Don’t sing the holiday blues

Ned Butler is a marriage and family therapist intern at Volunteers in Victim Assistance

Holidays dredge up bad feelings for many people. Seasonal activities and expectations can induce depression, anxiety, or problems in relationships. If you are ready, talking about these issues with a mental-health professional can provide great relief. People of all ages can benefit when motivated.

However, counseling and mental-health services have been a casualty of cutbacks in managed care, and employee-assistance plans generally provide for fewer than six visits to a therapist. Private, licensed therapists typically charge $70 to $100 per 50-minute session. Therefore, counseling can seem to be only for the rich.

Marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers and clinical psychologists all must document 3,000 hours of supervised experience to get their licenses from the California Department of Consumer Affairs. People working toward their licenses and registered with the DCA are called interns, associates or psychological assistants. They must have completed the required post-graduate degree and meet every week with a supervising licensed therapist to discuss the clients they have seen.

Interns are permitted to work for a supervisor in private practice or a social-service agency. Generally, the costs to see an intern in private practice or at an agency are much less than a licensed therapist charges, which makes interns an affordable option for those seeking mental-health care.

Several social-service agencies in Sacramento offer counseling with interns. The fees are determined from a sliding scale designed to subsidize low- and middle-income clients. Volunteers in Victim Assistance, the Family Service Agency, Catholic Social Services, the White House Counseling Center and the Family Study Center are five such agencies in the greater Sacramento area.

Although interns will have less experience than licensed therapists, there are many excellent interns working toward their licenses. Your comfort level is the most important criteria in selecting a therapist. It is much more important that you feel a rapport with your therapist than that she or he appears to have all the answers. Your progress will be tied directly to the level of emotional trust you have in your therapist.

It is important to find the right therapist, regardless of the source. And it’s not necessary to put off needed mental-health care because of a lack of funds.