Treatment Barriers in the Mental Health Field

 Written by Kelsey Someliana-Lauer, Therapy Practice Solutions Virtual Assistant

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, founded by Bebe Moore Campbell after witnessing the treatment barriers her daughter faced while trying to seek out mental health treatment. While Campbell highlighted inadequate care in the BIPOC community specifically, difficulty accessing mental health treatment exists for all cultural groups in varying degrees. Why is that?

Treatment barriers are the main cause of individuals not receiving the care they need. A treatment barrier is any condition or factor that stands in the way of an individual receiving care. In the mental health field, there are multiple treatment barriers that can prevent an individual from even seeking out care, let alone receiving it. Across American communities, the percent of individuals who do not receive care due to barriers ranges from 44% to 70%.

As mental health clinicians, what treatment barriers should we look out for, and what can we do to increase accessibility? Check out just three examples and possible solutions below!

Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma, or the idea that seeking or receiving care is undesirable, exists across generations as well as cultural groups. For BIPOC individuals, stigma can be weaponized. Since 50% of those jailed display symptoms of a mental health condition and BIPOC individuals are jailed at disproportionately high rates, this leads many BIPOC individuals to fear legal repercussions if they seek mental health treatment. In other cultural groups, stigma still exists with the perception that receiving help makes someone “crazy.”

To reduce this barrier, clinicians and clients alike can work together to reduce mental health stigma. We can normalize going to therapy. We should also watch our use of language - for example, diagnoses like schizophrenia are so often portrayed as making someone a criminal or insane, so we should ensure we are not stigmatizing particular diagnoses.

Finance and Insurance Barriers

In America, 8.6% of people have no insurance coverage at all. Today, BIPOC individuals are less likely to be insured than their white counterparts. Even with insurance, 33% of individuals reported they could not find a provider that accepts their insurance coverage. While out of network services are usually an option, this usually requires clients to fulfill deductibles first, which could be thousands of dollars in fees.

As mental health clinicians, we can join insurance panels to increase accessibility. Additionally, we may consider providing a sliding scale for out of network clients - if a client cannot afford our private pay rate but also has no insurance, a sliding scale fee can reduce the budget burden on the client and make mental health support accessible for them.

Lack of Representation in the Field

86% of mental health providers currently in the workforce are white, meaning many cultural groups are lacking representation by providers. While clients can choose to see anyone they want, many who already feel stigmatized prefer to see someone in their own cultural group who may already understand beliefs, values, and traditions they hold. Additionally, not all providers are trained in multicultural care, thus we may cause more harm than good even unintentionally when providing care for someone outside of our cultural group.

One way to increase representation in the mental health field is to amplify BIPOC therapist voices. The more people who see themselves in the field, the more they may want to join the field themselves. If you are a BIPOC clinician yourself, creating content such as starting an Instagram page may be a way to increase exposure and content for potential BIPOC clients who otherwise would not seek out mental health therapy.

We hope this blog helps highlight some prevalent treatment barriers in the mental health field as well as provides some potential strategies to reduce those barriers! If you are a clinician passionate about increasing accessibility for all clients, let us help you. By offboarding your administrative, social media, and billing tasks, you’ll have more time to devote to destigmatizing mental health, consider your rates and insurance accessibility, and making or promoting content from others. If you’re interested in getting some free time and helping some folks along the way, reach out today. We look forward to hearing from you!


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