If you’ve been feeling a little anxious in the midst of the current state of affairs, you might take comfort in knowing that you are having a very normal reaction to an abnormal set of circumstances. It is completely normal to experience a wide range of emotional responses when presented with an unsettling and potentially life-altering narrative. In fact, in the midst of the general fear-based narratives flooding our social media platforms and news outlets, anxiety, sadness, irritability, and maybe even a little anger would be a reasonable, expected, and normal response to these unprecedented circumstances.
However, you might find it interesting and maybe even a little ironic to know that the mental health industry has been dealing with a little anxiety and fear of their own. It would seem, according to several articles posted on social media and reported on news outlets, that the powers that be in the mental health field are scurrying to remake themselves in light of the “slow the spread” mandates to which we are all being exposed.
It would appear that the mental health industry, despite all of their altruistic claims otherwise, is driven by commerce. Within the context of the recent shut-down directives, a large number of mental health outlets are being exposed to financial hardships. In short, their own regulations, rules, and guidelines about acceptable methods of service delivery are now preventing them from being able to provide services. And if they can’t provide services, they can’t take in revenue. And if they can’t take in revenue…they don’t get paid.
Enter a new layer of panic stage right.
Early in my career, I made the decision to step away from the broken brain, APA driven, insurance regulated, biomedical mental health model and treat relational, emotional, and behavioral problems as normal stress, trauma-driven, and experiential expressions… not diseases or disorders. Thus, I never got sucked into the insurance paradigm which requires a medical diagnostic code for reimbursement. In other words, if you want to bill insurance and be reimbursed by a client’s insurance, you have to agree to diagnosis your client with some type of mental disorder…whether they meet the criteria or not, and adhere to a host of other mandates and dictates.
Most clients are not aware that it is their insurance company that decides how many therapy sessions they can have and the type of therapeutic interventions the therapist can use. They may even be unaware that they are being given a diagnostic label or that the label will become a part of their permanent health record. Many clients may also not be aware that at some point in their “treatment” for their imposed mental health diagnosis, the insurance company can, and typically does, require the clinician or therapist to direct the client to seek medical treatment in the form of medication.
But I digress…
Currently, the mental health industry is collectively freaking out because they are being required to shut down. Many therapists have closed their office and are no longer providing in-person, in-office sessions. Instead, they are being encouraged to provide alternative methods through which the delivery of services can be provided…such as online video conferencing and phone sessions.
It’s a great idea!
If the people can’t come to you…go to the people through convenient, effective, and easily accessible platforms.
Oh…wait a minute… we can’t do that because insurance companies don’t like to pay for sessions held outside of an office setting. You see the codes typically used for in-person office visits don’t apply when you don’t actually “see” the client in the office.
Regulations… you understand.
So now, federal and state regulators are trying to rewrite the mandates to keep up with the need. This is problematic because the insurance companies don’t turn on a dime and are inherently designed to restrict reimbursement not facilitate reimbursement. And while we’re are talking about regulations, we mustn’t forget about HIPPA which is one of the most restrictive and intrusive governmental entities out there.
If you think the insurance companies are difficult to work with, HIPPA can be a nightmare.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that embracing the biomedical paradigm of the mental health industry comes at a price. Acceptance of the broken brain, chemical imbalance, and disordered person mentality requires the acceptance of the industry’s diagnostic, insurance, medication, regulation and mandate bedfellows.
It is at moments like this that I find myself particularly pleased with my decision to remain a private pay therapist who is not affiliated with the insurance companies nor regulated by the HIPPA mandates… I have not and will never transmit a client’s private information to a third-party entity for reimbursement. Therefore, I am not held hostage by these regulations and mandates. I am free to provide services to my clients in a manner that meets their unique needs and preserves their right to confidential, individualized, non-medialized, non-pathologized, and spiritually sensitive services.
The ability to provide safe, effective and empirically substantiated talk-therapy or holistic psychotherapeutic services is a refreshing alternative I hope more providers will explore and embrace.
Change in a shifting world
There is no doubt that a number of changes will rise from the current challenges we are facing. It is my hope that a revamping of the mental health industry will be among the most salient. Perhaps the silver lining of this present darkness will be the reframing of human suffering, relational distress, and mental pain as stress and trauma-driven responses from which to heal and not diseases or disorders to be treated, regulated, medicalized, and pathologized.
Such a change will not be easy, nor will it be fast. The mental health industry is a multi-dimensional, multi-billion-dollar industry that will not go down without a fight. However, as one small representative of the paradigm of hope and healing, I will continue to serve clients not patients, seek healing not perpetuating mental illness and promote transformational newness of life as opposed to life-long symptom management.
My hope for the future is a world in which relational and emotional pain and distresses are not framed as illnesses to be treated or disorders from which to recover, but rather trauma responses to be validated, shared and relationally healed in self, with others and in a safe and supportive environment. Until that day, I will continue to encourage people to think beyond the dominant narrative of mental ill-health and consider a fresh and more Truthful way of viewing normal states of human distress and emotional pain.
As the world begins to break forth in new life, remember:
This present darkness will pass, our national will heal, and God will take those things intended for evil and transform them into expresses of His divine light, life, and the blessings personified in His Shalom peace.
Blessings and love,
Chrysalis Connections, LLC
Relationship Counseling and Family Leadership Center
Teresa M. Walters, MA, LMFT, LAC
204 Hobbs Street
Plainfield, IN 46168