Carepath Team Corner with Dr. Deborah McLeodMaking space for our mental health

Dr. Deborah McLeod was set to retire when Carepath, a virtual healthcare navigation service, approached her in hopes that she could lend her expertise to help develop its Mental Health program. It took a few months of convincing, but Dr. McLeod says it was her passion for providing one-on-one psychotherapy that ultimately persuaded her to take on the challenge.

“I had worked in a blended clinical and academic role for 20 years. But my first love is clinical care – clinical practice,” she explains. “I didn’t really want to abandon that just yet.”

As a Psychotherapist and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as an Advanced Practice Nurse in the field of psychiatric mental health, Dr. McLeod was well equipped to launch the program, which she continues to lead as Clinical Director.

Carepath was originally a niche cancer care navigation program that offered support to cancer patients to ensure they had ongoing access to help. While its Cancer Assistance program still exists, Carepath now offers a Chronic Disease and Elder Care program and – yes (thanks to Dr. McLeod) – a Mental Health program.

“I think it’s fair to say that the biggest gap – in terms of what is provided by public systems and what is the need… the biggest gap is in mental health,” she says. Carepath asked Dr. McLeod to help them fill that gap by developing its Mental Health program in 2017.

“There doesn’t seem to be a way that government is going to pay for the level of mental health care that society needs,” Dr. McLeod says, adding that therapy sessions often cost upwards of $200 per hour. “The most common things we’re dealing with are anxiety, depression, and trauma. The standard number of sessions to treat those conditions would be 10 to 24.” She notes that while some providers offer marginal coverage for such therapy, the coverage is usually capped at around 80% for a maximum of five or six sessions. “It’s inadequate! We’re different because we don’t limit the number of sessions.” 

In fact, members who have mental health group benefits through Carepath can access fully covered, long-term therapy with Dr. McLeod or one of her highly-experienced colleagues composed of clinical psychologists, advanced practice nurses, and social workers. 

Dr. McLeod and her team pride themselves not only on how accessible their mental health services are, but also on the quality of those services, noting that they use a practice known as clinical supervision to collaborate as a team. “This is an advantage of having really experienced staff. Other people have one or two modalities they can offer,” she says, explaining that her clinicians discuss their difficult cases as a group so they can help each other by offering alternate solutions. “There’s very much an exchange of thinking and ideas whenever any one of us gets stuck. We all have something to teach, and we all have something to learn.”

Dr. McLeod hopes the program itself will continue to evolve, saying her goal is now is to explore different digital platforms – beyond the standard secured video and phone therapy sessions – as a means of offering more options to Carepath members. “Research has shown that virtual programs work incredibly well,” she adds, adding that both facilitated and self-guided therapy apps have been proven successful. “They’re hugely beneficial!”