In a time marked by a 10-month pandemic, a flailing economy, and a coup attempt, it makes sense that we’re a little anxious. We’ve been stuck inside for nearly a year, with offices closed and businesses shuttering. Given the circumstances—which are impossible for individuals and even big, powerful institutions to control—you might feel the need to talk to a professional about the chaotic whirlwind consuming your mind. And that’s a great idea.
There’s a host of considerations that one has to make before starting therapy—and they often run the gamut from financial concerns to readying yourself to be honest with a total stranger. Here’s some of the ways you might start exploring therapy, including answers to some of the questions you might have about getting started.
How to find the right therapist
Looking for a therapist can be overwhelming, and finding one can often feel like looking for the right romantic partner—it has to be a good fit for the relationship to work. Luckily, we’ve distilled all of the ins and outs of finding the right therapist before, such as the various psychological disciplines therapists employ, the licenses and specializations they can have, and some of the more common questions you might want to ask when starting the relationship.
One thing that’s true across the board, however, is how important it is to trust your instincts. As writer Rebecca Fishbein wrote last year:
The real key to finding a therapist is exactly like trying to find a romantic partner—there has to be a “click.” After a couple of sessions, if you don’t feel like your therapist is someone you can open up to, then they are not the therapist for you.
Is teletherapy effective?
In a word, yes. But take it from me: My therapy sessions moved to this format last year when the pandemic started, and continuing the relationship even in this remote format has been immensely helpful. When all of our normal physical meeting places migrated online last year, Lifehacker’s Elizabeth Yuko wrote an explainer about teletherapy that should answer most, if not all, of your questions about the topic.
Though it took a while for the practice to become widely offered, due to government compliance issues and the typical bureaucracy of insurance companies, teletherapy—and telehealth, in general—has soared during the pandemic. As Yuko wrote last year, teletherapy is basically just as effective as the in-person equivalent:
What about text-based therapy?
Therapy doesn’t even need a computer camera these days: It’s possible to initially dip your toes in the water through text-therapy, which typically involves exchanging written messages with a licensed counselor or, in some more limited cases, a bot.
This avenue obviously comes with caveats: For starters, you miss out on real human connection and there’s a distinct lack of facial cues and tone. Short of those non-verbal cues, it may be harder to misinterpret some of the advice you’re getting. Texting also lends itself to diluting emotions; you can’t edit, delete, and or re-write what you’re actually saying to a therapist, after all.
But—and this is a big but—text therapy has its advantages. It’s a convenient medium to get at least some kind of counseling in a pinch, and it’s also far more affordable, typically, as many services and apps only require low monthly fees, as opposed to fees that often climb into the triple digits for a single session. Moreover, text therapy is maybe best recommended as an intro to the real thing, especially to someone who might be hesitant or skeptical of a clinical setting.
As Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told Lifehacker last November, text therapy “can be an opportunity for individuals to dip their toes into the therapy pool, and motivate them to seek out the real thing.”