A government-backed panel now recommends adults under the age of 65 should be screened for anxiety disorders and all adults should be checked for depression. This new recommendation comes as many Americans report symptoms of these mental-health conditions following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Did We Get Here? Where Are We Now?
Anxiety, financial stress, substance abuse, isolation, job worries, relationship problems, health concerns, political polarization, and other issues that have intensified since the start of the pandemic have overwhelmed therapists with new patients, many of whom go on a waiting list or get referred out to less qualified resources. When people finally decide they should find a mental health therapist, they are often faced with the next large hurdle: finding a qualified therapist. Common mistakes can be made as many people either skip or rush through the research step of finding a therapist. If it is a person’s first time in therapy and it is an unsatisfactory experience, they likely will never seek help agan.
Mental health professionals are not immune from the stress of the pandemic either, often mentioning burnout and fatigue from patient loads, while also struggling to manage their own stress at home. These additional factors contribute to a more complicated and challenging mental health climate that requires more from the mental health industry to make sure that those seeking help find a therapist who is trained to meet all of their needs, using only evidence-based therapies.
Ask These Questions First
To improve first time encounters with therapy, I developed an online matchmaking platform at Thriving Center of Psychology uses only vets and validates licensed professionals, then matches them to individuals seeking help, based on the person’s specific therapy needs and the professional’s area of expertise, style, culture, and therapy process. The therapy matchmaking process is simple to complete and has helped us match thousands of people with their perfect therapist. All that is required is filling out a 5-minute questionnaire that helps uncover the style of therapist that may be the best fit for your preferred type. Questions cover everything from therapy approach to gender and ethnicity. This filter then quickly matches individuals seeking help to a vetted database of qualified therapists who are licensed to work in the state in which the person lives. Some of the questions in our therapist matchmaking process including:
● What specialty of therapist are you seeking?
● Are you looking for a goal-oriented or reflective therapist?
● Do you want your therapist to have a holistic approach (recommending yoga, meditation,journaling)?
● How would you prefer your therapist to identify (male, female, non-binary)?
● Do you prefer your therapist to be a person of color?
● Do you prefer your therapist to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community?
The increased popularity of virtual sessions since the start of the pandemic has opened many more options for people seeking counseling, but you still need to make sure that the therapist you select is licensed to work in your state. You should also always interview 2-3 therapists before committing to a paid session with anyone. Ideally a face-to-face office visit or video session is preferred, opposed to a text or phone session. During the interview process, be sure to check the therapists’ credentials with state government sites, and have a clear understanding of his or her treatment style, therapy process and verifying whether or not that therapy approach is evidence based as defined by the American Psychological Association.
When is the best time to see a therapist?
If you have ever thought of needing therapy, the time is now. In order to live a truly fulfilled life, it is just as important to place a high priority on one’s mental health as it is for one’s physical health. If you feel you do not have time for therapy or are not sure about your commitment level, do not let that stop you from trying it out. While it is recommended to have weekly appointments to get the most out of your sessions, I also stand fast that any therapy is better than none. Ultimately, you deserve to live the life you have always dreamed of so do not let anything get in the way of self-care, which includes taking care of your mental health.
Alexander Alvarado, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and executive director of Thriving Center of Psychology, a mental health platform that exclusively matches people to qualified psychologists and therapists who use evidence-based treatments as defined by the American Psychological Association. His motivation behind launching the platform in 2019, was to help people find mental health care that they could trust to provide quality therapy, backed by only the most up-to-date science. Since starting the Thriving Center of Psychology online platform, Alvarado and his senior psychologists have interviewed and vetted hundreds of therapists in California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Oregon who have gone on to help thousands of clients. As a result, Thriving Center is one of the top Google reviewed mental health practices in the country. Alvarado earned his Doctor of Psychology degree in Clinical Psychology in 2016 and completed a private practice residency in New York City. He believes that a person’s first therapy experience is critical to fighting public stigmas in mental health and that matching qualified professionals with individuals and their specific needs is a key step towards improving overall quality of life.