“Why Charge for HeadCheck?”

ImageI’ve told many friends about HeadCheck. They have a variety of reactions:

  • Oh my God. If only my ____ (aunt, dad, friend, boss, etc.) had one of those before ____ (the accident, the illness, the stressor) happened, everything would be different.
  • Dude. This is huge.¬†
  • Why has no one thought of this before?
  • Great idea (laugh)! Maybe I need one of those (laugh)!

All great responses with implications worthy of their own post. But here’s the comment I want to discuss here, the one I hear from my business savvy friends:

  • Why don’t you offer it for free, tell everyone they need therapy, and keep them as clients?

I know they mean well, but this one stings. This misses the whole point of HeadCheck.

It’s no secret, my primary career is psychotherapy. I spend most of my work week as a therapist in private practice, I write a blog about therapy, hell, I founded National Psychotherapy Day. I may be one of the world’s biggest evangelists for psychotherapy as a profession. I love therapy and believe in good therapy 100%. But HeadCheck isn’t therapy, nor is it a way to drum up therapy business for myself.

HeadCheck is about mainstreaming mental health awareness. Not just mental illness awareness (a worthy cause led by these guys), but mental health awareness. We’d like everyone to take their mental health as seriously as they take their physical, dental, financial, occupational, and all other forms of health.

We’d like “Check Between Your Ears Every Two Years” to become a rule of thumb like “change your oil every 3 months or 3000 miles” or “spend two month’s salary on an engagement ring” or “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We want to change our attitudes, and therefore our culture regarding mental health issues. Restaurants now report calories on their menus to promote physical health awareness because our culture is acutely concerned with issues surrounding our bodies. But we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to the care and wellbeing of our brains, emotions, and relationships.

We charge for a HeadCheck because it is a stand-alone mental health service, not a loss-leader to get more therapy clients. We’re not offering free tests on the street in order to convert you. We charge a fair rate (about 10% of a full assessment battery) that pays for our time, materials, experience, opinions, and a written report. We don’t recommend therapy to everyone who takes a HeadCheck, just those who have an emotional or relational issue that could benefit from therapy. And even then, we’ll give several referrals that may not include one of us. We’re thrilled when we give a HeadCheck and find that person is WNL on all 50 dimensions. Good to go. See you in two years.

We charge because what we offer is worth it. HeadCheck isn’t bait, it’s the real thing.

The Serious Post

ImageOklahoma City. Columbine. 9/11. Hale Bopp. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood 1. Aurora. Clackamas. Seal Beach. Newtown. Boston. Fort Hood 2.

I know there are dozens more. No disrespect to the many victims and survivors, but I don’t have the stomach to do the research to develop a comprehensive list of mass killings over the past 20 years. It’s depressing. Some of these killers had known psychiatric illnesses. Others were undiagnosed and flew completely under the radar. Others still might not have shown up as disordered, but clearly had some distorted views on the value of life vs. their particular cause.

What I’m not saying:¬†(Big disclaimer here) I’m not writing this to suggest that HeadCheck would have prevented these tragedies and saved those many innocent lives. I’m not proposing that HeadCheck be used as an instrument to weed out potential killers — those aren’t the type of measures we conduct, and we don’t aspire to move into that field. I’m not talking about HeadCheck today, I’m talking about mental health stigma.

What I am saying: The year is 2014, and we still have a mental health stigma. We don’t talk about mental health issues, we don’t talk about distress, we view people who go to therapy or seek other mental health treatment as somehow flawed. I don’t know the details, but I’ll bet that many of those infamous killers saw a physician and a dentist within two years of their horrific act. Why? Because every American knows you should see a physician yearly and a dentist every 6 months. What if it were just as common to see a mental health professional at regular intervals? Again, I’m not saying that all of these events could have been prevented and the lives spared. Someone hell-bent on destruction is hard to contain.

But I will propose that if every American citizen felt as comfortable discussing their mental health as their dental health, if they sought treatment as often and didn’t feel shame for having problems, we’d have fewer tragedies like those mentioned above.

HeadCheck isn’t designed to identify mass killers in the crowd. But it is designed to demystify and de-stigmatize mental health issues, and help people see it’s actually fun, cool, and beneficial to know your strengths and limitations. You see, our business provides mental health checkups to the Pasadena area, but our mission is to help change global attitudes about mind health and wellness. If this attitude becomes the culturally accepted norm, I hope these horrific tragedies will become the exception rather than an all-too-common reality.