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The Gas Station Sushi of Mental Health

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

If you are craving the best sushi and want to ensure that your meal is worth the time and money, I am sure you have your favorite sushi place in mind. When you get to your favorite sushi spot you may have your ideal order ready to go, you trust that it will be the best quality fish and ingredients, you know your order will be correct and satisfying. Maybe its across town, maybe it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s your favorite sushi place and you know you’re getting the best.

But what happens when you go for the “low cost” and “convenient” gas station sushi option? Well, you may be rolling the dice on that gas station sushi. You may get a good meal and save a few bucks. Or you may get food poisoning. Some of you may cringe at the thought of gas station sushi and some of you may love it. And both opinions are okay.

So how does gas station sushi relate to mental health?

Just like sushi restaurants, not all mental health options are the same. When you see a therapist at a small specialty private practice, like the Therapeutic and Wellness Solution Center, you are working with a therapist that has years of education, hands on training, supervision, and hours of continued education in best practice approaches. These therapists are specialized in working with the specific reason that has brought you to counseling. You are working specifically with them based on their skills to form a safe and trusting relationship based just on your individualized care. High quality care is like the best sushi restaurant in town, it’s just worth it.

But just like sushi there are other options. We have all seen a huge push from the tech industry to change the face of mental health. These companies often use celebrities and influencers, who are paid, to sell their message of “low cost” and "accessible" counseling. But what we are really looking at is the gas station sushi of mental health care.

But why?

What most people don’t realize about these companies is that they are not run by mental health clinicians and the company’s overall profit is the main goal. Not the wellbeing of clients they serve and not the wellbeing of the therapist they employ.

Clients are simply paired with any therapist that has an opening, even if they have no experience working with your specific challenges, even if they are not licensed in your state, even if they not qualified to work with you.

The average pay for a fully licensed therapist employed by a tech company is $25.00 per hour or they are paid by word count (that places caps on the word count per interaction). Because of this, therapist are having to see over 50 clients per week (or work multiple jobs), and report having to be available around the clock for clients. The case load alone leads to heightened levels of burn out for these therapists.

Now don’t get me wrong. You may have a good experience with a therapist on one of these platforms just like you may get some good gas station sushi. But you may also feel worse. We have had clients who previously worked with tech based companies that state they experienced poorer levels of mental wellbeing, higher levels of marital conflict, and increased levels of relapse after working with these platforms.

So why are people choosing tech based platforms? We think that the majority of people take these options because they think that they are getting a great deal, believe that all therapy is the same, are not aware of the risks, or do not know where to start to find a therapist. So, let’s clear the air.

I will save money…

Most private practices, like the Therapeutic and Wellness Solution Center, have a variety of options to ensure that mental health care does not become overwhelming in itself due to the cost. We offer a sliding scale, for those that qualify, that can reduce fees to the equivalent of one’s copay and we also provide superbill to all clients that are looking to use their out of network benefits. Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: A client who qualifies for a sliding scale fee of $50 is able to have weekly hour long session with their therapist for $200 per month, no insurance required.

Example 2: A client is able to use their out of network benefits and is reimbursed for the majority of the session fee (75%) and only ends up paying $37.50 per session. If seen weekly, for an hour session, they will pay $150 per month.

Example 3: Tech based clients on average pays a total of $360 per month for a combination of text based or video sessions equaling 1 contact per week. Yep, that might be one expensive text message.

All therapy is the same…

We at the Therapeutic and Wellness Solution Center pride ourselves on a few things, some of them being highly specialized treatment, an interdisciplinary approach, and confidentiality.

Now we already talked about how all of our therapist are either already specialist in their areas of interest with thousands of hours of experience or are working toward this. But this is a key pillar of most private practices, not just ours.

If you are working with one of our therapists and it is discovered that you need more assistance in relaxation, we may help you get scheduled with one of our breathwork therapists. Or maybe your child is having more extreme behaviors than what traditional 1:1 therapy can address and and starting an intensive in-home behavioral support program that is created specifically for your child is what is needed. Or maybe it is more of having your therapist communicating directly with your psychiatrist to assist in ensuring that your medication is right for you (with a signed ROI). These are all aspects of an interdisciplinary team that we provide to all of our clients that want this and is typically not an option through tech companies.

But maybe you are okay with this because you are only looking for 1:1 therapy and do not want a team approach.

This brings us to our next area of pride at the Therapeutic and Wellness Solution Center and that is confidentiality. If one of our clients prefers to have a pure 1:1 approach we guarantee this. All aspects of confidentiality are fully supported (within the legal limits), even the fact that you are a client with us. No aspect of their treatment is ever discussed or shared with anyone without their knowledge and explicit consent. But what many people do not realize about tech based platforms is that this is not the case. If you take a deep dive into their consent forms you will see that you may have their “quality control” non-clinical staff observing your video session, staff will read / review your treatment notes, and they sell your personal information. A recent article from Jezebel "The Spooky Loosely Regulated World of Online Therapy" explains this a bit more. But what we mean by this is that tech companies are known for tracking your log ins / usage and selling this information to places like Facebook and Pinterest. So, if confidentiality and privacy is important to you this may be worth a second thought.

How do I find a therapist then?

There are local small business run by therapists that may be a short drive from you or accessible through telehealth. We know that finding a therapist that is a good fit for you is extremely important, so you will need to interview a few before making your choice. But here are a few ways to start your search.

  • Insurance: Call your insurance company and request a list of therapists that accept your insurance. Do note that many of these lists may be out of date so you many want to cross reference them with a therapist directory to save time and energy.

  • Directories: There are a wide variety of directories to help you find your ideal therapists. Some are general sites while some are more specific, but here are a few…








  • Word of mouth. If you have a trusted community or support group, ask them who they recommend.

Why don't more therapists talk about this?

If you listen and do some searching therapists are talking about this quite a bit. But one of the main challenges is that the tech companies are working against this. As you may have noticed therapists are not naming names in this discussion. This is because if we do we will very quickly receive notice of legal action or be sued for speaking out.

So we encourage you to take your mental health seriously, do your research, interview potential therapists, and find the therapist and approach that works best for you.

And ask yourself the big question: Are you looking for gourmet or gas station sushi?

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