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Savvy Senior: How to find an online therapist
SAVVY SENIOR

Savvy Senior: How to find an online therapist

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QUESTION: What is the best way to find online therapy services for my anxiety and depression? I just turned 63 and have become increasingly hopeless since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and cost me my job. I need to get some professional help, but I’m also at high risk for illness and concerned about leaving the house.

ANSWER: I’m sorry to hear about your job loss and the difficulties you’re going through, but you’re not alone. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, fear, anxiety and depression are being reported by 45% of Americans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.

To help you through this difficult time, you can turn to a variety of therapists, psychologists and other mental health providers. And because of the pandemic, most of them are offering counsel to their clients online through teletherapy services. This will allow you to interact virtually with a therapist from the comfort of your home using only a smartphone, tablet or computer.

How to find a therapist

A good first step to locating a therapist is to ask your primary care provider or family and friends for a referral.

You also can look on your insurer’s website for a list of therapists covered under your plan. But be aware that some insurers have limited or even no coverage for mental health, and many mental health care providers don’t participate in insurance plans. (Medicare does cover mental health services.)

Other resources to help you find a good therapist include online tools at the American Psychological Association (locator.apa.org) and the American Psychiatric Association (finder. psychiatry.org).

If you want some help, online platforms that can assist in matching you with a licensed mental health provider. For example, Talkspace (talkspace.com) and BetterHelp (better help.com) are virtual services you can access through your phone or computer that contract with thousands of licensed and credentialed therapists.

The process starts with a few questions to assess your goals, your condition and your preferences, and then matches you with some top therapists in your state.

If you don’t have insurance coverage or can’t afford therapy, you can call or text 211 (or go to 211.org) anytime for a referral to a provider who offers support at no cost or on a sliding scale, based on your budget.

You also can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 and ask for a referral to a local resource or provider or ask to be transferred to their “warm line” for nonemergency calls, where you can talk anonymously to a trained professional at no cost.

Another option is Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based centers, some of which might offer teletherapy services at no-cost. To search for centers near you, visit FindAHealthCenter.hrsa.gov.

There’s also Open Path Collective (openpathcollective.org), a website where therapists offer low-cost online sessions for $30 to $60.

Interview your therapist

Before you start sessions with a therapist, it’s important to make sure he or she meets your needs. If you’re not comfortable, you’re unlikely to benefit from the therapy. So, schedule a call or a video chat to get a feel for each other, and to ask about the therapist’s training, years in practice, specialties, therapy techniques and fee. Ideally, the therapist you choose will be a good personality fit for you and will be within your budget and/or covered by your insurance.

Jim Miller is editor of the Savvy Senior. Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org.

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