It’s easy enough to say we never truly know what the future holds. And to be honest, putting it that way somehow takes the pressure down a notch (que sera, sera, right?). What’s difficult is remembering this adage when faced with things like uncertainty, isolation, anxiety, and depression, not to mention illness, death, unemployment, evictions, political and racial unrest, and increases in domestic abuse and suicide – basically everything we’ve been facing these past 19 months. Any one of these alone would affect our mental and emotional well-being, and last year many of us suddenly faced some, most, or even all of them, provoking unprecedented stress.
In fact, a University of Michigan survey revealed that since the start of the pandemic, respondents had experienced the following physical manifestations: 36% were having trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much; 26% had poor appetite or were overeating, and 36% were unable to stop worrying.
This is without a doubt the ideal time to consider speaking to a mental health professional.
Either Ego or I Go
It wasn’t that long ago that there was still a stigmatic bubble around seeking therapy. Mercifully, the early 2000s saw a shift towards normalizing taking control of mental health, and the latest generations have blown the narratives wide open about a full spectrum of disorders, treatments, and medications.
Additionally, an organ is an organ, and if it doesn’t work the way it should (and science can help), that fact should be celebrated, not shamed. For instance, no one would criticize a type 1 diabetic for taking insulin to regulate the functioning of their pancreas; the same should go for someone taking antidepressants to regulate the functioning of their brain when it can’t produce serotonin.
But even if medication is not necessary, simply speaking to someone can have significant benefits. Often, giving a voice to what is troubling you can neutralize its power over you, and help you understand your response to it. That being said, some people might have trouble opening up to family and friends (being vulnerable does not come easily to everyone). That’s where speaking to a therapist has an advantage: a licensed mental health professional will listen without judgment and will provide unbiased feedback to help you navigate the issues at hand.
While the world is slowly opening up again, some states continue to observe social distancing and closures. These circumstances make it difficult (or downright impossible) for a potential patient to enter a clinic or an office to receive treatment. Much like the rest of the world, the mental health sector has had to adjust how it conducts its practices, and the good news is that many providers have found success in unconventional ways to continue sessions with their patients.
The main method has been to go digital, with many mental health professionals conducting their sessions with their patients via video chat. Although some therapists were initially hesitant about making the switch from in-person to online sessions – citing reasons such as the inability to see first-hand physical cues that could reveal just as much as spoken words (a shaking foot or a trembling lip), or the inability to read the energy in the room – many have found online sessions to be surprisingly effective. A common discovery was that by being at home, in their own spaces, patients were more willing to open up and were more relaxed and ready to share. Even the at-home interruptions (a spouse or partner accidentally entering the session or a child needing care) provided additional insight into their patients’ lives that would otherwise only be relayed second-hand if the sessions were held outside of their home.
From the patients’ point of view, they have found that talking to their therapist via FaceTime, for example, also helps make the exchange feel more familiar and less awkward – almost like talking to a friend. There is a level of intimacy in conducting sessions this way compared to a traditionally neutral office or clinic space.
Another option has been in-home therapy, where a therapist comes to you. Much like the online sessions, this arrangement provides a more familiar and comfortable environment to the patient but has the added benefit of being face-to-face with a mental health professional. This is also an excellent option for those with mobility limitations or a lack of transportation.
When considering whether therapy is right for you, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be patient. You may have a session or two with a therapist that you’re not comfortable with, and that’s ok – these professionals understand that they might not gel with every patient, and you are absolutely within your right to seek a better fit with another therapist.
- Understand that certain mental health conditions can take time to treat. While some individuals may gain the tools they need after a few sessions, others might need weekly counseling for many months or even a few years. Everyone responds to life in their own way, and it’s not a race or a competition; you have the right to live it at your own pace.
- Know the costs. While finding a therapist can be a massive step in taking control of your mental well-being, it can also be expensive. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to see what exactly is covered.
If you should have to pay out of pocket for therapy, there are still several more affordable (or even free) options you can consider:
- Local support groups
- Crisis hotlines
- Universities and colleges
- Sliding scale therapists
- Mental health directories like Good Therapy and Open Path Psychotherapy Collective can match you with lower-cost therapists
And I can’t stress this enough: don’t be shy about any of this.
None of us come into this life with an instruction manual (if only, am I right?). Global pandemic aside, we’re often faced with many challenges of varying degrees that can deliver speed bumps (or roadblocks) to our day-to-day goings-on. It’s unrealistic and unfair to assume that everyone has the insight or knowledge on how to deal with life’s challenges. We all need help sometimes. And therapy is an excellent way to get it.
To learn more about how the pandemic is changing the face of healthcare in America, check out Sekure’s blog and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.