Why Teletherapy Is a Good Idea and How to Start
As parents juggle a multitude of to-dos in the midst of this global crisis, it can feel intimidating to begin something new, especially a seemingly weighty undertaking like therapy. But experts say there's never been a better time. Here's why—and how—you should get started.
We're all focused on safeguarding our physical health right now, but the toll this moment is taking on our mental health cannot be overstated, either. A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), published on April 2, found that 45 percent of adults say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a "major impact."
Given all the amplified and extra stressors parents are now facing, beginning anything new—let alone a new relationship with a therapist—could feel daunting. But there's never been a better time to devote time to caring for your mental wellness.
Why Start Teletherapy?
If you're worried that initiating a relationship and working with a therapist over Zoom or FaceTime feels like it will be a "lesser than" experience than meeting in person, take heart in the fact that the basics of the therapeutic process always remain the same, no matter how you show up, be it online, in person, or on the phone, says Adriane Kruer, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with Echeveria Therapy Collective in Los Angeles.
Plus, you might even feel more comfortable in a virtual session, points out Lauren Cook, MMFT, a doctoral candidate of clinical psychology at Pepperdine University, who shares, "Many of my clients have told me that in some ways it feels easier to do therapy this way, especially if they feel hesitant to be vulnerable with their emotions."
It offers an opportunity to process.
"The sudden need to be both parent and teacher, while attempting to be productive working from home or having abruptly lost a job and income is whiplash-inducing," acknowledges Barrie Sueskind, MFT, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles. "So much about the structure of our lives has changed in a flash."
Working with a therapist can help alleviate some of the pressures around this flip-switch. "We are in the midst of a shared traumatic experience and in these times of increased stress our own issues become more magnified," says Stephanie Macadaan, a Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist and creator of The Happy Couple Plan. "The closer to ‘in the moment’ that you can understand, process, and deal with these challenges, the better."
You can learn how to set boundaries.
When people are forced into spaces that they cannot get out of, like quarantining with family members, boundary issues come up often, notes Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert in Los Angeles. "With loved ones invading your space or acting demanding, it's a great time to begin therapy and deal with being overwhelmed," she says.
You can make peace with feeling a loss of control.
One of the most difficult emotions to ramp up for many people right now is the fear of not being in control, says Dr. Raymond. "It can show up in eating binges, micromanaging everything and everyone in your space, insomnia, etc.," she notes. Working through this challenge with a therapist can prove extremely useful and stress-reducing.
How to Get Started
Ask for referrals.
Connecting with friends or loved ones who've already established relationships with their therapists, as they could help point you in the right direction. "I also suggest to clients that they contact their nearby university or college as they have several referrals with low-fee options that they are obligated to provide for you," says Cook.
You can also get a list of in-network providers from your insurance company. Or use a therapist directory, such as Psychology Today's "Find a Therapist" and GoodTherapy.org. "Psychology Today is like Match.com, but for a therapist," says Cook. "You can enter your preferences regarding location, insurance, gender, problem area, etc."
Do an initial consult.
"Have a phone call with each therapist to see who you might get along with the best or who you feel most comfortable with," says Maryellen Dance, LMHC, with Quantum Leap Therapy in Pittsford, New York.
Remember, there's nothing you have to do to "prepare" for therapy.
"Don't worry about not knowing what exactly you want to get out of therapy or even what exactly you want to say in the first therapy session," advises Dance. "Most of the therapist's job is to help you feel comfortable and help you define what you need."