THERAPY ON A BUDGET
A visit to a private psychologist or counsellor can be costly but there are more affordable options for those needing help
FEELING stressed and overwhelmed can be a lonely road to travel, especially if you don’t know where to turn for help. If these feelings have persisted for a while, chances are you may be suffering from clinical depression, a condition that requires treatment. And you’re definitely not alone. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to a report released by the World Health Organisation in 2015, and a further 264 million are affected by anxiety disorders.
Deciding to see a mental health professional is a brave step in the right direction but it doesn’t come cheap and figuring out how to pay for counselling can be a huge challenge.
Most medical aids won’t cover ongoing therapy and according to Meryl Da Costa
of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group ( Sadag) face- to- face therapy can cost anything from R600 to R1 200 per session.
The good news is there are a range of other options available that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
A new low-cost mental health centre that offers counselling for R50 a session recently opened its doors in Cape Town and is set to provide help for people who often fall through the cracks of South Africa’s healthcare system.
The Counselling Hub is the brainchild of the SA College of Applied Psychology Foundation ( Sacap) and the Kaplan Kushlik Educational Trust. It offers oneon-one sessions as well as free group workshops, allowing people with lower incomes to seek professional support.
But this new outfit isn’t the only alternative for those of us unable to fork out money when in need of a therapist.
How it works Facilities like The Counselling Hub offer therapy or counselling at discounted rates or for free, although many NPOs have waiting periods due to high demand.
If you don’t know where to start, your best option is to contact Sadag so it can point you in the right direction.
“Once you get on the line with one of our lay counsellors they’ll assess your situation and, if need be, put you in touch with a counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist,” says spokesperson Kayla Phillips.
“If you’re on medical aid we’ll put you in touch with someone in the private sector. If not, we’ll refer you to your nearest NPO.
“Should your mental health crisis be an emergency our counsellors will alert your family and get an ambulance sent to your home.”
The expert says Even though South Africa faces an increasing mental health burden – worsened by drug use, violence and unhealthy lifestyles – 80% of psychologists work in the private sector, according to Shifra Jacobson, coordinator and supervisor of The Counselling Hub. This is why facilities like the Hub are so important.
“In the public sector there’s such a limited number of mental health workers employed by the state that it’s difficult to do the everyday counselling many of us need to flourish,” Jacobson says.
Is it for you? The Counselling Hub isn’t only for those who don’t have access to medical aid but also for people on medical aid after they run out of funds, according to co-founder Romi Kaplan. The centre has access to lay-counsellors, qualified psychologists and students (who all work voluntarily) and provides short-term counselling of no more than six sessions to help people get back on their feet during a crisis.
Cost The Counselling Hub charges R50 per session. Many NPOs offer their services for free.
UNIVERSITY TRAINING CLINICS
How it works Many universities run counselling clinics where trainee psychologists provide outpatient services to the community surrounding the university as part of their coursework.
The expert says Counselling services are provided by three kinds of trainees, explains Professor Greg Howcroft, director at Nelson Mandela University’s Psychology Clinic (UCLIN). “Services are offered either by intern psychologists in their final year of training, registered psychologists in their fourth year of training or masters’ students in their fifth year.”
Is it for you? Although UCLIN caters to the community surrounding the university, it aims to serve mainly lower income citizens who can’t afford therapy.
Cost UCLIN has two campuses in Port Elizabeth, one in Summerstrand and one in Missionvale, and rates range from R220-R500 for individual sessions and between R60 and R100 for group sessions. Clients who aren’t on medical aid are charged R70 per session but the facility also considers fee reductions if a client is destitute. SUPPORT GROUPS How they work Support groups are networks of people who voluntarily get together, either in person or online, because they face similar problems, such as struggling with infertility, divorce, bereavement, substance abuse, anxiety or depression. During their sessions they find solace, insight and support from one another.
The benefits of joining a support group include feeling less lonely, isolated or judged.
Group members gain a sense of empowerment and control, and improve their coping and adjustment skills.
They get the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about their feelings, share practical advice and compare notes on resources.
Family members of those suffering with certain conditions also form groups.
The expert says While acknowledging the many benefits of support groups, Cape Town-based specialist psychiatrist Dr Bavi Vythilingum warns that a group shouldn’t be seen as a complete replacement for therapy.
“Support groups don’t deal with a specific set of problems the way therapy does and won’t look at the reasons you became ill. If the facilitator is poor, attending group sessions could worsen your illness or even hasten a breakdown by not providing a safe space.”
Is it for you? “Talking to people who have been through the same experience will make you feel safe, knowing you will not be judged,” Dr Vythilingum says, adding that you can learn from their experience and feel reassured that you aren’t alone. “Once you get better, a support group can also enable you to give back to fellow sufferers, something that’s very rewarding and may help you complete the healing process.”
Cost Many support groups cost nothing. To find a support group suited to your needs, call Sadag’s mental health line (see below). “One of our lay-counsellors will assess your situation and try to locate a support group in your area,” Phillips says. EXTRA SOURCES: SADAG.ORG, WHO.INT