How to Find an Online Therapist
Dear Savvy Senior,
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 pandemic hit and cost me my job. I need to get some professional help, but I’m also high risk for illness and very concerned about leaving the house.
I’m sorry to hear about your job loss and the difficulties you’re going through right now, but you’re not alone. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, fear, anxiety, and depression are being reported by 45 percent of Americans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.
To help you through this difficult time there are a variety of therapists, psychologists, and other mental health providers you can turn to. And because of the pandemic, most of them are now 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 can also 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 healthcare providers don’t participate in insurance plans. (Medicare does cover mental health services.)
If you want some help, there are also online platforms that can help match you with a licensed mental health provider. For example, Talkspace and BetterHelp, are virtual services you can access through your phone or computer, that contracts 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 can also 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 possible option is Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based health centers, some of which may offer teletherapy services at no cost. To search for centers in your area visit FindAHealthCenter.hrsa.gov.
There’s also this website called Open Path Collective, where therapists offer low-cost online sessions for between $30 and $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 with the person, 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.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Jim MillerContributing Writer
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 300 U.S. newspapers and magazines. Jim is also a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens.
Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times. In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television. Read more from Jim Miller.