Hope for the Holidays: Mental Health Treatment and the Holiday Season

By Courtney Weider

Gain tools to help you navigate entering mental health treatment during the holidays, including insurance considerations as we head into the new year.

Entering treatment during the holidays is a brave step to prioritize your mental health and recovery above all else.

As with many of our biggest life decisions, there is never a truly “convenient” time to begin treatment or increase our level of mental health support. The holiday season can feel like an especially challenging time to do so. We may be busy with holiday commitments or look forward to using the time to rest and be with loved ones.

Regardless of our initial plans or expectations, moving away from them is almost always tough. It’s helpful to know what options are available to you, including in-person or virtual care, and find new ways to celebrate this holiday season.

The holidays in treatment may look different

Between putting holiday traditions on hold and, in some cases, traveling for treatment away from loved ones, there can be a grieving period when you realize that your holidays will look different this year.

Depending on the level of care you are entering, you may be celebrating festivities with your care team and peers in treatment, or you might be able to step away and visit with loved ones. Regardless, it is important to process any feelings this brings up for you.

It can be helpful to name these feelings and share them openly with your therapist in private or group sessions. It is likely that others are having similar feelings and experiences around the holidays. Reminding yourself why you made the decision to enter treatment and thinking about all the future holidays you will be able to celebrate in recovery can be a helpful perspective to combat any feelings of disappointment.

Fear of missing out is real, and it’s okay to feel however you do about spending the holidays in treatment. In the end, acceptance and making peace with the holidays looking different is a helpful step toward focusing on your recovery.

Take recovery home for the holidays

An important step when entering treatment during the holidays is identifying whether virtual or in-person care is right for you. If you are stepping down from a higher level of care, or you are looking for more support than weekly sessions with your outpatient provider, a virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) can offer a bridge to recovery this holiday season.

Eating Recovery and Pathlight At Home, our virtual IOP for eating disorders and mood and anxiety disorders, offer the same quality care as our in-person treatment but from the comfort and privacy of your own home. With so much to juggle during the holidays, this can serve as a convenient option for those seeking intensive outpatient care, taking the commute and other logistics out of what can be an already chaotic season. Our virtual programs are covered in-network by most commercial insurance plans.

By taking recovery home for the holidays through our virtual programming, you have a community of people who understand what you are going through, building resilience and skills you can begin practicing in real time as you navigate holiday stressors.

Untangle insurance in the new year

In addition to the emotional considerations around being in treatment during the holiday season, it is important to know how to navigate logistics with your insurance benefits resetting in the new year. Ashley Triplett, our national patient access manager, and her team ensure that this is a smooth process for patients and their families.

Patients typically fall into one of two scenarios:

  • Insurance is staying the same, but the deductible and out-of-pocket costs are resetting, or
  • Insurance is changing to an entirely new plan, and coverage needs to be confirmed.

Once admitted, be sure to ask your treatment team to connect you with the Patient Access Team. In both scenarios above, this Patient Access Team will connect with your insurance provider directly and take care of the logistics.

If your insurance is staying the same, then no news is usually good news and no action will be needed on your part, unless you hear from the Patent Access Team. If you are moving to a new insurance provider or plan, you can submit a picture of your new insurance card to the team and they will reach out once the plan is active effective January 1.

Since we are not able to reach out to your insurance provider until the new year, here are some questions you can ask them directly to get in front of any potential issues:

  • Is my new insurance plan in-network with Eating Recovery Center or Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center?
  • Are there any exclusions or limitations related to mental health?
  • Can I travel outside of my home state and still use in-network benefits?
  • What is my out-of-pocket maximum?

Our team explains that it can feel overwhelming to think about the insurance process, but that patients and their families should not let these factors stop them from entering treatment during the holidays.

“The best thing you can do is enter treatment when it’s clinically recommended,” Triplett shares. “We partner with you to address any financial concerns so that you can focus on getting the care you need, when you need it.”

Recognizing the challenges many families face, we work with patients on payment plans or financial assistance when needed. The key is connecting with your Patient Access Team as soon as you are thinking about changing insurance, and they will help in any way they can to ensure a smooth transition into the new year.

Find new ways to celebrate in recovery

Entering treatment and working toward recovery is a gift you give to your future self, along with all the memories that you will make at future celebrations with loved ones.

If you are unable to take time away from treatment to celebrate the holidays this year, start a new tradition with your peers in treatment, or find a way to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way despite the distance. Some ideas include:

  • Write snail mail holiday cards to your loved ones.
  • Watch your favorite holiday movie (or one you’ve never seen before).
  • Get a holiday-themed coloring book for cozy crafting.
  • Put up decorations or go look at holiday lights.

Depending on the level of care you are in, you can suggest doing these as experiential outings or you can do them during your time away from treatment. Your care team is also likely to have holiday-themed activities planned.

The holiday season is all about community and connection. So is your recovery. Though it might look a little different this year, remember that you can find meaningful connections and community wherever you may be.


Suggested Reading: What is Treatment Like During the Holidays? A Q&A with Dr. Kim Anderson

Written by

Courtney Weider

Courtney Weider is the content manager and writer at Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center. This role combines her passion for both storytelling and mental health advocacy to…