EComing out of pandemic isolation, Susan* (her name has been changed to protect her privacy), like an incredible number of other Americans, has seen her mental health plummet. She once relied on social interactions to support her outgoing personality and found that her mood had changed. She knew she needed help, so she put herself on a waiting list for therapy at a local practice. She has been waiting for over six months and still has not been able to see a clinician.
His story is far from unique. Since the pandemic, long waiting lists have become a common part of people’s quests to start therapy. Therapists across the country are struggling to meet the demand for care spurred by a rise in mental health problems such as increased depression, anxiety and anxiety. At the same time, Burnout among clinicians is also prevalent, as therapists are seeing fuller client lists than ever before.
So what can you do if you’ve decided it’s time to seek help for your mental health, but you don’t know when you’ll actually be able to get an appointment?
What is it like to join a waiting list
It’s not uncommon for therapists to have six- to eight-month waiting lists, especially for specialists, says Merrill Wood, LCMHC, CRC, a counselor at Ivy and Oak Therapy. Even when you find an opening, it’s not always certain that the therapist will be the right partner. “Finding a great therapist can be like finding a great restaurant — it takes time, it’s subjective, and it’s important that you don’t give up if the first option isn’t for you,” says Wood.
When you add your name to a waitlist, you can ask the practice when they might have an opening. “Sometimes we know someone is leaving therapy or moving away and there will be an opening at a specific time,” explains Patrice Le Goy, PhD, LMFT, MBA, international psychologist and assistant professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
If the practice has no indication of when they might have an opening, it’s wise to keep looking. psychology todaytherapist phone book can filter therapists who are accepting new clients and criteria such as insurance accepted.
Wood says there’s no right or wrong number of waitlists to join, but she recommends joining more than two. “This decision depends on the style of therapy you want or need, the number of options available in your area, the severity of your symptoms, and the time you have to contact and communicate with potential therapists,” says Wood.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During Therapeutic Limbo
When you have located potential therapists who meet your criteria, how can you support yourself while waiting for an appointment? Although nothing can replace therapy, some practices can provide support in the meantime.
Self-care is essential, with or without a therapist. To start, Elisabeth Gulotta, LMHC, owner, founder and psychotherapist of NYC Therapeutic Wellness, recommends practices such as eating nutritious foods, good hygiene, exercise and journaling. “Personal care is very individualized, so the most important thing is to find what works best for you,” says Gulotta.
It can also be helpful to build your support network through new friendships and stay in touch with those who care about you, Gulotta adds.
While waiting for the opening of a therapy, specialists support groups tailored to your needs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can be helpful. Wood also recommends therapy manuals like the Self-help workbooka workbook using the Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach.
While resources like podcasts and therapists’ social media accounts can’t replace a therapeutic relationship, Gulotta says they can offer some assistance. If you need to troubleshoot, telehealth therapy platforms like BetterHelp Or Discussion area generally have shorter waiting lists and can help fill the gap while you wait for more specialized care or in-person therapy.
When to seek immediate care
There are times when waiting for it isn’t your best bet. “Some signs you need immediate care are if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, you have serious substance abuse issues, or you are unable to go about your daily tasks where you cannot. get out of bed or go to work or school,” says Dr. Le Goy.
Wood says symptoms such as hallucinations or distressing delusions warrant urgent care. For people struggling with eating disorders, Wood says criteria for getting prompt care include recently losing 15% of your body weight due to dietary restriction or limiting nutrient intake to only one or two small meals a day.
Dr Le Goy points out that care also becomes essential in violent situations because they can escalate quickly. Resources such as helplines and domestic violence programs can offer immediate support.
Helplines can also help resolve urgent issues for a range of symptoms and connect you to local resources. Sometimes immediate care may involve going to a local crisis unit or emergency room, or going to an inpatient or outpatient program, depending on your needs.
How not to feel defeated
You can follow up every two weeks with the waiting lists you are on. “I hope clients feel empowered to include questions in their initial email inquiry that might seem ‘awkward’ or ‘awkward,’ because therapists are specifically trained and equipped to deal with difficult questions,” says Wood. .
Knowing you need help and asking for help is a brave first step, even though waiting for therapy in the midst of a shortage of clinicians can feel deflating and endless. Relying on online resources, supportive relationships, and self-care while you wait can offer some respite.
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