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Psychotherapy in Canada: "What is not insured, is simply not accessible"

Apr 10

I recently read an insightful letter by Dr. Alain Lesage, MD, MPhil, written to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), regarding the lack of accessibility of in-person psychotherapy for many in Canada, due to the lack of coverage for the cost of those services under our publicly funded health care system. You can read his full letter here, although you may need to have subscriber access to do so.

Dr. Lesage made an excellent point in noting that the need for medications for mental health treatment in Canada was covered, while the need for psychotherapy was not; this is according to a 2012 Statistics Canada survey on community mental health. You can read the report on that study here: http://statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2013009/article/11863-eng.htm. He also notes that, when Australian psychotherapists began to receive reimbursement from the physician billing insurance plans, it resulted in an increase in treatment of common mental health disorders to 46%, from 37%. You can read the results of that study here.

Effectively, only a small section of the Canadian population has access to psychotherapy; through psychiatrists with long waiting lists, for those who can afford Extended Healthcare Insurance, for employees (usually of large corporations) with Employee Assistance Plans, and university and college students with access to short term counseling services.

A recent study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada shows mental health care costs to be close to a staggering $50 Billion per year. It’s time for Canada’s public healthcare system to prioritize budget allocation to mental health care prevention and insure and ensure psychotherapy is available to the large cohort of Canadians in need.

Dr. Sam Ozersky, MD

Sam is Mensante's founder and CEO. He speaks and writes extensively about the critical relationship between mental health and the workplace.