It all started with a WhatsApp message. Six months ago, in September 2014, the psychologist Jorge Fresco sent a text to one of his patients reminding her about her next appointment. To his surprise, she replied that she was thinking about abandoning therapy despite her recent improvement and positive results. She said she couldn't continue due to economic reasons.
“At that moment, I thought, ‘I want to keep on treating her, I want to help her,’” Fresco told The Huffington Post in a phone interview.
For Fresco, the WhatsApp message was a turning point. He discussed it with his partner, Antoni Martínez, and they both arrived at the following question: How could they reach all of those people that needed therapy but couldn’t afford it?
Soon, they found a solution for their own practice at the Psicología en Positivo (Positive Psychology) Center, in the city of Valencia, Spain. They called it Positive Mondays. That day of the week, Fresco and Martínez treat all who can't afford to pay for their therapy for free.
“We try to offer a moment of happiness to those who don't even want to get out of bed on Mondays,” Fresco said.
“We started with clients that might be facing economic hardships. After that, we started promoting [Positive Mondays] and since then we've received many requests. So far, we've been able to treat nearly 20 people,” Fresco said.
They offer a full therapy session just like the one that they give those who pay them, be it for live sessions in Valencia, or for online sessions with those who live in other parts of Spain. To be a part of Positive Mondays, the only requirement is to fulfill their admissions criteria. These include certifying that you're currently unemployed, that your salary isn't enough to cover the costs of the therapy, or that you depend financially on someone else who can't afford it either.
The two psychologists are heading this initiative, but they also have the support of a team of trainees coordinated by the therapist María Cartagena. These trainees start out as co-therapists with experienced psychologists. After they've gained enough experience, they start doing therapy under a superior’s guidance. Eventually, they fly solo and start training therapists on their own.
“After the patients’ sessions, we have a team meeting in which we comment on the cases, and the more experienced psychologists offer guidance to those other psychologists who are still in training,” said Fresco.
Among the patients that they are currently treating, there is a 32-year-old woman from Valencia that I will call Eve, in order to protect her privacy. She’s been attending Positive Mondays for three months.
“A while ago I had been going to a psychologist due to a traumatic and anxiety-inducing situation,” she said. Eve was unemployed and she couldn't afford to pay him, so the psychologist sent her to the practice of Jorge Fresco and Antoni Martínez. “They evaluated my case and got in touch with me. Since it was free, I wasn't sure how it was going to be, but the truth is that they are one hundred percent involved in each of their sessions.”
For Eve, the experience has been enriching.
“Every time I go I tell them that I can't thank them enough. I've changed a lot… my life has changed,” she told The Huffington Post.
Yolanda heard about them through social media. She is a 42-year-old unemployed woman from Valencia who saw a friend’s Facebook post that talked about Positive Mondays.
“I was going through a rough patch and I happened to see that they had just started the program and that I fulfilled the admission criteria,” she said. Yolanda felt that her life was in turmoil, but she wasn’t quite sure why, so she decided to try attend a session.
“I was blocked, I wasn’t moving forward,” she said. “In the therapy, I started discovering that low self-esteem was the cause of it all. Slowly, I started to know myself and realized that I was the one responsible for the barriers I was facing.”
After ten weeks of treatment, Yolanda is now in the final phase. She says that Positive Mondays “opened a world” for her, so much so that she even found a job.
“One thing led to another,” she said. “I reinforced my self-esteem, I became a bit stronger and now I’ve found a job.”
Jorge Fresco also thinks the program’s results have been positive.
“We were a bit scared because sometimes if there isn’t an economic transaction, there’s a risk that the patient will opt to abandon therapy, but thus far few people have quit,” he said.
According to Fresco, the lack of an economic transaction has actually made his job “more authentic.”
“I’ve always considered this a calling,” he said. “I used to tell my mother that even if I became a millionaire, I would keep on doing it.”
This post was originally published on HuffPost Spain and was translated into English.