Paintings by Andi Curran

"Know Thyself"
- Socrates

"Over the past year, I have benefited greatly from Paula’s knowledge, perspective, wisdom, experience and compassion to move from what was becoming an increasingly painful life journey to a challenging but increasingly hopeful one. I've gained a much better understanding of myself and have developed tools to help me continue to grow and better deal with difficult issues."
- Tom

Why Therapy?

Therapy is an investment in yourself, your relationships and your future. Once you commit to the process, you will likely find that your overall functioning will improve and you will feel better knowing that you are taking care of yourself.

In 1995, Consumer Reports published an article concluding that patients “…benefited very substantially from psychotherapy, that long-term treatment did considerably better than short-term treatment, and that psychotherapy alone did not differ in effectiveness from medication plus psychotherapy. Patients whose length of therapy or choice of therapist was limited by insurance or managed care did worse.”

Choosing the right therapist for you is a very important and personal decision. Although many people may be reluctant to question the beliefs and methods of a potential therapist, being an informed consumer can help you make the most of your therapy. You should feel comfortable asking your potential therapist any questions that will help you make the right decision for you. Therapy is always most effective when both you and your therapist are fully invested in and dedicated to achieving your goals.

Some Questions for a Potential Therapist Include:

  • Are you a licensed practitioner?
  • What is your education, training and background?
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What are your views on specific issues (mention specific issue of importance to you, i.e. gender roles, marriage and divorce, religion, etc)?
  • Are you available for emergency consultation?
  • For marital or couples’ therapy. Are you married? Do you have children?
  • Are there any potential risks to therapy?
  • When will I get an assessment of me and my problem?
  • What is your success rate with problems like mine?

Additional Questions for You:

  • Is it practical?
    • Can you get there distance-time wise?
    • What can you afford?
    • What are these problems really costing you in resources? Evaluate the possible financial benefits of resolving these issues.

The Financial Benefits of Therapy

When people have a need for therapy, they often gain so much financial benefit that therapy becomes a wise use of their time and money.

Many research studies show that therapy can reduce future medical expenses. Because so many long-term health care expenses are a result of stress or untreated mental health conditions, proper mental health treatment greatly lowers the overall cost of health care. In fact, this “medical cost offset” is so large that when medical costs are measured over a period of three to five years after treatment, psychotherapy lowers overall health care costs so much that it would more than pay for the cost of the therapy.

Therapy can also improve a person’s performance on the job. Employers are becoming increasingly aware that mental health problems can increase the number of sick days, interfere with the quality of an employee’s work, and decrease an employee’s productivity. The financial benefits of treatment are so great that many employers have hired employee assistance programs to provide short-term therapy and identify employees who can benefit from longer-term therapy.

Executives and some other people are now using a form of psychotherapy – coaching – to improve their effectiveness and performance. Moreover, psychotherapy helps many individuals succeed in gaining promotions or become ready to change to a better job.

Problems with relationships and family issues can be very expensive. There are enormous costs that can result from divorce, child adjustment problems, or other relationship problems. Individual and family therapy can go a long way in averting these costs.

So how should you decide if therapy is a wise use of your money? Of course, individuals are different and need to decide this for themselves by making some educated guesses.  To figure this out for yourself, try to estimate the total cost of your therapy and compare it to the long-term benefits.  You can ask your therapist to help by estimating how long it might take to accomplish the kind of changes that you hope to make in therapy.  Use this information to estimate the cost of therapy.

To estimate the financial benefits, consider the changes that you are making in stress levels that may affect your long-term health care costs.  Look at whether the therapy is helping you be a more productive employee or enabling you to earn more money through promotions or by changing jobs.  Look at the relationship and family problems that you are working on in therapy and evaluate if the therapy is likely to avert expensive problems in the future.

When you estimate the cost/benefit ratio, remember your personal improvements may yield financial benefits over many years to come, and the therapy costs are usually spent up front.  If you are like most people, as long as there is a need for treatment, you will find that the potential financial benefits probably justify the investment in psychotherapy even when insurance does not pay for the treatment.  In addition, think about the possible intangible improvements in your quality of life that cannot be measured financially.

This article is written by Ivan J. Miller, Co-Chair of the Interdivisional Task Force on Managed Care and Health Care Policy and was published in the APA Division 42 Independent Practitioner Fall 2005

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