Seeking Therapy through Employers’ Insurance Schemes

A personal insight.

Employer Insurance therapy

As someone who, after struggling with their mental health at work, went down the route of therapy via her employer’s insurance – Kate Hale, our Admin and Marketing Assistant, is here to tell you about her experience of the process.

“There was definitely some kind of mental breakdown happening for me, but I didn’t know there was the option of therapy through my employer’s insurance” recalls Kate. “There were a lot of things going on in my family life but as I spent most of my time at work it would quite often show itself there. I was disengaged, excruciatingly tired and unable to focus which meant that I was not managing my team well. 

“My mental health at work got worse and worse” Kate explains “to the point where I would literally cry at the drop of the hat in the middle of the office. It wasn’t pleasant for anyone around. There was nothing else for me to do other than pluck up the courage to speak to my doctor. This led to me taking some time off work.

“It was my manager who first made me aware of the therapy on offer through the company’s insurance,” Kate says. “By this point, I had been off work with what my doctor called reactive depression for a good while. It was simply labelled as ‘stress’ on my employee records – which I remember feeling really shameful about. I hadn’t had the means to address what was going on with my head so when the suggestion of therapy via the insurance scheme was made I embraced it. I felt like my manager was genuinely trying to help me so that I could address my mental health. In hindsight perhaps he was just trying to get me back at work – or maybe I’m being cynical!”

First Steps

“First there were numerous calls with different insurance operatives assessing whether I met the criteria to be able to even have the therapy that my employer’s insurance offered,” Kate explains. “Each time I was asked about what had led up to this point, I’d attempt to explain, not really knowing what was going on in my head, so there would be more tears.” 

Kate was offered therapy via the Bank’s insurance scheme. Although the criteria was never divulged to her, it was more than likely due to her going to the doctors and getting a medical note which stated her reason for absence as a mental health issue. Most employer insurance schemes only pay for medically necessary services. This means they require a mental health diagnosis before they will pay claims. For some, the requirement of speaking to a doctor and obtaining a note with a diagnosis on it is enough to deter them from seeking the mental health support that they need. The current climate of COVID also needs to be considered at this point. The pandemic has seen consultation rates fall by over 30%. People are even less likely to see their doctors right now so most employer’s insurance providers won’t offer mental health support or therapy.

Picking a Therapist

“They asked me to choose a therapist during one of the phone calls with the insurance provider. When you’re struggling with your mental health, the simplest of decisions can seem really difficult,” Kate clarifies. “Do I choose someone close to home? Close to work? I don’t want to be seeing them in the streets if I’m going to be pouring my heart out to them! But at the same time if I am going back to work then it needs to be an easy distance from work and home – else I won’t have the energy to go!”

Kate picked a therapist from the list of verified practitioners based on their name and postcode. The next step was for the counsellor to be notified and call Kate to arrange an appointment.

“I thought I’d picked a woman based on their name,” Kate recalls “but when I got the call from the therapist I realised they weren’t. It was also further away than I initially thought, so I felt a little disheartened at that but I didn’t want to go back through the list of therapists again, so I stuck it out” 

The insurance scheme at the bank that Kate worked for allowed for 6 free sessions of therapy as standard. There was an option of extending it to eight sessions if the therapist thought it would be beneficial.

The Therapy

“I was very guarded at first,” Kate points out “This was my first experience of counselling – or talking therapy. Whilst I was open to the idea, this person was a complete stranger. I wanted to build trust and feel secure before sharing and discussing my issues and vulnerabilities. I had barely scratched the surface before the six sessions were up. The additional two were agreed but they flew by as well. So then I made the decision to continue to pay for the counselling privately. Looking back now, it seems my employer’s and the insurer’s felt they had ticked the box of ‘mental health support at work’. That was it from them and there was no follow-up from the insurer’s after that: it was either stop there or carry on myself”

“During subsequent sessions it really became obvious that my issues were not to do with my work or employment but that the environment wasn’t helping my mental health” recalls Kate. “I’m grateful in one way that there was an option of therapy through the insurance, as it has really helped me become much more resilient. But now I can see that things had gotten really bad before it was even suggested to me. I do sometimes wonder if I’d have been given access to the support sooner, in a less formal and procedural way, whether I would’ve had the resources I needed to overcome that period of time. I think probably not and that the role wasn’t for me but that won’t be the case for everybody. Either way I truly believe that if there were more opportunities for employees to regularly discuss their mental health at work, in a confidential and relaxed space, that it will definitely prevent more serious issues arising further down the line – for both the employee and employer.”

If you are an employer that would like to talk about different therapy options, outside of those provided by your own insurance, then please get in contact with us.