The Problem Surveys -- including one released last month by the American Psychological Association (APA) -- suggest that privacy concerns and fear of stigma deter many people from seeking mental health treatment. Many insurance plans require diagnosis of a mental illness before they'll pay for therapy, for example, and some patients seeking therapy are reluctant to be labeled with a mental disorder.

Proposed Solution OnMind Psychological Services offers access to a network of licensed mental health care providers who agree to charge reduced fees to subscribers who pay out-of-pocket. Providers share no treatment records with insurers, employers or others.

How It Works A $50 annual fee entitles an individual and immediate family members to a list of OnMind providers, including around 90 in the greater Washington area. Patients pay -- by cash or check -- reduced rates (e.g., $60 for a 45-minute session with a "doctoral-level therapist," which OnMind calls a 45 percent savings over the standard fee). Other benefits include discounts on medications and access to a 24-hour help line. Providers agree to the lower fees in exchange for eliminating insurance-company wrangling, gaining greater control over treatment decisions and getting quicker payment. OnMind president Kevin Westrope (an insurance broker) said his company does not have access to treatment records or other patient information.

Pricey privacy? Russ Newman, APA's executive director for professional practice, said his group's survey shows that cost considerations are bigger barriers to seeking mental health care than privacy and stigma concerns. A service such as OnMind won't help those who can't foot the bill.

See for Yourself www.OnMind.info [note that "info" suffix] or call 866-266-6463.

-- Jennifer Huget