EAPs: A Hidden Resource

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full-time job with health insurance benefits. Six years, to be exact. But even when I had my own benefits available, ever since my husband and I got married in 2003, we always went with his benefits plan because his employer seemed to have the most robust plan for the lower price, compared to mine.

I’ve never paid much attention to the details of our health insurance plan. To me, insurance is a necessary evil. All I knew was that it had morphed over the years from co-pays to deductibles, and when enrollment time came around I’d complain to my husband that we seem to be paying more with each passing year and yet we’re getting less and less coverage. A sign of the times, I guess. Still, I’m extremely grateful to have insurance at all.

We used to pay a co-pay for visits, and had to get referrals to see specialists, but last year and this year we moved to a deductible plan. Now instead of co-pays, we pay a premium each pay period, have a {pretty high} family deductible to meet, and once that’s met, the insurance plan covers our doctor’s visits at 100%.

I hadn’t been to the dermatologist since 2009, and with the recent news reports about skin cancer, Ben and I decided it was time he and I get checked. I called our provider to double-check that I didn’t need a referral, since I couldn’t for the life of me remember. The customer service rep I spoke with reminded me that referrals weren’t required with our plan. While he was reviewing our account, I happened to make a comment about how far we were from meeting our deductible and the cost of doctor’s visits, and how I’d love to be able to see my therapist again but since I’m working for free to start-up my non-profit and we’re living on one income right now it wasn’t really possible.

Here’s where the Employee Assistance Program comes in. The rep told me that my husband’s company participates in an EAP which would allow for me to see my therapist for eight visits completely free, if I qualified after speaking with an intake counselor over the phone. I immediately asked to be transferred and had a ten-minute conversation with a kind woman who assured skeptical ole’ me that the benefit was most certainly available for my use and she’d email me the authorization code so I can book my appointment. There’s nothing dire going on with me, just the usual stress of being a stay-at-home mom who is struggling to balance life and work and family and if given the opportunity to talk with a professional about it, I’ll jump at the chance.

{Happy dance! I’m going back to therapy!}

I went ahead and booked appointments two weeks apart for September, October, November and December and then decided I needed to blog about this.

Maybe you’ve been feeling really down lately, or you’re struggling with your anger management and it’s affecting your home life. Or your glass of wine with dinner has turned into two or three, or maybe an entire bottle. Financial worries are giving you anxiety attacks and you are at a loss when it comes to what to do. If the weight of everyday life is crushing you and you’re gasping to catch your breath, it’s time to stop feeling ashamed and do something about it.

EAPs aren’t just for the employee, people! They include every family member on the plan, from what I understand. They can offer assistance in the following areas:

  • Counseling Services (Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, Mental Health issues, etc.)
  • Occupational Stress and Emotional Distress
  • Financial and Legal Advice
  • Family Support
  • Help with Work and Home Relationships
  • and more

Maybe I’m just naive in my estimate that many folks out there don’t realize they have access to this valuable resource. I certainly didn’t, even though they mailed us information and I read it and put the magnet on our fridge.

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My point is, if you’ve been wrestling with a personal issue and need someone to talk with, check your health insurance plan and see if you have access to an Employee Assistance Program. You may be pleasantly surprised and on your way to a happier, healthier you.

Do it for yourself, do it for your family. Namaste.

On Hiring A New Therapist

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Change has always been a hard thing for me. When one season comes to an end, and another sweeps in to take its place, I usually need a good few weeks to adjust and settle in. Take this weekend, for example. I loved celebrating the end of August with our anniversary date night and the two days spent soaking up the end of summer at the pool with friends. But until we ease into our new school routine I’ll be fidgety and uncomfortable with the newness of it all.

Speaking of change, I had to break up with my therapist of five years because she stopped accepting my insurance and there was no way I’d be able to pay the regular office visit amount out of pocket. I’m sad about not seeing her again, and feel terrible about not having the chance to say goodbye at our last visit. But I guess that’s just the way life goes sometimes.

Tomorrow I’ll meet a new therapist who I’ll share details of my life with. It feels like the first day of school when everything is new and I’m excited and nervous at the same time for all the learning I know I’ll do while I’m there. I’m sure I won’t be able to cover my entire mental health history in our first visit. But in the event we do continue on after tomorrow, I have a few expectations for our sessions.

I hope she helps me figure my complicated self out.

I hope she challenges me to see things from a different perspective.

I hope she teaches me how to be more forgiving of myself.

I hope she realizes that just because for the past three years I’ve been a “high-functioning” bipolar 1 patient, doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my symptoms on a regular basis.

I hope that we’ll hit it off and have a long-lasting patient-therapist relationship.

I know this is a tall order and I have high expectations… [Read more…]

Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday

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I haven’t seen my therapist in probably nine months or more.

Husband took a new job {yay, nice pay jump! shorter commute!} back in June of last year, and when our health insurance benefits changed, I got lazy about looking into the coverage we had for therapy. Plus, I have been doing great, so I didn’t think we needed to shell out the moo-lah just for me to sit and talk about myself for 45 minutes every month.

But, I secretly miss it.

I enjoy talking about myself. {does this make me a shallow person? God, I hope not. I like to listen to other people talk about themselves too. This is why I am a blog addict.} And I think it’s fun to bounce ideas off my therapist. I had dinner with a friend of mine earlier this week and felt so bad afterwards because I basically chewed her ear off for almost three hours. {Note to self: need to work on being a better listener. friends are not a substitute for a therapist.} Hence, I have realized that maybe I should make that therapy appointment so that I don’t wear my friend’s ears out.

And so, I am going to call my therapist’s office first thing Monday morning to get an appointment. Who-hoo!! I’m excited about therapy! (As an added bonus, she gives a good hug at the end of each visit. She’s sweet like that.)

Oh, and I’m also excited that this is my first link-up with Kim. She rocks. I *heart* her. Read her blog. This gal has a way with words. Plus, she’s freaking hilarious.

Happy weekend everyone!

{Husband graciously took the kids to their favorite nearby farm to see the animals so that I could write in a quiet house this morning.  He texted me this picture. I love him to pieces.}

Can friends double as therapists?

I find myself wondering why my condition is so difficult for people to talk about. I am someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve, and when I feel a need to talk about what I’m thinking or what I’ve gone through in the past regarding my bipolar diagnosis, it’s sad to me that I usually feel completely alone. My husband is of course always here and will listen whenever I need a shoulder to cry on. And I do feel as though my support system is strong. But sometimes I wish that more of my girlfriends would show an interest in what I have been living with these past six years. It almost feels like a dirty little secret. Except it’s not dirty, and it’s not even much of a secret anymore. I guess that people are just uncomfortable discussing mental illness. And that makes me sad.

What got me started thinking about it was my drive home this weekend. My high school girlfriends and I had planned a girls’ weekend to catch up and unwind without the stress of having to chase around toddlers, change diapers, and do naps, baths and bedtimes. (Our husbands graciously all agreed to our request for some R&R and amazingly we were able to find a weekend that worked for everyone.) Except the weather decided not to cooperate and instead of the beach for four days of sun, sand and cocktails, we were forced to choose a different location. One of the girls had just sold her house, and she was in the process of moving out so we gathered some air mattresses and crashed there for three days while Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc all up and down the East Coast. Luckily for us it was not much more than a bad thunderstorm with heavy winds by the time it got to our area.

I guess a part of me was hoping that at some point over the weekend I’d get a chance to talk with everyone about my hospitalizations, my recoveries, and my hope that I can somehow change the public’s perception of bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis by telling my story and the lessons I’ve learned. But our conversations seemed to revolve more around our kids, work, and family life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun getting to catch up and spend time with some of my friends who I have known for the longest time. The memories we made this weekend were priceless. I should probably get back to seeing my therapist regularly again instead of trying to turn one of my friends into my own personal Carl Jung. It’s on my to-do list for tomorrow morning.