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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Alternative ways to find affordable therapy

Since therapy in the UAE is expensive and often not covered by insurance plans, here are four alternatives for people experiencing mental health issues in the UAE.

Even if you have some form of insurance, or can afford an initial consultation, getting sufficient, continuous therapy for mental-health issues can be expensive. Here are four alternatives:

Online therapy

This has the same efficacy as seeking therapy in an office environment, is more affordable because online therapists don’t have as many overhead costs, and may sometimes be covered by your insurance policy. Consider the US-based The Truman Group, a company established by psychologist Sean Truman, which provides access to six licensed mental health providers. They have experience working with expats and are currently providing online therapeutic around the world. The Truman Group charges US$145 (Dh533) per hour but there are even cheaper options, some for as little as US$32 per week. Check out www.talkspace.com for more information.

Counselling at schools or universities

Schools and universities often offer discounted or free therapy. So if you’re a student, your student health centre for information can be a temporary solution until you can find a long-term therapist. Earlier this year, Zayed University opened a new counselling centre - for students in both its Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses - and provides one-on-one and group counselling, psychological assessments, preventive programmes and outreach days. Dr Fatima Al Darmaki, assistant provost for student affairs, said the centre also has a referral system in place to help staff deal with more serious matters. “Students needing special ­services such as medication, or family and social consultation, may be referred to either the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology or to the Family Development Foundation Shaawer Programme,” she said.

Support groups and foundations

When 15-year-old Abu Dhabi based student Louis Smith took his own life in 2013, his parents set up the Louis Smith Foundation to support teenagers struggling with depression. The foundation regularly hosts parent support groups in Abu Dhabi and raises awareness on all mental health issues.

Free lectures on mental health

Both Rashid Hospital in Dubai and the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) in Abu Dhabi often hold free lectures or seminars for the public on mental health issues. The Department of Psychiatry at Rashid Hospital has an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues, discussing prevention and treatment methods for psychiatric diseases. Dr Mohammed Fayek, head of the department of psychiatry at Rashid Hospital, said the aim of such campaigns is to educate the community on risk factors, prevention methods as well as treatment options. “There is a need to have regular awareness campaigns about psychiatric diseases because the support of family and society is crucial in dealing with such cases,” he said. At SKMC, a Mental Health Awareness Program started in March 2010 with public lectures are held at the Behavioural Sciences Pavilion. The meet ups occur monthly, are in Arabic, and discuss different topics related to mental health and social challenges.

*Hala Khalaf

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