Treatments and Resources to Explore When Therapy Is Unavailable

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For many folx, therapy may be what first comes to mind if you're thinking about the mental health space or are currently struggling with your own mental well-being.

While therapy has several benefits, there are also reasons why therapy may be unavailable. For instance, if you're in a crisis, you might need immediate support. It's also possible that you're not currently able to afford therapy or that it's just inaccessible to you in general.

In such cases, it can be helpful to consider a variety of resources other than therapy to see which one may work best for you.

Barriers to Mental Health Therapy

If it's your first time seeking treatment or support for your mental health, engaging in therapy might feel intimidating. A 2015 journal article reviewed the barriers to accessing mental health treatment at the patient, therapist, treatment, organization, and government levels.

At the level of the individual patient, some barriers included:

  • Limited access to transportation: For those without a car or other form of transportation, meeting with a therapist can feel nearly impossible.
  • Lack of childcare coverage: For people with children, it can often be difficult to find someone to watch your children during your appointment time.
  • Inability to find a culturally competent therapist: It can often be a challenge to find a therapist who can both understand the challenges unique to your culture and treat your specific mental health concerns. For marginalized folx (Black, Indigenous, or LGBTQ, for example), many mental health issues often stem from or are exacerbated by the effects oppression, discrimination, white supremacy, settler colonialism, anti-Blackness, etc.
  • Stigma and motivation challenges: Sometimes the stigma surrounding mental health treatment can prevent people from seeking help.

While these may appear to be relatively surmountable challenges, they may prove particularly overwhelming when also navigating mental health concerns. In a 2017 journal article, mental health-related stigma was considered a barrier in healthcare, with respect to negative attitudes, lack of knowledge and skills, therapeutic pessimism, and stigma in the workplace culture.

Because healthcare providers often lacked an adequate understanding of mental health treatment and had not unpacked their stigma, they failed to assess and support the needs of their patients.

According to a 2016 systematic review of perceptions of family doctors, some barriers to child and adolescent mental health treatment included resources, appointment uptake, confidentiality limitations, stigma, complexity, limited knowledge, and difficulty relating to young people. With these challenges, it is easy to see why therapy may be hard to access.

The Further Impact of Oppression

In addition to those barriers to accessing resources, there may be other reasons why certain groups may struggle to find appropriate therapy.

According to a 2017 journal article, trans and gender non-conforming folx attempting to access healthcare faced such barriers as financial constraints, service availability, transphobia concerns, and interpersonal challenges, among other concerns.

An attempt at accessing services with a therapist who does not think as critically about oppression could leave trans and gender-diverse patients in greater mental health distress than prior to such interaction.

A 2016 study found that folx who inject drugs faced significant barriers to accessing appropriate mental health treatment, including long wait times, poor service delivery, rampant stigma, and homelessness. In other words, folx who inject drugs are much less likely to be able to access appropriate mental health therapy services when they need it most.

Other Mental Health Treatments and Resources

It can be beneficial to explore some other ways of accessing mental health support if therapy is unavailable or inaccessible to you. A 2013 journal article suggested some alternatives to mental health therapy for youth:

Given that mental health concerns may sometimes be experienced in psychosomatic ways, it makes sense for folx to seek such a variety of treatments. It is clear that even the best mental health therapy will be useless if folx are unable to access it, which is why it is worthwhile to explore other options to meet your needs.

Assessing Your Unique Needs

When considering how best to meet your mental health needs, it may be helpful to reflect on other resources that have helped you in the past.

Listen to Podcasts

For instance, if you enjoy podcasts, then that may be a way to learn more about how to manage your mental health effectively when therapy is not available. Some podcasts you might enjoy include Between Sessions, Disability after Dark, and The Homecoming Podcast with Dr. Thema.

Read Mental Health-Focused Books

If you tend to enjoy reading more than listening to podcasts, then that may be a better source of psychoeducation regarding mental health for you. Depending on your understanding of your mental health needs, a targeted approach may be beneficial.

For example, if you have been struggling with depression and anxiety related to body image, you may find it useful to delve into Sonya Renee Taylor's Your Body Is Not An Apology Workbook.

Connect With a Community You're Passionate About

For some, mental health can be bolstered by a sense of purpose and community with others. While you may feel a sense of purpose by attending a faith-based group regularly, someone else may benefit from organizing abolition advocacy locally.

Maybe for you, a sense of community means scheduling more time to chat on the phone with loved ones, while your neighbor may prefer to game online with a team of international players.

Given the benefits of physical activity and behavioral activation on mental health, it can be helpful to invest in both. For some, that may look like running multiple times a week in preparation for a marathon or engaging in a dance workout at home. Maybe for you, that means starting off small by taking a walk on a daily basis or trying a new hobby with a weekend class.

A Word From Verywell

As you explore which mental health resources may be a good fit for your diverse needs, you may come to a better understanding of what treatment may be best for you. Despite how overwhelming it can feel to navigate the process to manage your mental health, such investment can result in long-term benefits even if initial attempts prove to be challenging.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Puckett J, Cleary P, Rossman K, Mustanski B, Newcomb M. Barriers to gender-affirming care for transgender and gender nonconforming individualsSex Res Social Policy. 2017;15(1):48-59. doi:10.1007/s13178-017-0295-8

  5. Wang L, Panagiotoglou D, Min J et al. Inability to access health and social services associated with mental health among people who inject drugs in a Canadian settingDrug Alcohol Depend. 2016;168:22-29. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.08.631

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By Krystal Jagoo
 Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice.