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How to Get Started With Online Therapy During COVID-19 Lockdown

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistMay 6, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

Life during lockdown has become too much. You know that it is time for some professional help, but you don’t know how to go about getting started. While you’ve heard of teletherapy (or at least telemedicine), you may not know exactly what it involves or how to go about finding a therapist for it.

While the thought of engaging in therapy from home may feel uncomfortable at first, most people adapt well and find the treatment helps. There’s no need to worry about the “how-tos” of teletherapy because your therapist will provide you with that guidance. But you do need to find a therapist who is a good fit for you.

For help with that decision, follow these four steps:

Clarify your problem and identify your goal for therapy. Some questions that can help you do this are:

  • What am I struggling with?
  • How do I want to think, feel, or act differently?
  • How do I want the different areas of my life to be different? (e.g. as a partner, parent, or worker?
  • How will I know when therapy is successful?

Decide how you will pay for therapy. The cost of therapy, which can be expensive, is affected by how you pay for it. Consider whether you can afford to maintain this expense for the length of therapy – a process that may take longer than you originally think. You’ll need to decide whether you need to use insurance, go in-network, or find a therapist who will adjust your fee based on a sliding scale. You might also find low cost options by reaching out to a local hospital, behavioral health clinic, or training program for therapists.

While not all insurance has paid for telehealth in the past, most (if not all) insurance is covering it now. It is important that you contact your insurance company to find out what their policies are for telehealth – and if there is a time limitation for any changes they’ve made during the pandemic.

Find referrals. If your insurance requires that you use an in-network provider, get a list of therapists in your area. Then, as you look for a therapist, be sure to check any referrals against this list.

Begin your search for a therapist by asking for a recommendation from family, friends, or your physician. If you fail to find a therapist from a personal referral, there are other ways to find someone. You might look to your insurance company for referrals. You can also contact the American Psychological Association or your state’s psychological association for the names of psychologists in your area.

Reach out to potential therapists. Once you have the name of a therapist or a few of them, check out their website (if they have one) and contact them to learn more about their experience and approach. Some questions you might ask are:

  • How long have you been practicing for?
  • Are you licensed?
  • What is your area of specialty?
  • After briefly explaining your situation, ask whether they have experience treating this type of problem. Also ask what approach they might use with you.

No matter how experienced a therapist is, the success of your treatment will be very much affected by your connection with the therapist. So take the first session (or few sessions) to assess whether you trust and connect with the therapist. Before you fully commit to working with them on an ongoing basis, be sure that they are a good choice for you.

After jumping in with both feet, do your part to give the therapy every opportunity to work. This may mean telling the therapist when you feel the therapy is not working or if you have concerns about the therapy. By actively working with the therapist in this way, the two of you can meet the goals you set out at the beginning of treatment – and maybe grow in other ways, too.



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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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