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The Benefits of Psychotherapy for People Living with Disability

In 2020 alone, more than 46% of adults in the United States received some sort of mental health treatment, whether therapy, medication, or self-led treatment. Therapy is one of the most effective forms of mental health treatment, and millions of people receive therapy every single year.

But therapy does more than just treat mental health conditions ― it can also help build coping skills, provide a space for self-expression, and improve overall quality of life, especially for people living with disabilities.

Ahead, we’ll explore how people with disabilities can benefit from regular therapy, as well as touch on some of the barriers and considerations for disabled people seeking mental health services.

What might be barriers to treatment for disabled people?

Disabled people often experience increased barriers to treatment when seeking out mental health services. Some of these barriers come from things like physical or financial limitations, while others arise from things like ableism and stigma.

Here are some of the barriers that can prevent people with disabilities from getting the help they need:

Social stigma

Stigma can affect disabled people in many ways, especially because there’s not only a stigma around disabilities, but there’s also a stigma around mental health.

Social stigma can negatively affect the mental health of people living with disabilities and make it difficult for them to get the support they need to seek mental health treatment.

Healthcare professional stigma

In addition to social stigmas, healthcare professional stigma can make it hard for people with disabilities to receive the level of care they need to get better. When healthcare professionals allow their personal beliefs about disabilities to influence the care that they provide disabled people, it decreases the quality of care.

Financial barriers

Mental health treatment can be expensive, especially for people who have to pay out of pocket or don’t have access to insurance. Many disabled people are unable to work, and those who do work generally earn less, which can make it difficult ― or even impossible ― to be able to afford therapy services.

Communication barriers

People with physical disabilities, and even some with mental and intellectual disabilities, face increased barriers to accessing mental health care.

For some disabled people, it can be a challenge to leave the house, especially if they don’t have access to transportation or accommodations. And even virtual care can be challenging for disabled people who don’t have the tools or skills necessary for it.

All of these barriers can make it difficult for disabled people to access to mental health treatment or receive the level of care they need.

How can disabled people benefit from therapy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, mental distress is five times more frequent in adults with disabilities than in those without. And research has consistently shownTrusted Source that living with a disability can have a significant effect on a person’s mental health, especially when it comes to depression and anxiety.

Therapy can help you better understand your own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, especially those that accompany the experience of living with a disability.

Therapy can teach you how to recognize and change the relationship between those thoughts and feelings, to improve your emotional health. And whether you live with a physical disability, mental disability, or both, therapy can give you the skills necessary to cope with and adapt to life with a disability.

What considerations should be made for disabled people in therapy?

When you live with a disability, it’s important that your therapist understands the effect that disability can have on your life ― not just physically and mentally, but also socially, occupationally, and beyond.

In 2014 research, experts in the field pinpointed several areas that are important for therapists to consider when working with people who live with disabilities. Some examples include:

  • having respect for their understanding and experience of the disability and its effects
  • being mindful of using inclusive language when speaking about a person’s disabilities
  • helping identify and understand barriers that disabled people might experience
  • incorporating the individual’s strengths into the therapy’s structure
  • adjusting goals and recommendations to accommodate their disabilities

If you’re a therapist who works with people who have disabilities, the most important thing is to continue to educate yourself about the experiences of this disability and how it affects day-to-day life.

Intersectionality and disability

Intersectionality describes the way in which a person’s various identities, including things like gender, race, sexual orientation, and more, interconnect and create unique experiences of oppression and discrimination.

Many of the barriers to treatment that people with disabilities experience arise because of intersectionality.

For example, someone living with a disability who doesn’t have access to health insurance because of a lack of income will experience increased barriers to accessing mental health services. And other factors, such as gender and race, can compound the discrimination and barriers disabled people face when seeking or receiving treatment.

Read the rest of this informative article on Healthline.

If you find suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues due to a disability or other causes, please see our information on treatment options including Psychotherapy Treatment in NYC.

Barry J. Richman

Author Barry J. Richman

More posts by Barry J. Richman

Barry J. Richman MD Psychiatrist NY

Manhattan, NYC Psychiatrist
(212) 889-5463