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July 2020

Finding a therapist in the age of COVID

Within the last few months, psychotherapy has gone almost entirely online.  Instead of meeting in a cozy office, clients and mental health practitioners across the country are adjusting to meeting through their electronic devices.

Because a therapist’s license covers them practicing within their state, clients now have greater selection of who they can work with.  Instead of being limited to one’s neighboring area, clients now have the freedom to work with any therapist who is licensed with their state board.  While some may appreciate the broader range of choices, others might feel overwhelmed by having too many choices.

As a practitioner whose services has transformed from 100% in-person to 100% online in the last 3 months, I have appreciated the benefits of telehealth during this challenging time in history. The biggest advantage to telehealth is the convenience factor.  With commuting no longer an obstacle, clients are more able to fit a therapy appointment into their work day or into their family life.  Clients who typically have transportation challenges can easily see a therapist within the convenience of their own homes.  During the age of COVID, safety is the other great advantage of teletherapy. Both clients and therapists do not have to carry the added anxiety of exposure when seeing one another.

Because our normal social support may no longer be accessible or are overloaded themselves, this is a opportune time for people to consider starting therapy – a dedicated time to talk about your concerns, thoughts and feelings & receive focused support.

Choosing which therapist you work with is an important step of the therapy process.  Here are some criteria you may want to consider when choosing your therapist:

1.  Connection

Do you feel comfortable sharing about yourself with the therapist?   Do they listen with understanding and empathy?  Is it easy to communicate? Or is it awkward?  Those who are new in therapy or have social anxiety might need a few sessions to feel out the client-therapist connection.  Others might know right away it’s not a good fit.

Sometimes the connection isn’t quite there.  And it’s neither person’s fault. It’s okay to trust your gut when you feel that the connection isn’t quite there and tell the therapist that you will continue looking for a better fit.

2.  Cultural Preferences

By “culture”, I refer to categories that people identify with, such as generational culture (i.e. age), ethnic culture, sexual identity, etc.  Due to your life experiences or the issues you’re needing support with, you may prefer a therapist who has shared lived experiences or identify with a specific culture.

3.   Specializations

Some therapists may have special training in using specific techniques or treating specific issues.  For instance, many people who seek me out have already experienced “talk therapy” and now want to experience therapy from a very different approach (which in my case includes somatic-based therapy and hypnotherapy). Some clients are already aware of their unique challenges and would prefer a therapist who is an expert in that area. Those seeking therapy for their child or relationship concerns may want to find a therapist who works with those specific family units.

4.  Finances

For many people, finances are the primary factor in making their choice.  Many people need to use their in-network benefits in order to receive therapy.  Some people are not insured but cannot pay private practice rates; thankfully there are options such as Open Path and community clinics (such as the Center for Community Counseling and Engagement in San Diego) that offer affordable and quality services. If you find a private practice therapist who you would really like to work with but cannot afford their full fee, there is no harm in asking if they have a sliding scale or reduced fee.

5.  Location

Even though the majority of therapists are currently working online, you may want to eventually see your therapist in person.  Or you are aware that your insurance benefits will not cover telehealth indefinitely.  These are two examples in which you may want to find a therapist who is local instead of someone who lives in another part of the state.

Many therapists offer free initial consultations over the phone – this is a great opportunity to ask questions and to get a feel for the therapist.  The therapist will also be utilizing the phone call to assess if they will be able to support you with their needs or if perhaps another practitioner will be better able to help you.

I hope you found this article helpful as you navigate finding a therapist!