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How To Get Therapy When You Can't Leave The House

By allaboutfa3909812, Apr 8 2020 08:39PM

Written By Shereen Marisol Meraji and Lauren Hodges

With the U.S. at the epicenter of a global pandemic, therapy sessions (or goals to start them) might be taking a back seat. But between telecommuting, home schooling, unemployment woes, toilet paper shortages and an ever-present sense of doom, mental health care is more important than ever.

A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of adults say the pandemic has affected

their mental health. But as states battle the spread of the coronavirus with stay-at-home orders, people can't attend their regular therapy sessions.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

For people who aren't in therapy, why might they want to consider it now — especially when we can't walk into a therapist's office anytime soon?

Well, because this is a really stressful time! The news is scary and depressing, but we kind of have to

stay on top of it, keep watching, keep reading to get the latest guidance from the government: How long are schools closed? Are we allowed outside? Which businesses are open?

We're also home-schooling kids, dealing with unemployment or less income, worried about sick friends and relatives. It's a lot. And it can be really helpful to talk to a third party, let off some steam and get a little advice to manage it.

What about cost? People are worried about money right now. Is therapy covered by insurance?

If you have insurance, it depends on the plan. Check your policy. Make sure it's covered. And your insurance company can also give you a list of options and names so you don't waste your time talking to people who don't take your insurance.

If you already have a therapist, just ask them how they can continue your sessions and if anything will change with their copays. Since this is such an unprecedented situation, they might still be figuring it out. That also could mean they're flexible and open to suggestions that could work for you.

What if you don't have insurance?

I know a lot of people are dealing with losing their insurance under their former employers. You do have options. You can ask for the sliding-scale rate, meaning the therapist works with you based on what you can afford. There's also this website called Open Path Collective, where therapists offer sessions for between $30 and $60. That's a pretty typical copay for insured patients. Call some of those people, ask how they're holding sessions right now and what they're doing to go online.

And it's worth mentioning during this national emergency, many insurance companies are changing their rules and coverage will now include three types of virtual services: telehealth visits, virtual check-ins and

e-visits.

If you already have a therapist, how easy is it to make this switch to online or teletherapy?

I talked to Seth Gillihan, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. He has switched all of his patient

sessions online. He said it might feel weird for the first few minutes of that first video chat but that you'll hardly notice it after a while: "What people seem to find is that you forget about the medium relatively quickly. I think about it kind of like watching a movie. At some point you stop being aware of the fact that you're staring at a screen, and you get really immersed in the story."

So get set up on your phone or laptop, make sure you've downloaded the right app, find a comfortable, private spot away from your family or roommates. Go into a closet if you have to! Make sure your Wi-Fi is good. And just like regular therapy sessions, you can write down some stuff you want to talk about beforehand. Or you could just wing it and see what comes up for you.

Is it still going to be effective?

I think it's pretty helpful to have that neutral person to process our frustrations and confusions with, no matter how we're talking to them. It can be tempting to talk to friends and family members about our problems because they're right there. But over time, that can be emotionally draining and taxing on our relationships. Therapists are trained professionals. They can give us advice, help us gain perspective. And they're bound by the law to keep things confidential. So that's a big plus with them.

It can feel really tempting to put your mental health on the back burner right now because there's so

much happening. But you might need help more than ever. And it's not great to just constantly download that onto your friends and family because they're going through the same thing too. Therapists are

trained professionals. They have confidentiality in mind. If you have insurance, you can ask your

insurance company to help you find a provider or a method. And if you don't have insurance, there are

lots of free options and low-cost options for you out there.

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