All over the world, people are paying more attention to their mental health. More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of psychological counseling and seeking help when they need it. Unfortunately, in South Korea help can be expensive, but today I will introduce you to one affordable counseling option.
Unfortunately, if you live in Korea and subscribe to national health insurance (NHI), it does not cover psychological counseling. It may cover some psychiatric treatment by a physician and medication once you have been diagnosed with a condition. However, it does not cover any psychological therapy or counseling for people who need professional help. As a result, many people hesitate to seek help because of the cost.
When I had my issues two years ago, I tried to find an affordable psychology clinic. It was then that I stumbled upon this special program for foreign residents.
Most foreigners living in Seoul probably know about the Seoul Global Center. It provides help for foreign residents in a wide range of areas. The immigration office is also located in the same building as the center, making it a one-stop center for foreign residents in Seoul.
The Seoul Global Center regularly posts the latest news about government regulations that involve foreign residents, like vaccination and NHI subscription information. They also provide free Korean classes twice a year.
Once, I visited their help center where they had native staff from foreign countries. I consulted with an Indonesian staff member about financial aid for foreign students at that time. It was very helpful in helping me sort my finances as a student.
However, I was not aware that they also provide psychological counseling programs with English-speaking clinics. As soon as I found out, I wrote them an email. Knowing how busy they could be, I did not expect a prompt response.
A month after my email to SGC, I received an email from a psychological counseling clinic. They said, “We are requested by Seoul Global Center to help you see an assigned therapist.” In the same email, they provided the therapist’s available appointments. Then, I let them know when I would be able to meet for psychological counseling.
After they confirmed my schedule, they explained that SGC provided 5 (five) counseling sessions. It would cost me just 50,000 Korean won. I had to pay in cash at my first session.
As soon as I arrived, they processed my registration and asked me to do a short psychological assessment for my first session.
In this first session, the therapist started with a small assessment and asked questions about my relationship with family members and friends. She also probed about the reasons I sought therapy. At the end of this session, we decided on which issues we should focus on because I would only have 5 therapy sessions. She said we needed to work on the most urgent issues first.
Afterward, each session was 60 minutes long. All of my sessions were conducted with the same therapist in a private room. I felt comfortable and safe inside their rooms although the rooms did change every session. The therapists spoke English well, so for me, there was no language barrier although English was not my first language.
At each section, the clinic asked me to sign an attendance form, because they needed to report it to SGC.
The therapy went well for me. But, I have to admit that 5 sessions were not enough. The therapist offered to continue, but after 5 sessions, you have to pay for it yourself. Unfortunately, I could not afford it so I had to stop.
Additionally, the therapist gave me a reference for an English-speaking psychiatrist. They said that NHI would cover some of the medication and treatment from the psychiatrist.
If you are in Korea as an international student, you can try looking for a Counseling Center at your university. Some universities may offer free counseling sessions for students. Students often find their mental health declining during their studies. So, especially if you have mental health problems related to academic stress, approaching your university’s counseling center could be a good option.
My university, for example, offered 12 free counseling sessions for students. Unfortunately, they do not have many English-speaking therapists, so it was not accessible for me.
I have not tried going to a psychiatrist yet, but from other foreign residents’ experiences, NHI does not cover the pricey consultation fees for most English-speaking clinics.
If you would like more insight on visiting a psychiatrist in Korea, Click Here. This writer was recently diagnosed with ADHD and depression and is undergoing treatment while covered under NHI.