Here we are in the second month of 2021, and the COVID crisis is still rearing its ugly head. We are almost one year into our quarantine, and while many spent their time baking sourdough bread and binge-watching Netflix, others, many, many others struggled with depression and anxiety.
According to the CDC, by the end of June 2020, 40% of Americans said they were experiencing mental health issues and substance abuse. About 11% seriously considered suicide. Because of the various stay-at-home orders and other public health guidelines, access to mental health services was fraught with obstacles. Fortunately, many mental health providers, myself included, turned to technology to provide services. Clinicians all over our city began providing counseling via telephone, Skype, FaceTime, and ZOOM.
Collectively, these services are called tele-mental health or tele-therapy services. Legal and ethical guidelines loosened during this time, allowing for more people to have more access to the help they so desperately needed. As it turned out, many people liked the tele-therapy model and sought out services. Not having to go to an office, being able to talk with a therapist from the comfort of your own home, and needing only a phone or laptop made tele-therapy quite appealing. In addition, research is showing that psychotherapy offered via tele-therapy is as effective as in-person therapy.
This is very good news. If you are interested in getting tele-therapy services, here are five tips to get you started. 1.Start with your insurance provider. Many insurance companies are reimbursing for tele-therapy services and some are even waiving co-pays. Medicare and Medi-Cal have also been making provisions. Check the website for your insurance company, Medicare, or Medi-Cal for more information. 2. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), check it out. Some companies offer tele-therapy as an employee benefit. 3. There are many therapist directories on the Internet that can lead you to the right tele-therapist. Google “online therapy” to find resources, such as PsychologyToday.com, GoodTherapy.org, FindATherapist.com, BetterHelp.com, and TalkSpace.com. 4. Ask for recommendations from friends, neighbors, family members, doctors, and/or clergy. Often getting a recommendation is the best way to find a therapist because the person making the referral either used that the therapist themselves or knows their work. It’s not a “cold-call” like finding a name on a directory might be. 5. Once you find a therapist to meet with, set up an initial consultation. Many offer a free initial consultation, as I do. Use that consultation to learn more about the therapist and to figure out if you are a good fit.
Research tells us that the best predictor of a positive outcome in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. So, if you need to meet a few therapists before you decide whom to work with, that’s fine. If a therapist pressures you to start right away, politely decline and keep looking. With tele-therapy available, there is no reason to suffer alone.
By Dr. Sheila Forman
Dr. Sheila Forman is a clinical psychologist based in Santa Monica who provides tele-therapy services. For more information, call 310-828-8004, or go to www.Dr.SheilaForman.com