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Americans Determined To Obtain Needed Family Therapy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Family Therapy

Four out of five adult Americans say they would take bold action and find a way to get needed family therapy if their insurance company would not pay for it, according to a nationwide public opinion poll released today by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). In fact, 83 percent said they would go so far as to ask the therapist to be resourceful and find a way to get the therapy sessions paid for.

Unwilling to accept denial of family therapy coverage, 79 percent of the respondents said they would complain to their insurance company and 63 percent said they would ask their employer to change the company's insurance benefit package. Moreover, 88 percent said they would even pay for the therapy out of their own pocket. Only six percent said they would quit therapy and 24 percent said they would do only the therapy that their insurance covers.

"These results demonstrate in no uncertain terms that the American people understand the value of family therapy for themselves and their family members," said Michael K. Bowers, AAMFT's Executive Director. "Our members are trained licensed professionals who provide unique services that help countless families, couples and individuals across America."

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The poll consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted during March 1998 using a random sample that is representative of U.S. adults. It was conducted by QS&A Research & Strategy, of Fairfax, Virginia. Respondents were asked if they would take the actions listed above if their child was in therapy due to a severe mental or emotional problem and the therapist suggested that family therapy would be much more effective than individual therapy for the child.

Respondents were also asked about their health insurance benefits and only 16 percent said marriage and family therapy is covered by their health insurance, while an additional 16 percent said they had mental health care coverage but were unsure if marriage and family therapy is covered. Moreover, 21 percent said they had mental health care coverage but not for marriage and family therapy; 33 percent said mental health care is not included in their health insurance; and 13 percent said they have no health insurance.

"Clearly there is a tremendous gap between what therapy services the American people want and need, and what health insurance companies and employers are willing to pay for," said Bowers. "We need to close that gap."

He also noted that, if marriage and family therapy is covered by health insurance, nearly half (44 percent) the respondents said they would be unlikely to use it to pay for the therapy if they could not go to the therapist they wanted. Also, 29 percent said they would be unlikely to use it if it would result in a preexisting condition being noted in their permanent health records.

AAMFT is the national professional association representing more than 23,000 marriage and family therapists in the United States, Canada and abroad. Since 1942, AAMFT has increased understanding, research, and education in the field of marriage and family therapy, and ensured that public needs are met by well-trained marriage and family therapists.