By: Elizabeth Koth, Client Care Coordinator
With the importance of mental health being brought to the spotlight by a number of notable athletes and actors, combined with the world still trying to climb out of the pandemic, therapists are seeing record numbers of clients of all ages and from all walks of life. If you, or someone you know, has sought out counseling services this year, particularly in recent months, you may be experiencing or hearing that it is a challenge to get an appointment.
From connecting with a good match to the expected wait times, finding a therapist has the potential to make the stress of reaching out for help even more stressful. I can assure you that this is NOT what we, in mental health world, want for anyone. We understand your need for support and we want you to get it.
That being said, here are some things that you or your loved ones can do to help make the process, and likely the wait, a little less stressful.
1. Have a general idea of what you are looking for/what you need.
This can be anything from needing/wanting virtual appointments vs. in-person or vice versa, whether or not you will be needing to use insurance benefits, if you are looking for a specific type of treatment (ie EMDR, CBT, DBT), what you are hoping to address in counseling (ie; anxiety, depression, trauma, grief), and if there are specific days/times you need appointments.
2. Gather as much information as possible.
If you believe you have found a counselor or location that you would like to go to, check out their website and familiarize yourself with their counseling staff, rates for services as this can vary by counselor, whether or not the counselor/location takes insurance, proximity to your home, whether or not they offer virtual appointments, etc. Most of this information can be found on the counselor’s/location’s website, and with offices experiencing increasingly high call volumes, you may be able to answer a lot of your own questions without having to make a phone call.
3. Be intentional while you wait.
If the counselor or practice has a weekly newsletter or blog, get added to it or read it! You may find some very useful information regarding some coping strategies that you can begin putting into practice while you wait for that first appointment. This could also help you familiarize yourself with the counselor/practice so that you have a pretty solid idea of what they believe and value as it pertains to people’s mental health. Also consider support groups while you wait. For example, Billy’s Place is a great resource for those in the Northwest Valley in need of grief support as they offer grief groups and, while they do require an initial consult to join a group, they are a not-for-profit organization so their services are free.
4. Try to be patient.
I know, easier said than done if you are already feeling stressed and anxious. Remind yourself that the counselor you’ve selected wants to work with you/your loved one. Many of us in mental health have experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to find the right therapist and then wait weeks, sometimes months, to have our loved one get in for their first appointment. Most counselors want to make sure they don’t oversaturate their caseloads because they want to have enough energy to be able to do good work with their clients and be available to the clients on their current caseload. Too often we hear complaints of people going to their first appointment only to be told the counselor cannot see them again for a month! We dont’ consider this to be best practice and we avoid doing this at Elevate as much as humanly possible unless the client has communicated they prefer less frequent appointments.
5. Access emergency support if you need it.
Arizona has a robust behavioral health crisis services network available to any Arizona resident regardless of health insurance coverage. If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis that cannot wait, please seek immediate medical attention. Crisis text and phone lines are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by trained crisis specialists who provide support. In the metro Phoenix area, you can reach out to EMPACT, an agency that provides on-location crisis screenings (EMPACT CRISIS LINE 480-784-1500).
As the old saying goes…It’s a jungle out there. Most counselors understand this and want to support as many people as they humanly can. Our best encouragement to those who are waiting for counseling services is to take comfort in knowing you definitely are not alone and that there are good counselors who really do want to provide support.