Find out your options and benefits
Collective agreements vary a lot when it comes to health benefits. If you are not sure what is and isn’t covered by the benefits in your contract or your health plan, talk to your steward about understanding the benefits you can access to help you with your mental health issue. You may have a number of options available.
Employee Assistance Programs or Employee & Family Assistance Programs (EAP or EFAP)
Your steward can let you know or help you find out if your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP). It might also be posted in your workplace. EAPs offer short-term counselling at no cost to you. Programs vary, but usually cover four to six sessions with a trained counsellor. Depending on your situation, this may be enough. If you use up all your sessions, your EAP counsellor may be able to refer you to other resources or in some cases, you may be able to get further sessions if you request it and need further care.
EAP programs are typically delivered by third-party companies. You contact the EAP provider, who then gives you the name of a counsellor in your area. Many companies will allow you to make specific requests. For example, if you are more comfortable in a language other than English, ask if you can be referred to someone who speaks your language of choice.
EAPs are confidential. Your situation is kept in confidence and will not be shared with your employer or co-workers.
Does your job come with health benefits? If it does, find out if these include access to counselling, and a drug plan that can help cover the costs of medication like anti-depressants.
If you do have health benefits that will cover counselling, make sure you know exactly what is covered before you make an appointment. There are many different credentials for therapists, and some plans are limited in the types of counsellors they will cover. They may be called psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, or have another designation like registered counselling therapist. Not all health plans cover all counsellors. Try to choose someone who is covered, so you don’t have to pay out of pocket. You should also find out what the annual maximum is that you can claim. Counsellors may charge between $80-$250 an hour. Some may have sliding scales for fees as well.
Some plans will cover counselling only if you have a referral from a doctor. So you may need to see a doctor to get a referral before going to see a therapist.
Your family doctor will also be someone who can help you. Doctors can prescribe treatments like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, and may also be able to refer you to more specialized resources in the public health system. They can direct you to publicly funded services like mood disorder or eating disorder clinics, for example. If your doctor works in a collaborative clinic, it’s possible that there is someone on staff who offers counselling. Your doctor can also help you identify whether or not you might need more specialized treatment. If you don’t have a family doctor, seeing a doctor at a walk-in clinic could also be helpful to you in getting help.