When Therapists Mess Up It Matters

I’ve been debating whether or not I should write about this. More importantly share it on my blog. But you know what? It’s been circling so much in my head, I think the only thing to do is write about it, share it and move on. 

Prepare for a rare VENT.

As some of you who read my blog know, I recently found a therapist and was happy to share that information with everyone. I believe in talk therapy and even though it’d been a long time since I’d participated in a one-on-one situation, I was fortunate enough to join in some group therapy sessions over this past Covid year. Finally, after getting some decent medical insurance in February, I decided it was time to work on this part of myself:  my mental well-being.

Clearly, it had taken a hit. Like many people over this crazy Covid year, I have struggled with so many things – money, isolation, career issues and yes, dealing with the last year of the Trump administration along with all the issues surrounding Mr. George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter. I mean, it’s been one hell of a time and I, like everyone else, am just human. I can only take so much.  

It took months of research and reading and learning to find a therapist, but when I did, she was remarkable in every way I needed. In so many ways I was grateful for all the work I had put into it because I had found the most perfect person to work with.  So, I thought.

From the get-go there was this over-emphasis on money and being paid. I noticed it, but I’ve worked in finance for so many years, I get it. People want to be paid, period.  I had no real issues with it, except how many times it had been brought up. Now I realize that was a red flag.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows I pay my bills. At the very least, I would NEVER engage in business without being able to pay people I need.  Also, I do my homework. Thoroughly. Completely. It is a good thing and a bad thing how fastidious I am about money, budgeting – just doing things correctly.  There’s no reason why this Therapist would know this, but it’s who I am.  (Uhem, for the record, yeah, “fastidious” is not a word I would normally use, but I’m trying not to use the word “anal” anymore so bear with me while I walk through improving my verbiage. 😊).

We spoke maybe four times (had sessions). On top of all the “normal” Covid stuff I mentioned, I was also in the processes of moving from one apartment to another because my safety had been put at risk by a neighbor who was having manic mental episodes – so much so – that she was put into psychiatric care by her family at one point. That was my impetus for moving. I’ve also been limping, due to a hip injury that has resurfaced… the point is, I reached out for therapy because I knew I was not doing to well dealing with all of this and I needed help. 

Here’s where it all goes awry:

Our scheduled sessions were for Friday at 3pm.  I was in the process of packing but looking forward to our next session and talking to my therapist – let’s call her Kasey – because I wanted to tell her about the latest situation that happened with the “cray” neighbor.  At 2:45pm I receive an email – 15 minutes before our schedule appointment, with a chat attachment from Kasey detailing that she had had a conversation with my insurance company and that I actually wasn’t covered and that I would have to pay her full fee – here is the chat (as evidence I suppose) and if I wanted to talk to her in this session that would be up to me, but I would be fully responsible for payment…and to just let her know what I wanted to do.

Fifteen minutes before my zoom call with, her – Kasey, my therapist.

I emailed her back and cancelled the appointment and instead, spent the next hour or so on the phone with the insurance company.

Now, to complicate matters, the insurance company (Oscar) works with another company (Optum) to offer this Therapy service.  So, I was on the phone on a three-way call with a representative of Oscar and a representative of Optum and found myself crying during the call and being consoled by the two customer service people trying to figure out what the problem was with her payments (shout out to Jonathan and Kyler for their kindness and understanding – those are their real names).

Suffice it to say, there are many issues here, one being that Kasey, the therapist, coded things incorrectly. She used the wrong date and both Oscar and Optum made their mistakes as well. They used an old policy number on my account that was not the current one – and that policy number did not cover therapy. Careless mistakes by everyone involved, except me, but mistakes, nonetheless.  

At the end of the call, I felt certain that this would be rectified.  I could see where all the mistakes were made, I understood the logic of why it happened, and I felt confident that the therapist would be paid.  The customer service people even made it clear that it would be about 21 days for it to be straightened out and that things would be resubmitted, and a check would be sent to the therapist.

I sent a detailed email to the therapist, with reference numbers and information so she would feel better to follow up and know what happened and that she would be paid. 

Kasey, the therapist, never reached out to me again. She never followed up to see if I needed to talk, to ask me how my move to the new apartment went. She never asked if I was okay or anything at all. Until this past Saturday.

I woke up to my phone showing various alerts – charges to my credit card.  The therapist, Kasey, went ahead, and charged my credit card for what she had not been paid yet.  There was no invoice, no statement, no email, no communication that it was about to happen, but only the notification from my credit card company.

Ugghhh.

Suffice it to say, I emailed Kasey and she got back to me with an email that basically said, “Yeah, I didn’t get paid from the insurance company, I can only believe them, so I charged you.” Again, no concern for my well-being. No questioning of my mental health or if I’m okay. She just needed her cash.  

By the way, it’s been less than 30 days.

So, why am I sharing this?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I needed to vent. It’s been eating at me for a while now and this last bit, charging my credit card without any information or follow up has disturbed me to no end. 

But the other reason is because I want people to know, especially this particular therapist Kasey (who will receive a link to this blog post shortly) that THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO THINGS ETHICALLY.

The first mistake Kasey made was to ask a patient, 15 minutes prior to a session, about money issues.  The ultimatum was ridiculous. Basically, “If you can’t pay, then we can’t have a session.” That was pretty much what was implied. If you take your job serious in the mental health field, then you would know this could topple someone in serious mental distress. In a strange turn of events, I was able to be comforted enough by the two customer service people on the phone – NOT. THEIR. JOB. But they took it on anyways (especially Kyler from Oscar) because I was an absolute mess.  Gratefully, I was also able to contact a good friend afterwards who could then walk me through the rest of this as it really was a difficult moment for me to deal with alone…

If you, as a mental health “professional”, are so worried about getting screwed financially by a client/patient that you would put them in jeopardy because you’re afraid you might not get paid, then maybe you’re in the wrong fucking business. You can do that easily as an accountant, but you should never do that as a medical health professional. Would you do the same thing if I were walking in to get kidney dialysis or a blood transfusion?  Either you take the work of being a therapist seriously, or you do NOT. Don’t mess with people’s mental health. Just don’t do it!   

Every person I’ve talked to about this situation – doctors included – agreed that Kasey should have had my scheduled session and then, AFTER that session, talk about the money situation.  At the very least, she should have checked in on her patient/client at some point after the event to make sure I was okay.

It burns me something fierce I tell you! 

The other thing – and this is FOR everyone doing any kind of business at all – you NEVER, EVER, charge someone’s card without letting them know or giving them an invoice or heads up especially AFTER a circumstance that was less than normal.  This would have been different if there hadn’t been an issue with procedure and I had just flaked on paying the bill. But Kasey clearly knew things were being hashed out and there were problems with the account – this is a BIG NO!  As a business owner it just makes you look cheap and unprofessional. And there is NO real reason to do it.  I had to ask for invoices and information… that’s just wrong on multiple levels. 

To say I am infuriated by this situation is just not enough.

The amount of work I put into trying to find a therapist was ridiculous and spanned over 3 months. The fact that she turned out to be stressed out over a couple hundred dollars is mind-boggling. Yes, this was over a couple hundred dollars y’all…

Don’t get me wrong, money is money. And I’m not over here acting as if $200 is no big thing. But in the big scheme of things – when you think of my mental health and needs, is it?  She had my credit card all along and I was paying the co-payment – did she really think she wasn’t eventually going to get paid?  She couldn’t do that ONE session and THEN talk to me about it?

Well, clearly not. 

Suffice it to say, I will NO longer being using Kasey for my mental-health needs. I can’t. I’ve lost all respect for her and I clearly need someone who isn’t preoccupied with money and more interested in my mental health and the work that they do.  Not sure when I’ll be able to find someone again – I’m exhausted. But for right now, I feel better.

Thank you for listening.  I really needed to vent!

Carmen

7 thoughts on “When Therapists Mess Up It Matters

  1. I work in the medical field verifying insurances and benefits prior to a patient’s visit. We routinely let a patient know prior to a visit if there is an issue with their insurance. This is both a money and courtesy issue. The unfortunate truth is that medical care is expensive and we 1) do not want our patients to come for a visit and then get hit with an expensive bill because their insurance is termed, does not cover a certain procedure, or the patient has not secured a referral and/or the required authorization from their insurance company. Patients are ultimately responsible for understanding their insurance benefits and requirements, but we try to give them as much help in this area as we can. 2) We are a business and, while we are non-profit, we still need income (from insurance or the patients) in order to continue to deliver care. Another unfortunate truth is that there are many people out there who are not as responsible as you are and who won’t do what is necessary to clear up issues. My company even offers financial assistance and interest-free payment plans and you wouldn’t believe the number of patients who tell me that they have no interest in any of that. They won’t even fill out a form or provide the needed information so that their bill could be 100% written off.

    However, that being said – her calling you 15 minutes prior to let you know all this is not cool. We typically try to let our patients know about any potential issues at least a week in advance so that they can contact their insurance company or understand the self-pay policy and financial assistance that we offer. Also, this doesn’t sound like it was something you were just ignoring or not understanding about your insurance – there were issues there you couldn’t have predicted and that you were able to resolve. But it would have been nice for her to give you plenty of time before your appointment to do so – and it would have been more professional for her not just to cancel, but to reschedule you for a later date if you opted not to be seen as a self-pay patient.

    I also don’t even think it was legal for her to charge your credit card without providing an invoice or bill so you could have the opportunity to pay it yourself. I think you would have a case of disputing the charge with your credit card company as you never authorized her to charge your card.

    As one who has been in therapy for most of my life, I also find it shitty that she never followed up with you to see if how you were doing, if you wanted to reschedule, or if you had heard anything further from the insurance company (or if there was anything she needed to do to facilitate the resolution). I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and not create stories in my head about their motivations for doing or not doing things. Perhaps she was struggling financially and was worried about some huge bill she got – but regardless, it was unprofessional for her to handle it as she did.

    Good luck in the search for a new therapist. It’s certainly difficult!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for providing this perspective. I appreciate it so much! And yes, everything you said is absolutely true and on-point. And trust me, being someone who has worked as a financial advisor and Controller, I really do understand. When it comes to money, most “lay” folk are a bit fickle and/or “interesting” dealing with it.

      The update is: My insurance company (Oscar) and the company they go through (Optum) have taken full responsibility for the fiasco. It was, in fact, their mistake. Wrong acct numbers, wrong claim number…mistakes. They happen. We are all human. But yes, my issue was NOT with the possible errors. I was in fact 100% sure I was right. However, proving it — working with three different entities (the therapist, my insurance company and then Optum) made what was a simple error, into a fiasco. And yes, the therapist handled it badly, real badly – that is what set me down a spiral. You just can’t do that. But it’s all good… I’m fine and grateful…

      In all fairness, after too many hours of work on my part to try to figure this out — I will be getting back my money in 30-45 days. My insurance company reached out to the therapist directly and she has agreed to reimburse me as soon as she receives her payment. And yet, I agree with you, she handled it badly.

      She did finally send me an email with an apology — but for me, although I appreciate it, yeah, I’m done. Of course I accepted her apology, but I’m not working with her ever again.

      I will eventually find a new therapist or maybe go back to group or something. I just needed all of this solved before I moved forward — and it looks like, finally, it has been taken care of (I will feel better after 45 days and I have my money back though). On the upside: my account will never be confused again from Oscar or Optum’s POV? Well, I won’t count on it, but I’m just thinking: silver lining.

      Thanks again. I appreciate it so much! 🙂

      Like

  2. I am so sorry you have had such an appalling experience. Some similar things have happened to me recently – forgetting to refill my Xanax on occasions then charging $20 (for 30 pills) because we are transitioning to Cobra. Sigh. I do hope you can find a better therapist and that venting about it helped a little. Sometimes I long for the British National Health Service but the truth is that it is really difficult to get mental health care unless you are cray cray. Sometimes self help groups are good and they don’t cost anything? Good luck and good health. K x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this so much. I hate that you went through your experience as well — but I do think you’re right: unless you are cray-cray, it’s real hard to get the help you need. I appreciate the share — it makes me know I’m not alone. I will look into groups again, that was an avenue I tried earlier and worked out okay. Sending you a hug.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow!!!! I’m so sorry this happened to you. Working in the healthcare field I can honestly say what she did was absolutely wrong and unprofessional. We have patients whose insurance might not cover certain things or might get miscoded by mistake but it never effects a provider from helping their patients. It’s sad to say there are providers who in the “business” for the wrong reasons and others who genuinely what to help. I hope this is not a set back for you and you find a therapist who is in it for the right reasons. Mental health is so important especially during these hard times we are all facing.
    Sending hugs
    Cynthia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Cynthia. I appreciate you mentioning — writing on here — the standard practice. And no worries, I am a fan and supporter of talk therapy so eventually I’ll get back on it and try to find someone. I think things are a little better for me now that I’ve moved from the situation I was in that had me a bit unsettled, but I’ll still need to find someone. Thank you for your support! I appreciate it greatly! Hugs back.

      Like

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