COVID-19 has forced Americans to adopt a new normal.
More than a million Americans have been infected with the virus. And millions more have filed for unemployment. You might be dealing with the loss of a loved one. Worried about how to get a new job. Sheltering-in-place alone. Or feeling confined with too many family members around. No matter your situation, life as we know it has changed. And many are struggling.
First if you think you or someone you know has signs or symptoms of a mental health condition, do not self-diagnose. Mental health conditions don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, may get worse over time and cause serious problems. Get treatment from a doctor who’s trained to help.
Since the outbreak, there are fewer in-person treatment options available. That’s where teletherapy and online therapy platforms can come in.
Teletherapy is more than 20 years old and is part of the telemedicine family. You might hear it referred to as telepsychology or telemental health. And it’s basically the practice of providing therapy via technology. Most of the time that means phone calls, texts, emails, online chats, or video conversations with a medical professional.
It usually means not venturing out of your apartment, and keeping a safe social distance from other people. And since it’s all happening digitally, you’re able to pick a space that you feel comfortable opening up in.
Another pro: access to experts. The type of therapist you need could be miles or even states away. Teletherapy allows you to bridge that gap and see the specialist you need without having to travel. Plus it allows for remote support between visits.
Well, teletherapy isn’t for everybody. This form of therapy requires patients to have the right technology. That means certain people like seniors or low-income groups might have a harder time participating.
Then there’s the whole virtual limitations thing. Speaking to a therapist from behind a screen or by phone can only paint part of a picture. Psychologists usually look for verbal and nonverbal cues when assisting patients. Add a text chat into the mix and their ability to get a full picture lessens even more.
Navigating and finding a therapist is hard on a regular day. Let alone doing it during a global pandemic. Here are some places to start:
If you’re going the teletherapy route make sure you’re on a secure, HIPAA-compliant system. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. It basically means your health info will stay between just you and your doctor. If you’re not sure whether your therapist is using an encrypted or privacy-compliant platform, ask.
Before you move forward with a therapist or a platform, there’s a few things you should think about:
It depends. If you have health insurance currently: Start on your insurance provider’s site. Most healthcare plans in the US offer mental health benefits just like they offer medical or surgical benefits. So if you have insurance, there’s a good chance you can get subsidized access to mental health treatments, like therapy.
Once you’ve established what kind of benefits are offered within your provider, start to think about some other questions you might need answered like: which therapists are in your network, what it takes to submit a claim, how long you might be covered, or if there are deductibles or copays involved.
If you can’t find coverage through insurance: Check to see if you can find help through a Federally Qualified Health Center. Experts also recommend reaching out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741, which offers free help all day, every day. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
As norms change and as COVID-19 continues, you might be struggling. Know that just because your routine doesn’t look the same doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Whether that means turning to a support group, finding a therapist, talking with a friend, or downloading an app, know that there are options available while you continue to shelter in place.
Skimm'd by Lindsay Schneider
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