We shouldn’t have to choose between our physical safety and our mental health.
Right now anxiety is running high due to fears of coronavirus. Entire cities are being shut down, and we are being asked to stay at home as much as possible. It’s becoming more and more difficult to see anyone—especially our mental health providers.
For those of us who are prone to anxiety and depression, it’s particularly important to tend to our mental health needs during heightened times of stress and uncertainty. So, what do you do when you can no longer see your therapist in person?
The good news is that therapy doesn’t need to end because we can’t leave the house. Many therapists are already offering their clients phone or virtual sessions. If your provider hasn’t offered this service, don’t be afraid to ask! This might be new for some of us, both as clients and for therapists, but it gives us the opportunity to prioritize our mental health, get the support we need right now, and realign our needs with our therapist. And, we have options: phone sessions, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, WhatsApp, and Zoom to name just a few. Figure out what is most comfortable for you and your provider. (For those of you worried that it just might not be the same, evidence shows that virtual therapy can be equally as effective as in-person sessions.)
Therapy doesn’t have to stop when we’re stuck at home
There are advantages to these virtual sessions, too. They’re often more convenient for both the client and the provider since it cuts out travel time and creates more flexibility in scheduling (later evenings or early mornings open up). There are many options available today—companies like Talkspace and Betterhelp provide therapy through text, phone, and video sessions. For folks who don’t have time for a full session, interacting through text can be a great solution. Texting can also help those of us who find it easier to express ourselves in writing rather than verbally.
If you haven’t ever done therapy before but are interested in starting, you can search mental health care providers on Psychology Today. Just type in your zip code and click ‘Find a Therapist’. Using the filter on the left-hand side you can search for online therapy options, insurance coverage, and other specialties to help you find the right fit. Another option is to call your insurance company directly to ask for therapists in your network.
Your community can also be an amazing resource—if you feel comfortable, ask your friends or family members if they know a therapist that might be well suited for you. And as mentioned before, Talkspace and Betterhelp are easy options to get started right away.
If you decide to try virtual therapy for the first time, with either your current mental health provider or with someone new, here are some tips:
- Schedule your session for when you know you’ll have time to yourself. Set yourself up to get the most out of your time with your therapist. Virtual therapy makes it easier to schedule time in the evenings when in-person sessions might be harder to find. If you’re a parent, caregiver, or work long hours, this gives you more options—after the kids are in bed or you finally can get some “me time”.
- Find a spot where you feel comfortable. You might surprise yourself! It may be easier to be your most vulnerable and authentic self in the comfort of your bedroom or even laying in your bed.
- Don’t worry about appearances. A lot of people may dress up to see their therapist only because it is a normal part of getting ready to leave the house. With virtual therapy, there’s no need to “get ready.”
- Set your phone to silent, or better yet, turn it off (unless you are using it for your session). Remove any distractions. If you are using another device, make sure your notifications are turned off.
- Ground Yourself. Before jumping into your session spend a minute doing a grounding exercise to relax. It can be hard to transition from “being on” to being in a reflective, open-hearted space without the drive or walk to the therapist’s office to set the tone.
Remember, you don’t have to choose between leaving your home and tending to your mental health. Talk to your provider today about virtual therapy.
-Ruby Mehta, LCSW, Tempest's Clinical Operations Lead