Is Retail Therapy For Real?

By Patricia Haddon

Is Retail Therapy For Real?

We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy”. Whether it’s an online shopping spree or a trip to your favorite store, it may not cure what ails you but, it can sure make you feel better. So, what happens when same retailers, who sell us everything from soup to Beer Nuts, actually offer us psychotherapy in retail locations?

Florida Man Gets Therapy

CVS Health is offering retail therapy in a pilot program across 4 states: Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in the home state of Florida Man. They’re providing telehealth and in-person therapy in ‘private consultation rooms’ inside CVS stores. The rate is $59 for a 60 minute session. Wow, what a breakthrough. Convenient one-stop shopping for patients who want to get their s*** together and buy Charmin Ultra Soft at the same location!

Attention Walmart Shoppers

CVS is not alone in rising to meet the growing mental health needs of Americans. Walmart has opened Walmart Health. In Georgia, Walmart is providing 60 minute therapy sessions for $60 and 45 minute sessions for $45. I think they also offer 30 minute sessions- but you have to have less than 5 issues to be in that line.

Thanks to the addition of therapy to Walmart’s other services, (pharmacy, vision center, nail and hair salons) shoppers can now get their heads shrunk and their mullet trimmed in the same superstore. As Don King would say, Only in America! Before you consider Walmart as your next healthcare provider, we urge you to visit  www.peopleofwalmart.com. We eagerly await the launch of www.PatientsofWalmart and the adventures that will surely bring.

Does My Therapy Come With Fries?

By now you think I’m kidding. But, in January 2021, Amazon rolled out telehealth services for thousands of their employees. Now, they plan on expanding their psychotherapy services nationwide. (Again, get TP and therapy in one-click!) Not to be outdone, Kroger supermarkets are going to offer therapy under Kroger Health. No word yet from McDonalds, or if their sessions will come with an Unhappy Meal. No word either if we can expect to see group therapy bundled by Costco under Kirkland Counseling.

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If you’re picturing the Walmart Greeter as your next therapist, not to worry. Their specialty is hospitality. Corporations are hiring licensed clinicians as independent contractors. They are required to sign contracts that hold them solely responsible for all legal and ethical treatment issues, including HIPAA and state/interstate telehealth laws. However, clinician contracts completely indemnify and absolve the corporations of all malfeasance and legal liabilities. This means if something really baaaad happens and you want to sue Walmart or Amazon for malpractice, don’t bother to keep your receipt.

Real Healthcare or Real Housewives?

While retail therapy has all the makings of reality TV, it does indicate where our healthcare delivery system is headed as it’s commoditized by corporations.

Other additions to the telehealth scene are Talk Space (IPO in 2021) and BetterHelp (from the Silicon Valley). With Talk Space, clinicians provide psychotherapy treatment to patients via text. Yes, texting. (As in, LOL or WTF???) Unfortunately, there aren’t enough characters or emojis to describe how I feel about texting as a substitute for professional psychotherapy. So, I’ll just be succinct with 2 characters – BS. Two beers with a friend at happy hour is cheaper. And, your thumbs will thank you. If you’ve ever dated online, you know what I mean. There’s a big difference between texting someone and that moment when you finally meet and sit down face-to-face.

Better Help offers telehealth at $60-80 per session. They don’t accept insurance and all costs are out-of-pocket. Clients sign subscription contracts with monthly charges. It’s kind of like joining a gym. You pay whether you go or not. I don’t know much about them other than, (a) they spend a boatload of money on TV and Google Ads and (b) they’re gonna need their A-game to compete with big box providers who have beer, mani-peddies, and free food samples onsite.

In Conclusion

Opportunities exist during the worst of times, even in a pandemic. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to see new players jump on the retail medical bandwagon. Unfortunately, the drivers are cost containment and profits; not patient care. Be very clear, this is not just about psychotherapy and mental health. Corporations are commoditizing health services and competing to deliver all of your healthcare needs; including medical and dental. Note the number of commercial urgent care facilities that have sprung up, such as; City MD, Fast Med, GoHealth, MinuteClinic (probably not your best choice for treating sexual dysfunction) or The Doctor is In (Except that he ain’t. He just owns the franchise.)

Before grabbing your next shopping cart, ask yourself the following questions: Will the most experienced, specialized medical professionals be available to you under cost containment? Would Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk text for mental health? Or, in a medical-life emergency would they gasp, “Quick, get me to Walmart”? Your life is equally important. So, is your healthcare. Are you ready for a root canal in Aisle 8 or to have your next baby delivered by Amazon?