By Danielle Miller, LSCSW

The symptoms of mental health conditions can be frightening and overwhelming to anyone, but especially if you’re a teenager. It’s important to know that symptoms can be managed and you can have a full life with mental illness. Recovery is possible. There are a variety of tools and resources available to help you navigate these emotional waters. But to access those resources, you first need to seek help.

There are a host of reasons why people—including teens—don’t access treatment, but not having health insurance should not be one of them. Even if you’re uninsured, there are ways to access treatment. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

In-School Services 

I worked as a therapist in a large school district and my only job was to give free, weekly therapy to children and teens. Always advocate for your rights to treatment.

  • If you’re in high school, your first stop should be reaching out to your school community. Teens who have been diagnosed through the public-school system by an appointed school psychologist and have a qualified Individualized Education Plan (IEP) may be eligible for free therapeutic services. If this sounds like you, then speak to your school’s administrators about next steps.
  • If you’re in college, check out your college’s counseling center. Colleges are working diligently to offer free treatment to students on campus. If your college doesn’t have a counseling center, they should at least maintain a directory of free or reduced-fee treatment options in your area.  Reach out to your dorm’s resident assistant (RA), who may have a list of resources. You can also contact your campus health center.

If you aren’t enrolled in high school or college, or you would simply prefer to keep your mental health treatment outside of the school system, there are other options available.

Sliding Fee Scale  

Sliding fee scale is a method of payment designed to meet you on your financial path—the fee is based on your income and the people that income supports. Many providers offer this to their clients to make care more affordable. Services may be as little as $10 for a one-hour session, if you’re struggling financially. Call your local providers to ask about their sliding scale options.

Free Services 

Don’t be afraid to do a little research online and make a few calls around your area. Free therapy may be difficult to come by, but it is available in some areas. Free mental health services for children, teens, adults and families are often tied to churches or other community organizations.

If you aren’t sure whether an organization offering free therapy is legitimate, ask about their licensure. Simply ask: “Do you hold a clinical license?” Any therapist who is qualified will be credentialed, according to their state laws. You aren’t just being nosy. You have a right to this information.

There are caring and qualified people out there waiting to help you. You just have to be willing to look and ask. Not having health insurance should never be a deterrent from getting the treatment you need and deserve.

Danielle Miller, LSCSW is a wife, mother and child and family therapist. After completing her master’s in Social Work at Boston College, she worked with children, adolescents and families within the foster care and public-school systems. As a clinician focused on practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy, Danielle found her true calling in combining her therapeutic skills with her love of writing and her passion for nutrition into her blog, Moods and Foods 4 Kids.

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