There are a variety of reasons why individuals may choose to travel to other countries to seek mental health treatment. Some of the major concerns when people realize that they need treatment are the cost and finding the correct treatment center that will work for them, an issue that can seem particularly relevant after seeking treatment for the initial time. If an individual is uninsured, an expatriate, in a legal bind, or a number of other situations, going abroad may be the best option or even necessary to get the necessary treatment. Depending on where someone lives, they may be limited due to their costs to the extent that they would not be able to find an option that offers adequate professional, holistic, and high quality care. While it certainly is not a viable option in all situations, looking into mental health treatment centers abroad may be ideal (DARA, 2011).
Obviously, one would need to look into these treatment centers thoroughly. If monetary issues are fueling the search, hash out the costs thoroughly. How much are the travel arrangements and is that in addition to the cost of the treatment less than desirable options within the country? Do you need to detox before the flight or can you do it there safely (i.e. without potentially suffering dangerous acute withdrawals or bringing illegal substances into the airport and through customs? Looking into treatment abroad can make things more complex, but if you’ve settled on a single treatment center, ask them to help you plan ahead with the technicalities (visas, detoxing, passports, those little adapters for the electricity outlets…).
Often the idea of “medical tourism” has a bad name. People imagine the stereotypical American teenager self-conscious about her body going to Cancun and getting a gastric-bypass on spring break, which inevitably is somehow botched up. In reality, that’s generally not the case. One CNN article reports that, “survey by consultancy firm McKinsey found that most medical tourists travel in search of advanced medical technologies or to receive better care than they would at home” (Tutton, 2009). I certainly saw a good deal of that during my treatment days. Some of the best treatment centers are in the United States, and it’s not unusual for people from other countries to be attracted to the opportunities of our psychiatric and psychological treatment centers. I can’t name the people from out of the country that I’ve seen in some of the best treatment centers in the country, but let’s just say there are some big names…
This actually leads me to another point, often seeking treatment abroad affords individuals with a professional reputation or celebrity status more anonymity. Especially for individuals within the medical community, to simply check in to a psychiatric facility can easily get back to where they are employed or worse. It isn’t ideal, but whether it’s other doctors or clients, words slip out sometimes. Going out of the country, especially in smaller medical communities and in countries that may have a less tolerant or flexible view of addiction and recovery may be ideal, if only to decrease anxiety about the future while in treatment. Sometimes when out of the country, these facilities may even allow people to check in with or at least use an alias.
So if you have the option, interest, time, and need, take a look at your options. Do you want to go to Scotland, Serbia, or Spain? Asia, Antigua, or just Arizona? Take a minute and breathe before you commit to a month of treatment. What is the best choice for you?
DARA. (2011). Travel Abroad for Addiction Treatment. Retrieved 2012, from Drug and Alcohol Rehab Asia .
Tutton, M. (2009, March 26). Medical Tourism: Have Illness, Will Travel. Retrieved from CNN.