support. There is also the incorrect stigma of padded white cells and straight jackets that keeps people from asking for help.

    Even so, in my experience you are then asked a generic set of questions (I’ve been asked the same questions at least twice) and unless you say something very alarming you are put on a waiting list for support. Ensue typical administrative failings and it’s very easy to fall through the cracks. I love our National Health Service but until you have support lined up you can be very easily overlooked. It very much relies on the individual to have the knowledge, confidence and energy to push for what they need.

    ** Trigger warning **

    It’s no secret that I attempted to take my own life, yet my Doctor was more annoyed about why the hospital referred me to him than helping me find help. I was literally sent on my way having been shamed as doing something silly and with a vague “I’ll refer you to such and such”. That was a year and a half ago and I’ve heard nothing since.

    Instead, my employer stepped up and arranged, I think, twelve weeks of therapy and I’ve been pursuing it privately ever since. I pay £40 a weekly session which – in my limited experience is in the middle of the £10 – £70 average here in the UK. I know my therapist has given me a discount as I work for a charity.

    ** End Trigger Warning **

    I really appreciate all your suggestions. I was also someone who thought self-help books were a bit wishy washy when I was younger. I’ve since read The Mindful Kind by Rachael Kable and How to Come Alive Again by Beth McColl, and found both very insightful. Again, reading is something you need the energy for but when I manage it I’ve found it comforting.

    I like the idea of journalling but I’m susceptible to being enchanted by all the pretty journalling on Instagram.. its function is too easily lost behind aesthetics. I would agree though that I’ve found lots of useful mental health accounts through Instagram, though I don’t believe I’m following any of those you listed!

    I know this comment probably doesn’t answer what you were asking, sorry. I think the best advice I can give is that everyone’s journey of healing is different. It’s not about waking up one day and being ‘fixed’ (despite what people think). It’s a journey of learning more about yourself each day. I now recognise harmful patterns in myself that are difficult to separate from my identity thanks to years of wear and tear. But for every sleepless night of feeling utterly worthless there are many small wins where I remember to be kind to myself and content in who I am. Therapy – and self-care – for me is about being proactive with my mental health. Unlearning all the expectations I set for myself and allowing myself to be proud of simply trying my best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve brought up some excellent points Dan, and thank you for sharing your experience! I have heard the downside of universal healthcare is the waiting lists, and it’s unfortunate that it relies on the patient to have done their research already.

      Personally, I’ve been able to find out-of-network therapists in the range of $60-$100 USD per session. My current therapist charges $75. However, I know that even therapists that are “covered” by insurance (meaning you don’t have to pay their full price) can still cost multiple hundreds of dollars in copays, which almost defeats the purpose of having insurance in the first place. It is slightly easier to find a therapist than a psychologist due to insurance purposes, in my experience. Plus, we also have the straight-jackets and padded cells stigma here. It doesn’t help.

      I’m really glad you’ve made such progress with yourself. It is a journey, which can be frustrating, but recognizing harmful patterns is a HUGE step, so congratulations! And thank you for reading, as always. 🙂


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