How to Find Mental Health Care in Boston: An Essential Guide
Don't hesitate to reach out for help.
Signs to Look For
Not sure whether it’s garden-variety blues or something more serious? Here’s how to tell if you (or your loved ones) might need help.
We’re all suffering from some level of stress, says psychologist Jonathan Jenkins, of Brookline-based Mental Fitness & Psychotherapy, but if you’re losing excitement for things that once gave you pleasure, or your social connections are no longer providing the relief you need, you may be having trouble coping. Jenkins also suggests considering your eating and exercising habits. Are you doing more or less of either? If so, you may benefit from working with a professional to develop new strategies for dealing with today’s stressors.
“We’re probably spending more time than we normally would with our partners,” says Jenkins, but it can still be hard to talk about mental health. Before coming to the conclusion that your SO has a problem, Jenkins suggests looking at the constellation of behaviors, including performance issues at work, excessive worry, and increased or decreased interest in sex. “Don’t just take one area of concern. Gather a preponderance of evidence,” says Jenkins, who believes the best thing you can do as a partner is “be steady. Remind them that you’re here for them if and when they want to talk.”
Frustrated by the isolation from their peers, young children may begin regressing—eating too much or not enough, wetting the bed, maybe biting. If you are seeing this behavior, reach out to your pediatrician for help. Older kids, meanwhile, have missed a lot—sports, proms, performing in the school play—all things that gave them a sense of identity and purpose. “You know your child [well], so go by your intuition,” Jenkins says. That means considering his or her eating and sleeping patterns, and taking note of any consistent behavioral changes.
Jenkins says to begin by having compassion for what they’re going through—loss of social relationships, difficulty doing daily activities, feeling more vulnerable to the virus. It’s important to keep an eye out for changes in appetite or weight. Is food spoiling in the fridge? Is the cupboard bare? Lethargy can come with crisis. “Get them involved with your daily life as much as you can,” he advises. “Set them up with connectivity technology and deliver groceries.” —Rachel Slade
What Our Politicians Are Doing to Help
Even before COVID-19, our elected officials were focused on making mental healthcare a priority.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Our senior senator has been tenacious about strengthening support for mental health services. In 2018 she helped secure an additional $160 million for the federal government’s Community Mental Health Services Block Grant. A year later, she reintroduced the CARE Act with the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, which would have invested $100 billion over 10 years to combat the opioid crisis and expand mental health services for all Americans.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley
In Congress, Pressley has focused her efforts on addiction treatment and prison reform. Ever the champion for marginalized communities, she sent a letter with Senator Warren to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging the agency to give additional funding during the pandemic to community health centers, which provide behavioral healthcare to some of the most vulnerable Americans.
State Senate President Karen Spilka
Led by Spilka, the state Senate has passed three bills that addressed mental healthcare in Massachusetts over the past year. The legislation would mandate that insurers cover acute mental health treatment in the hospital without prior authorization; set reimbursement rates for mental health services on par with comparable physical health services; and require insurers to reimburse telehealth appointments at the same rate as in-person appointments over the next two years.
Governor Charlie Baker
Baker’s own healthcare bill, filed in October 2019, would shift resources to primary and behavioral healthcare. Presciently, it also proposed requiring insurers to cover telehealth visits. “The fact that we’re not particularly aggressive about incorporating telehealth…is bizarre,” Baker said during an appearance before a legislative committee in January. “This is a really significant opportunity to do something that would increase access and probably reduce cost, too.” —R.S.
Ready to Finally Make the Call?
Find the best resource for you with this essential guide to Boston’s mental healthcare landscape.
By Simone Migliori
What to Expect: Private sessions with a licensed mental health professional, either over teleconferencing or in an office setting.
Who It’s Best for: Anyone looking to address specific mental health challenges, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, or relationship problems. Research has shown that one-on-one treatment is effective at reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.
What It Costs: The average cost of a therapy session in Boston is $175, with counselors charging an average of $145 and psychiatrists an average of $325 per session, according to the website Zencare. Forty percent of Boston therapists are in-network with at least one insurer.
How to Find a Provider: Start by consulting with your insurance company or primary care physician. If you’d like to go out on your own, you can also try browsing local professional listings and sort by your insurance company online at psychologytoday.com or zencare.co.
What to Expect: Also known as “mind and body practices,” alternative therapy encompasses everything from acupuncture and tai chi to yoga and meditation. Sessions have been shown to help
Who It’s Best for: Anyone who is interested in the growing mindfulness trend or is looking for a low-commitment approach outside of a traditional doctor’s office or hospital.
What It Costs: At yoga and meditation studios, expect to pay between $100 and $200 for an unlimited monthly membership. One massage therapy session, meanwhile, can run more than $100. Some insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, offer discounts on holistic services.
How to Find a Provider: For yoga, tai chi, and meditation sessions, schedule a drop-in class at a neighborhood studio to see if the practice is a good fit for you before purchasing a monthly membership. The same advice stands for massage and acupuncture clinics in your area.
What to Expect: Led by a licensed mental health professional, group therapy is a regular meeting during which individuals with similar mental health challenges can share their feelings, advice, challenges, and experiences in a safe space. It often focuses on specific issues such as anger management, substance abuse, or grief.
Who It’s Best for: Anyone looking for social support and diverse perspectives. Group therapy can also serve as a supplement to one-on-one therapy.
What It Costs: If you’re covered by MassHealth, you likely won’t pay out of pocket for group therapy led by a hospital or facility in the MassHealth network. If you have private insurance, contact your provider for more information about what your plan will cover; costs vary but are usually similar to an average office visit.
How to Find a Provider: Start by asking your physician or your one-on-one therapist for help referring you to local groups. You can also search for group therapy sessions at hospitals close to your home, including at Mass General and Brigham and Women’s.
What to Expect: A supportive relationship between two or more people (one of whom is typically certified) with a shared experience.
Who It’s Best for: Anyone who might feel uncomfortable depending on a healthcare provider, or who would prefer to seek mutual support and empowerment from peers who are facing or have faced similar challenges.
What It Costs: The National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts’ peer-to-peer support groups are free. For other groups, costs vary by facility and insurance coverage.
How to Find a Provider: The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine (800-950-6264) will connect you with trained peer support volunteers who can direct you or your loved ones to local programs, support groups, and other resources.
What to Expect: Inpatient therapy involves an overnight stay in a psychiatric hospital or unit. It typically starts with an evaluation by a team of mental health professionals to make a diagnosis before developing a treatment plan to fit your individual needs. After discharge, your doctor will follow up with an outpatient treatment plan to reduce the chance of another hospitalization.
Who It’s Best for: Anyone facing an immediate psychiatric crisis, such as a suicide attempt or prolonged psychosis.
What It Costs: Costs vary widely, but average nationally from about $800 to $1,300 a day, with variation in insurance coverage. Contact your insurance company for more information on what your plan will cover.
How to Find a Provider: If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 or head to the closest emergency room. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
What to Expect: Access a trained and licensed counselor from the comfort of home with new therapy apps such as BetterHelp or Talkspace. Therapy apps typically begin with a survey to match you with a licensed counselor who meets your specific needs. Once you’re paired up, you can request counseling through video and phone calls, messages, and live chats.
Who It’s Best for: Anyone who can’t afford the high price tag of traditional therapy, isn’t ready to commit to an in-person session, or doesn’t have time to fit regular therapy into an already busy schedule.
What It Costs: Prices vary from app to app, as does insurance coverage. At Talkspace, expect to pay $260 a month for unlimited messaging five days a week, and up to $396 a month for four live therapy sessions.
How to Find a Provider: Beyond BetterHelp and Talkspace, other options include the counseling and mood-tracking app Larkr and the relationship counseling app ReGain.