Less Money…More Problems? The relationship between Capitalism and Therapy


Therapy has the power to transform lives. It can help individuals overcome depression, anxiety, trauma, and various mental health issues. However, in our capitalist society, therapy is often treated as a commodity - something to be sold and bought, rather than a necessary service to support the well-being of others. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at how capitalism impacts therapeutic services and why it's important to recognize these effects.

  1. Access to Therapy is Limited by Income Inequality

Let's be honest: therapy is expensive. While some insurance plans cover mental health services, many individuals still have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for each session. This means that people who are living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make ends meet are often unable to access therapy. Unfortunately, this results in a situation where those who need therapy the most are the least likely to receive it.

  1. Mental Health Professionals are Underpaid

While many people think of therapists and counselors as high-income earners, the reality is much different. The median annual salary for mental health professionals in the US is around $50,000, which is substantially less than other healthcare professionals such as doctors and dentists. So then the dilemma becomes this-- do I charge more per session to make my own ends meet at the expense of my clients or do I continue accepting low insurance reimbursement rates in order to provide a necessary service to my community?

  1. Insurance Companies Place Profit Over Patients

Insurance companies are notorious for denying or limiting coverage for mental health services. This often leads to a situation where patients are forced to choose between attending fewer therapy sessions or paying out-of-pocket expenses. While insurance companies may claim that they're simply trying to manage costs, the reality is that they place profits above the well-being of their patients.

  1. The Pressure to Focus on Quantity Over Quality

In a capitalist society, companies that offer more services or products are often seen as more successful than those with fewer offerings. Similarly, in the world of therapy, there is a lot of pressure for mental health professionals to see more clients, often at the expense of providing quality care. This can create a situation where mental health professionals are more focused on churning through clients, rather than providing the kind of personalized care that helps individuals achieve long-term healing. Anyone with experience working in a community based mental health organizations can attest to this phenomenon. Underpaid, overworked and the cost is your ability to do the work you went to school for in the first place. Often, therapists are attending to high needs, high acuity cases that truly require a team effort. So instead of counseling you are relegated to case management tactics (which is very important but not our jobs as licensed professional counselors).

  1. The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Treatment

Finally, it's important to recognize that the capitalist mindset can contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. In a society that places such a high value on productivity and success, individuals who struggle with mental health issues are often viewed as "weak" or "less than." This can make it difficult for people to seek out treatment, even when they know they need it.

It's clear that capitalism has a significant impact on the world of therapeutic services. From limiting access to care to placing pressure on mental health professionals to prioritize quantity over quality, the capitalist mindset can make it difficult for individuals to get the help they need. However, by recognizing these effects, we can work together to create a more just, equitable society where everyone has access to the mental health support they deserve.

So let's start a conversation about how we can do better, and help support the well-being of ourselves and those around us.

Monet David, MS, LPC

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