Disclosure: I am not a mental health professional. I write based on my own experiences and research with the intention of providing helpful resources and destigmatizing mental illness. Information provide is not for diagnostic purposes but to talk through why you may want to reach out to a qualified professional, and how you might find one.
Ah, yes, that familiar but uncomfortable blanket of hopelessness. Ink and digital cartoon by Lynell Ingram.
Is Therapy Right For Me?
Here are just a few thoughts (not exhaustive) that could potentially cross your mind if you are wondering about if therapy would be good for you:
Am I just sad, or do I have depression?
Is it normal to panic whenever I have to call and make an appointment?
Sometimes I don’t feel like I know myself. Does everyone feel that way?
If I keep showing up this way, I might lose my job/relationship/friendships.
It seems like I feel nothing a lot of the time.
I’m so afraid about going out but everyone tells me I’m being paranoid.
Doesn’t everyone really hate something about themselves?
I don’t sleep through the night anymore.
It doesn’t matter how much I sleep, I’m just always so tired.
My friends don’t want to hang out because I have such a short fuse anymore.
I just don’t want to see anyone at all for a while.
Other concerns may be if you find yourself consuming a lot of alcohol or drugs in an effort to cope, if you’re experiencing changes in your ability to sleep (too much or not enough), your appetite, you’re questioning your ability to be rational or your perceptions, you’re noticing extreme mood changes, including highs and/or lows, or excessive worrying or fear.
Now right off the bat, some of these things could also relate to physical health, so it doesn’t hurt to address a potential physical cause with your doctor, who can listen to your concerns and and do a thorough check up, or even provide a referral to a psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker as necessary. Our physical health tends to be entwined with our emotional health.
Changes in mood, feeling low, stressed out, and scattered are feelings that we typically all experience at some time. The question is, how much does it impact your life? If you’re experiencing something internally, new or long term, that is affecting your ability to work, to have reasonably healthy social relationships, or your ability to take care of your health, it is worth reaching out to talk to somebody. Honestly, if you’ve landed on this article because you have wondered any of these things, it is worth reaching out to talk to somebody.
And that somebody should be someone who is well qualified to speak to you with knowledge and compassion. A licensed therapist or social worker (for counseling), or a psychiatrist (for treatment, medication and diagnosing), based on what is available to you. Knowing where to start can feel intimidating. Let’s look at what some options may be for you.
Where to start when looking for help*
First of all, if you are in crisis, please immediately call or text 988. This is the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Hotlines are free and anonymous numbers that you can reach out to for immediate assistance or counseling that are created by either non-profit or government services. If you need to talk to somebody right now more than you need help over time, this is where to start.
Here’s a great listing of multiple numbers (including international) from Psycom that are all free to call for mental health support, domestic abuse, sexual assault, veterans crisis, and more. https://www.psycom.net/get-help-mental-health
If you have health insurance available to you, you may be covered for mental health services, sometimes called behavioral health in your plan. Check your description of plan benefits to find out what your coverage is. Call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask the insurance company directly if you don’t have a copy of your plan benefits. They can tell you your coverage as well as help you find somebody in network.
If your insurance is provided by your employer, you can also reach out to your human resources representative. If you have an HMO plan and already have a general practitioner doctor, you can start with them and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or therapist.
EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs)
If you don’t know where to start and have a job that provides you with an EAP, these often confidentially cover some initial therapist sessions or an evaluation. When I first realized I was hitting a wall of feeling completely numb and checked out, calling my EAP was where I started. After a short conversation, it provided me 8 free therapist appointments, which led to an initial referral to a psychiatrist. If you are unsure if an EAP is available through your employer, reach out to your human resources department.
Social workers help people traverse difficult problems in their lives, including through counseling. There are both public (Veteran’s Administration, Health and Human Services, etc), and private sector (Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, domestic abuse shelters, rehab clinics, disability assistance organizations, etc.) social workers. They typically can also help navigate government or other social services like Medicaid, Medicare, finding housing, etc.
Find Treatment is a confidential search that let’s you find resources by location. It’s great because it provides a comprehensive list of services offered and payments accepted (or aid offered) in their listings.
Psychology Today also offers a search for finding individual counselors by location.
If you are interested in therapy via your phone and are ok with paying out of pocket for your sessions (only a few accept some insurances), counseling apps may be a good option. Most have monthly subscription packages based on how many weekly sessions you want, and have cheaper options for therapy by messaging or chat and a higher rate for audio or video appointments.
I dug around online and while there aren’t a lot of major differences in them, here’s what I could find for apps that connect you directly to a therapist:
Talkspace Counseling ($$ - $$$ subscription per week) One of the highest rated apps, and it also includes therapeutic exercises, and symptom trackers. Talkspace DOES accept insurance and offers psychiatry and medication management, but sessions are only 30 minutes. Teen and couples therapy is also available.
BetterHelp Therapy ($$ subscription per week) They have a large pool of therapists to pair you with, but there are some complaints about their app, though their web based platform is thought to be very stable. They do not accept insurance but financial aid is available. The also do not manage medication.
BetterHelp also offers the TeenCounseling app for teens between 13-19.
Calmerry ($$ subscription per week) This is one of the most affordable app options (not drastically different, but when pennies count, they count) that also offers mental health tools.
Cerebral ($$$ subscription by month) Cerebral does accept insurance and offers medication management. They are well rated but there are complaints about tech issues with the app.
Larkr ($$ per session) offers therapy by session with no subscription and also offers mood tracking.
Pride Counseling ($$ subscription per week) This is a counseling app that specializes in therapy for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Support groups offer a safe space for sharing and finding support with others. They can offer encouragement, healthy coping strategies, and comfort, plus there is a lot of inherent value in connecting and relating to other people. Meetings groups are topic focused, (addiction, depression, caregiver support, grief, etc.) and may happen in person or virtually.
Cost wise, meetings are usually open to anyone, though there may be member levels that may ask for a small dues or voluntary collection.
VeryWellMind has a decent run down of some major groups where you can find websites to look for local or virtual meetings.
Find Help allows you to search by location to see what support groups (also other types of assistance as well) are nearby. Enter your zip code and look under categories to Care, Support Network, then Support Groups.
In in end…
What type of support, and what therapists or counselors will work for you will likely be different from the next person. I’d recommend starting with what feels the safest, and see how it fits. For me, I’ve preferred in person therapy (luckily my insurance has covered it), though it took me being with the 5th therapist before I found somebody that really clicked with me and has been able help me make real progress. It took a few years to end up here because I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed, but I’m so grateful to have the help I do now.
Every week I’ll be writing about other helpful resources and interesting information that I find in regards to mental health. Sign up for my Collectors Circle email newsletter to get notified when I new blog posts go live. I also tell stories about mental illness, struggles, and hope through my colorful paintings, and you can see all of my available paintings here.
Detail of What’s Mine? Mixed media painting by Lynell Ingram
Feel free to drop other good therapy resources, if you know of any, in the comments.
And as always, take good care of yourself.
*A lot of the I information I’m providing is primarily based around how insurance works in the US. If you are not in the US and looking for therapy, please reach out to a trusted health professional or reputable online resource for your location.