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Can’t get in with your therapist? Here are some online tools to use in the meantime

Finding a therapist locally these days can be challenging, especially when you factor in insurance. Here are some online tools that can help you.

PORTLAND, Maine — Taking care of our mental health is at the forefront of a lot of minds these days. 

Rich Brooks, 207’s tech guy, dropped into the studio to share some tips for finding mental health tools online. 

Check out the conversation below:

Why is it so hard for people to find mental health counseling right now?

Brooks: There were already wait times for many therapists even before the pandemic. But the added stress of COVID, the isolation many of us felt, the political turmoil in the US, and all the other uncertainty that seems to be in our lives right now has really amped up the stress and anxiety that many feel.

It's even tougher if you're looking for a specific type of therapy, such as for couples, LGBTQ-related issues, and more.

Why the shift to online therapy?

Brooks: Obviously, during the height of COVID, most therapists stopped seeing patients in their offices and switched to Zoom sessions. While that was very difficult for both therapist and patient at the beginning, it became easier and more normalized over time.

The stigma of tele-therapy disappeared.

The other issue is that during the pandemic, most states relaxed their requirements around who therapists could see. This was a boon to a lot of people, including college students, who were able to stick with therapists they knew from their home states.

What are the benefits of online therapy?

Brooks: Convenience, for sure. Anywhere you can "log in," you can have a session. 

It also offers access to more people. Keep in mind that in rural areas — like we have in Maine — it can be very difficult to find a nearby therapist. Some people spend more time in the car than they do in the chair.

Also, we've all become very comfortable with videoconferencing, so that's not a barrier for most people.

What are the downsides?

Brooks: There are obviously some things that are lost when you're not in the same room with your therapists; things they might pick up on in person that they can't necessarily see when they only see your face on Zoom.

Also, some of these online apps may not be using licensed therapists for all aspects. Not all states have the same licensing requirements or have any at all for just being a "therapist."

Some therapists also report that it can be challenging with younger patients, especially ones suffering from ADHD.

There may also be concerns around privacy and protection. Any app or video conferencing tool has certain vulnerabilities.

What does online therapy look like? Is it always Zoom?

Brooks: While Zoom or Skype are most common, teletherapy can also be delivered via voice or even text.

How do we find an online therapist?

Brooks: While you can certainly Google one, getting recommendations from a trusted resource is always a good idea. 

There are many resources online that have search and rating systems for teletherapy, and with that, you can also filter down if you're interested in a specific type of therapy or one that specializes in teens, couples, or another specialty. Some include Psychology Today, Verywell Mind, and GoodTherapy. 

I would recommend coming up with a short list of potential therapists and interviewing them. Just because they worked for your friend doesn't mean they're a good fit for you.

You can also reach out to your insurance company if you don't want to pay out of pocket. They may have some in-network resources that you can check out.

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