Several years ago, Nicholas Strouse felt stressed. He had to provide for his family; at the same time, he believed the mental health therapy model was not working well, for providers as well as patients.
I should mention here that Strouse is a therapist, so he knows a thing or two about mental health. And stress.
Insurance companies were forcing therapists to use a “pathology model”: What’s wrong with the patient?
He preferred “intuitive-based work” — looking for insights and perspectives. That takes more time — and insurance companies hate the “t” word.
“It’s easier to give a pill than treat the soul,” Strouse says.
His response: He started Westport Family Counseling.
WFC has grown to 6 clinicians, including social workers, and family and marriage professionals.
There are child specialists; specialists in trauma and PTSD; a nutritionist; psychotherapists; family therapists; psychopharmacologists, and psychoanalysts.
WFC offers a group therapy room and a children’s therapy playroom. There’s a women’s program and a corporate counseling program. This year Strouse added a parent consulting program, a meditation group and an online forum (called “Ask a Counselor”).
Yet getting the word out about the importance of mental health — or, as Strouse puts it, “emotional well-being” — is not easy.
Most people see a doctor for physical ailments, he says. But emotional issues — not unless there’s a real crisis. It’s a lot easier to talk to a doctor about migraines or heartburn — even ED — than stress or family functionality.
“We live in a country — and particularly a county — where it has become acceptable to live by the ethics that promote looking good over feeling good,” Strouse says. “When times are tough, it’s even more difficult to help people understand that they would do well to invest in their self, as opposed to their appearance.”
Which brings Strouse to his Catch-22. “The most important way we can design treatment to fit each individual or a family is by being an out-of-network provider,” he says.
“People love that we are there for them, have available appointments, can work outside the box. They love what we offer.”
But — you knew this was coming — “they are extremely worried about paying for it out of pocket.”
So Strouse offers a pre-paid discount package plan (20% off, when you purchase 10 sessions up front).
He started a deferred payment plan for clients he’s worked with in the past.
And there’s always been a sliding fee scale — no paperwork needed.
But he also knows that people need to come.
“In times of economic hardship, people are often more in need of the support and increased self-awareness therapists provide,” Strouse says.
“Money and financial security have a huge impact on our relationships and feeling of self-worth. Money trouble can often reveal weaknesses in our relationships, or perceived inadequacies in our selves, that might not otherwise be brought to the fore.”
Therapy, he says, is the best way to deal with the stress of economic hardship — because it helps people “change the self-destructive patterns that prevent more success.”
Prosperity will eventually return, Strouse notes. (From his lips to…) But people will still have “that stuff inside that needs to be dealt with.”
And Nicholas Strouse will be there to help. Provided, of course, he and his group can make it through their own tough, stressful times.