September 29, 2022


For First-Rate Health

‘Demoralizing, enraging’: Readers share their experiences seeking therapy in Washington

Demand for mental health care is soaring, availability of providers is low, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse.

The Seattle Times asked readers to describe their experiences seeking therapy in Washington. We received dozens of responses that touched on themes of seemingly never-ending wait lists, limited options for people to find therapists with understandings of varying cultural backgrounds, and sky-high out-of-pocket costs.

“It has been an incredibly frustrating, demoralizing, enraging and cyclically endless, fruitless process,” one reader said.

Here are some of our readers’ stories.

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

Mental health resources from The Seattle Times

Ian Malin, 26, Ravenna: “Things were better for a while when I had a steady therapist. She was helping me work my way through my issues and teaching me coping skills. We were starting to peel back the layers of my depression. I liked and trusted her.

Then she left the community behavioral health center I was attending, as did my meds provider. Administrators at the center set me up with a new therapist whom I met with twice before she also quit. Lack of support and low pay, I was told.

The director of the center said he wouldn’t let me fall through the cracks, but I never heard from him again and no one there returns my calls. I can’t get my meds refilled until I have an appointment, but I can’t get an appointment. This is probably the most frustrating part of it.

Being on a state health plan means I don’t have many options. I now get my meds through my primary care physician because I can’t talk to anyone at the center. I need a reliable person to talk to, not a steady stream of new faces.”

Andre Canty, 52, Seattle: “Humbling thing, admitting you are vulnerable and need help. As I have moved through my days over the last 18 months, my steps have slowed and my mind has labored. The passing of loved ones; the killing and vitriol aimed at boys who look like my son and men who look me; the pandemic and its epic impact on my families and my community; the crumbling of decency and civility in the name of political might — add in my own personal trauma and it’s been a lot. 

I have sought counseling before and it has served me well. I had to move past all the narratives that kept me kicking the can down the road and making the call I knew I needed, but I got there. It’s a cold choice for brothas to come to grips with when the psychological force of a culture, who shows barely a passing concern that my life matters, comes knocking. 

After multiple calls and unreturned emails, I have been attempting to get care for close to four months and have been placed on a waiting list. I’m just a single dad looking for an objective ear to get some of this weight off.”

Eli Goss, 32, West Seattle: “As a queer and trans person, finding mental health support during the pandemic was difficult.

A therapist I had been seeing for over five years took parental leave for a few months. She did her best to share a list of other queer therapists to see while she was out. However, most of the therapists either weren’t accepting new patients due to demand or didn’t take my insurance.

My mental health began to spiral after a few months of trying to find a therapist, and I eventually decided to continue paying out of pocket to prioritize seeing a queer therapist with trans competency. Having a queer therapist is extremely critical, but there are not enough.

I found a new therapist but had to pay $150 out of pocket per session. After a few months, they also had to leave therapy due to personal reasons and connected me with another queer therapist in their practice, who I have been seeing now for a few months. Having care interrupted over a couple of months and having costs increase has been very difficult.”

We’d like to hear from you.

The Mental Health Project team is listening. We’d like to know what questions you have about mental health and which stories you’d suggest we cover.

Get in touch with us at [email protected]