It's awesome news that you are ready to take the leap to be a healthier you. This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, and it doesn't just affect you. The status of your health changes everything that you do, say, and think. You will be a better parent when you are healthier. You will be a better co-worker, supervisor, partner, community member, PTA president...everything will look, feel, and smell different when you start to make healthy changes in your life.
Enlisting the help of a therapist is one of the routes to health. In Part I of this series, So, You've Decided to Go to Therapy: Picking the Right Therapist, I offered three tips in finding the right therapist for you—starting with determining your mental health needs, thinking about your comfort level and preferences, and challenging yourself.
In this article, I'll offer some considerations for how to fit therapy into your already-busy life.
Calculate Your Logistical Needs
Consider your work and family schedule. Being able to get to treatment is going to be a part of your life as most traditional mental health treatments occur on a weekly basis. Do you need a therapist who provides evening and weekend hours? Are you able to break away in the middle of your workday to attend a session?
Can you negotiate an altered work schedule on a specific day so you can get therapy in? For example, can you work from 7-4 on Wednesdays (instead of 8-5) so that you can get to your therapy appointment by 4:30 pm?
If there is a considerable distance between home and work, think about whether you want to find a practice that is closer to you. You spend a good deal of your time at work each week, so it may be more convenient to have a therapist closer to work than home. However, if you schedule appointments on days that you are off, do you want to make that drive? You already drive that distance on workdays.
In addition to planning on how you’re going to get from point A to point B, remember to arrange for help with things like picking up your children or handling other responsibilities so you can focus on your health. Asking for help may feel uncomfortable, but your mind and body will thank you.
Consider Telehealth, In-person, or Hybrid Appointments
Since COVID-19, telehealth has exploded—and for a good reason. It can be a cost-effective and time-effective way to engage in treatment. Make no mistake, there are some major benefits to it.
If you live in a treatment desert (i.e., places where therapists are scarce), then you most likely have benefited from telehealth services. This is important as 33% of U.S. counties do not have a psychologist on record, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Additionally, telehealth benefits those with demanding jobs that require them to work longer than the typical 8–9-hour shift (think law enforcement, healthcare professionals, CEOs/CFOs, etc.) or those who must work 2-3 jobs in a day. These situations are less difficult to navigate with telehealth appointments because travel is eliminated from the equation. If you get limited breaks during the workday (e.g., teachers, bankers, laborers), you can still break away and attend an appointment in your vehicle or outside on a park bench.
However, there are also some drawbacks. Sometimes, your natural environment (e.g., work, home) is too distracting to dedicate the attention and focus that therapy requires. If you can hear a toddler crying in the background, your partner unloading dishes from the dishwasher, and the dog barking at the squirrel outside while you are sobbing about a recent miscarriage, it's not very therapeutic! Even if the environment isn't distracting, sometimes it's just not safe to talk. If there are others milling around at work during therapy, it may not feel like a space where you can be vulnerable.
These are important considerations to balance when you are picking a therapist. Since COVID-19, several therapists have opened 'telehealth only' offices, so there may be limited to no opportunities to attend sessions in person. Plus, you may want that option at some point, even if you don't want that now.
Picking a therapist who fits your needs has many sides, and it's likely that you won't check all your boxes. Try making a therapist "wishlist" that is prioritized in terms of what is most important to you in a therapist. Then, look for someone who checks as many boxes as possible. You may not find the perfect therapist on paper, but you can get pretty darn close!