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Community Mental Health

I am close to finding an actual therapist (see previous post). In the meantime, I wanted to share another affordable therapy option that is commonly referred to as Community Mental Health (CMH). In recent years it has been re/named Behavioral Health Services, or some combination of the words Community, Mental, Behavioral, Public, and Health. Here's an example of one I called here in SF for help. CMH commonly refers to a group of individuals and programs that offer a wide-range of services, from parenting classes, to addiction counseling, to foster care services and beyond. Most, I would assume, are non-profits and have Boards of Trustees and the like. I know about this resource because I used to work for one. It was the single most formative educational experience I have ever had, and I have immense respect for individuals who work for such agencies.

If you are currently receiving public (government) assistance, you will have little problem getting into a CMH center. This is because the business model is based on a certain high percentage of their clientele receiving public assistance that will reimburse for services at a certain rate (usually a percentage of the actual rate). Some of these organizations can be on the smaller side, and offer limited services (e.g., individual therapy, parenting classes), and others can be behemoths with multiple sites and a huge range of services.

I am not receiving public assistance, so my call to the Consumer Relations Office was not returned in a timely manner (i.e., at all). The CMH I worked for in Cleveland did have a sliding fee schedule for people who were not receiving public assistance or had lost their benefits. Some of my clients were paying as little as $5 a session. I was a student therapist at the time, but there were other very seasoned therapists I worked with, and I was supervised by one of the most gifted clinicians I have met, so the quality of care was high, in my opinion.

CMHs are worth checking out. The cost can be manageable, and the quality of services can be very high. Some older, seasoned, and highly skilled clinicians might choose to work for a CMH because of how tiring it can be to actually run a private practice (let alone do therapy). Clinicians at CMHs can focus exclusively on therapy (and not too much on business-there's usually even a front desk to help with scheduling), often get free training (and thus, more than the minimum required to maintain their license), have a very strong network of colleagues to support them, and can usually refer in-house when there is need for additional services (like psychiatry or parent support).

It is disappointing the CMH I contacted did not call me back, but I have moved on for now. Most CMHs are almost always in financial crisis, so I would not rule out that my call was routed to an empty phone booth on the Alaskan tundra.

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