The Comedy of Attempting to Find an In-Network Therapist

Depression isn’t like cancer. There’s no scan you can get which spots a tumor and clearly requires treatment. It sits with you for years–on a good day you may not even remember you have it, then suddenly a dark cloud forms over your head and no amount of fun activities or success can shake you of overwhelming, suffocating sadness.

I’m fortunate enough today where I have health insurance that covers mental health–well, sort of. It is supposed to be $20 a session for in-network therapy, if only in-network therapists actually existed. I’ve written about this before, but after giving up on finding an in-network therapist I decided to try again. I pulled up my insurance company’s “find a provider” website and started searching names of psychologists both close to my house and my work, and put in a bunch of calls hoping one would actually be open and available at a reasonable time to meet weekly.

After finding the website of the woman listed first clearly noting “I no longer take insurance,” the second listing’s number being picked up by a pharmacy with no idea who the psychologist I was calling was, and the third’s voicemail saying all new patient spots are full, I was ready to give up again–but, since I was on a mission to find a therapist to help kick me out of this rut, I kept dialing and eventually left a few voicemails.

One woman emailed me back rather quickly, which was a surprise. She mentioned she does take my insurance, but I should call my provider to confirm that’s true (sounds too good to be true.) She has one open appointment slot–which is great–and it’s at 5pm on Sundays–which isn’t perfect but is better than during work hours… the only problem is she’s located by my office, not by my home, which would mean having to drive two hours on a Sunday and park in the city to see a therapist for $20… at that point, I almost might as well just pay for a $200 session by someone who doesn’t take insurance (these folks seem to be plentiful.)

Another psychologist, who apparently checks her emails on Sunday night, wrote to me with an opening… only she could see me on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and she’s located close to my house, not my work… so I had to turn her offer down.

For now, I’m keeping my appointment with the woman in the city. Just thinking of trekking up to the city every Sunday–one of the two days in the week I don’t have to make the trip–makes me feel even more depressed. Is it even worth it? Perhaps I can find a psychologist available closer to my home… but then, the odds of them having weekend appointments or early morning availability is slim to none. Finding someone closer to work makes more sense… but it’s still very hard to slip away from the office for a 50-minute session plus back and forth time in the middle of the day, even if I find someone with availability. But that would probably be the best scenario — an 8am appointment in the city or perhaps one over lunch. Otherwise, I’m stuck driving an hour to get to my appointment on Sunday evenings, which… the more I think about it… can’t be any better for my mental health than not having a therapist at all.

I do make enough money to pay out of pocket for therapy (and I have – $800 a month) but if this is supposed to be covered through my insurance, then I’d prefer to actually get the benefit. I just wish it was possible to find a provider who took my insurance and who was accepting new patients with appointments at a reasonable time. Too much to ask?

And, when it comes down to it, I’ve done so much therapy in my life, can yet another series actually help? All therapists have slight uniquenesses to their process but no one has helped substantially enough to make a dent in my emotional melee. I’ve had nurturing therapists and super strict ones who tell-it-like-it-is and I’ve learned a bit from each of them, but in the end, the only person who can fix me is me, and I don’t know if I’m capable of that. How much money should I pour down the drain to try to keep myself above water?

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