This article has been contributed by April Hanna, a guest blogger!
Remember when you sat in a waiting room before seeing your therapist?
Yeah, me too.
In the wake of COVID-19, mental health providers have shifted to operating on a fully remote basis. And those who were used to sitting on a couch for a face-to-face therapy session are now adapting to remote therapy. While telehealth is starkly different from the traditional therapy setting, and it might take some getting used to, virtual mental health services are a great resource. They offer flexible scheduling, with many providers offering a variety of times to schedule an appointment. Telehealth platforms often offer multiple communication methods between the client and the clinician, such as unlimited messaging, video chat, and phone call options that are all conducted through HIPAA compliant servers. Additionally, remote therapy is oftentimes more financially accessible, with many services offering bundled or subscription packages that can be purchased on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at counseling, or considering trying it for the first time, remote therapy services are something we all can benefit from.
Where Can I Access Remote Therapy Services?
Seeking remote therapy might seem like a daunting task with all of the options out there. However, there’s a myriad of online services that vary in cost, flexibility, and therapy type. If you’re already seeing a therapist, there's a good chance that they may also offer phone or video chat sessions. But if you’re looking to start or get back into therapy, there’s many online platforms that will help pair you with a therapist that’s best suited for your needs.
BetterHelp is the world’s largest fully online counseling service to-date, with over 10,000 licensed therapists practicing on the platform. BetterHelp offers three different subscription tiers: weekly, monthly, and quarterly. However, each subscription grants access to all of their features: unlimited messaging between you and your therapist, flexible scheduling for appointments, and the option of video chat or phone call sessions. Their clinicians go through a rigorous screening process before they are approved to conduct therapy services, and strive to provide counseling for a variety of populations struggling with mental health issues. Once you sign up for BetterHelp, you’ll be prompted to fill out a questionnaire that will help the platform pair you with a therapist best suited for you. And just like traditional therapy, you have the option to switch therapists at any time.
Talkspace has been ranked the #1 rated online therapy app, with over 1 million users on the platform to date. While video chat sessions are available, Talkspace focuses more on instant messaging, where the client and therapist have a private, HIPAA-compliant messaging room. Talkspace therapists reply 1-2 times a day, and the room is set up for the client to be able to set aside time each day to write about how they are feeling. For many, messaging one-on-one with a therapist can lessen much of the anxiety that can come along with starting therapy. If you’re looking for a starting place to dip your toes into therapy, Talkspace can be a great first plate. They also offer a discounted student plan, accept various insurance plans, and provide counseling for teens and couples, too.
Cerebral is a NYC-based startup that launched at the start of this year, and they’ve been booming ever since. Cerebral provides low-cost therapy and psychiatry services, all online. If you’ve been considering trying a medication for anxiety or depression, or are seeking a more cost-effective option, Cerebral might be your answer. They offer subscription packages that offer counseling only, psychiatry only, or a combination of the two. However, all subscriptions include ongoing support with a Care Counselor to help monitor your wellbeing, and if you’re seeking psychiatry, you are required to meet remotely with a nurse practitioner every 90 days. Cerebral also accepts FSA and HSA programs to help cover subscription costs. Medications are sent monthly, and providers are available through video chat sessions to guide you every step of the way.
Transitioning From In-Person To Remote Therapy
Whether you’re starting remote therapy through a private practice or signing up for an online service, here are some pointers to help you begin or transition to remote therapy services.
Create a Routine
If you used to go to your therapist’s office for weekly, in-person appointments, you probably had a routine of some sort in place (whether you realized it or not). Maybe you drove there, and picked up a cup of coffee beforehand from your favorite coffee shop. Perhaps you took public transportation, and listened to music or a podcast on the ride there. Or, regardless of how you got to your therapist’s office, maybe you made it a point to change into comfortable clothing to feel more at ease during your session. You might be asking, why does this matter?
Routines help our minds acclimate, and prepare for whatever’s ahead. It can also help us get into a certain mindframe or calmer space. Consider creating a new routine before you start a video chat or phone call session with your therapist. While there isn’t a “commute” with remote therapy, carving out some time before your session starts to carry out a routine that centers you can help the transition from in-person to remote therapy. Your pre-therapy routine can include anything and everything that makes you feel more calm and centered - lighting a candle, preparing a cup of tea, or listening to your favorite album are just some suggestions. Find what works for you, and make it a routine.
Set Aside A Space
Our therapist’s office acts as a safe place to share emotions, work through problems, and, well, be vulnerable. With remote therapy, one of the pros is being able to access it anywhere that you have a reliable internet connection. However, recreating that quiet, safe place is important for therapy sessions to be effective. Consider where in your living space would be optimal for therapy sessions, and make it a point to talk with your therapist in that same space for every session. This should be a place where you feel comfortable speaking freely and openly, have a reliable internet connection, and feel most relaxed. A bedroom, basement, or even your (parked) car all count, as this space looks different for everyone depending on their living situation and comfortability. Once you find your therapy “spot,” make an effort to hold all of your sessions in that place in order to build familiarity. Again, routines…
Just like in traditional therapy, you as the client have the right to choose and feel comfortable with the therapist that you work with. Take time to learn about what your therapist specializes in, what prior experience they have, and what their therapy style is. Take into account what you’re looking for out of therapy, and what therapy modalities have worked well for you in the past. If you’re paired with a therapist through an online platform, such as BetterHelp, you have the option to switch therapists at any time. Even though it might not be a good fit on the first try, don’t let that deter you from trying again.
TL;DR: When you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and has experience in treatment for your specific needs, that’s truly when change and growth can happen.