The BDN is making the most crucial coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact in Maine free for all readers. Click here for all coronavirus stories. You can join others committed to safeguarding this vital public service by purchasing a subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
Maintaining mental health during this uniquely stressful time is more important now than ever. There are many steps you can take to address mental health issues at this moment in the pandemic . Sometimes, though, the best help is going to come from a professional.
If your daily stress and anxiety has started to interfere with your daily life and functioning, here is how to go about finding a therapist during the pandemic.
Finding a therapist
If you are ready to start your search, Kathrine Butler Hepler, psychologist at the University of Maine Counseling Center, recommended Psychology Today’s online “Find a Therapist” search engine.
“It allows you to filter your search by gender of therapist and what type of therapy is good for you, by insurance companies that they do and don’t accept,” she said. “You can read a bio or a piece that’s written by the provider and get a bit of a sense of who they are and how they interact through that. That sense of somebody and that connection you can feel is really important in establishing trust and engaging in therapy in the way that’s most beneficial for you.”
Hepler suggested asking your primary care physician to recommend a therapist, as they might have a connection to a good therapist and be able to make a solid referral. Also, ask your friends who have gone to therapy if they recommend anyone in particular.
“Ask them if they have a recommendation, and what about that relationship or work with [the therapist] was a good fit,” she said.
Regardless, she said not to be afraid to make a few phone calls and put yourself out there.
“There are some therapists that take a while to call you back,” Hepler said. “Don’t be afraid to call a second time. If you haven’t heard back in a week, call again. You’re not being a pest, you’re trying to get your needs met.”
Jessica Browne, staff clinician and co-coordinator of outreach & prevention at the University of Maine Counseling Center, said not to be intimidated by the commitment of therapy.
“Come in for a session or two [and] dance in and out of it as you need,” Browne said. “This is not a one year commitment, and you don’t have to tell me about your mother either if that’s not what you want to talk about.”
Alternatives to in-person therapy
If you aren’t comfortable with in-person consultations given the pandemic, telehealth options are available.
“Telehealth services are much more prevalent during the pandemic,” said Holly Bean, director of recreation and leisure studies at the University of Southern Maine. “If you have insurance, check with your insurance carrier for services. If you do not have insurance, you may have to call various counselors to learn if they offer a sliding fee.”
Bean and Browne also recommended checking with your workplace to see if they offer Employee Assistance programs.
“It’s different for everybody, but they usually have a certain amount of therapy sessions allotted to them — and that is confidential,” Browne said.
There are other options as well that have been designed and curated by mental health professionals. Bean said mindfulness apps such as Calm and Mind Shift are very popular for younger adults. For those working through substance abuse issues, she recommended the app Twenty-Four Hours a Day.
“For those who do not subscribe to mental health counseling, self-help books could offer assistance,” Bean added.
Hepler also suggested talking to your priest, minister or pastor if you don’t want to engage in psychotherapy and are looking for guidance that is around your fatih.
No matter what kind of mental health help you wind up seeking, just know that even people who can help you manage mental health professionally might be in the same boat as you and will be able to empathize with your struggles.
“We’re in tandem with our clients doing similar or the same things,” Hepler said. “It’s a different kind of shared experience than I think any of us in this field have ever had. There’s so much universality right now and that’s been a gift, in a way.”