Mental concerns? There are therapy apps for that

Here’s what you need to know about therapy apps

If you’ve been trying to book a therapy session lately, you may have noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to find one. It’s not a coincidence. The demand for mental health has increased.

First there is the question of availability. Many parts of the country have no access to mental health services. In the region, which includes Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, 42% of counties don’t have access to behavioral health professionals, according to a 2018 study American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Add in the pandemic-induced surge in demand for therapies, and the inability to access mental health care has skyrocketed. But don’t worry, there’s an app for that.

App-based therapies through services like BetterHelp and Talkspace are removing the barriers to mental health treatment, whether those barriers are the lack of providers within reasonable distances, low availability of appointments, or the convenience of virtual sessions. The therapy apps offer virtual sessions with licensed therapists in each state. All therapy is delivered through the app – so there’s no need to go to a physical office or fight for a spot with the only therapist in your area.

This is how therapy apps work

After downloading the app, answer a few questions and sort through a list of licensed providers in your state. Next, you choose the therapist you want to meet with based on their bio, then choose a subscription.

Depending on the app, a subscription may include options to text, live chat, make a phone call, or meet via video call on set dates, typically 30 or 45 minutes. You can also use the therapy apps as needed and send a message whenever you want; the therapist responds within a few hours.

If you like your therapist, keep him. If you want to change, go ahead. Some insurance plans cover virtual therapy through the app, but often you pay a subscription fee instead of passing the cost through your insurance plan.

Monica McCombs, owner of Lotus Counseling Services, an all-virtual therapy practice based in the Chicago area, worked for both BetterHelp and Talkspace before starting her own virtual practice.

“There are many benefits to engaging in therapy through a virtual platform for clients,” she says, “including feeling in the comfort of their own home and taking less time as they don’t have to commute to and from a counseling center , and being able to choose from a larger pool of clinicians as they are not limited to clinicians who are in close proximity.”

The downside of convenience

As handy as the apps are, many clinicians say therapy apps have their limitations. Ashley Hodges, a psychotherapist at Wellington Counseling Group, says digital therapy isn’t always a good substitute for in-person options.

Natalie Nordlund, PsyD, school psychologist and PsyD candidate at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology agrees. “Certain people might prefer to be face-to-face,” she says. Some people may respond better in person where they can more easily connect with their therapist, Nordlund says. Some may also have privacy concerns in their home environment.

This personal contact is important. Hodges says that for children in particular, “virtually is not the best way and practice.” Some children may not feel comfortable talking about problems in their family when they are undergoing therapy at home; others may have sensory issues or trouble concentrating on a screen long enough for a full session.

Access can also be an issue. Digital therapy can be difficult when a person does not have reliable access to the internet or cell phone, or cannot afford the plan payments. For example, BetterHelp costs $60 to $90 per week; Talkspace subscriptions range from $69 to $129 per week.

McCombs also recognizes some issues with app therapy. If a patient uses only the text messaging aspect, they may be missing out on important aspects of therapy, such as: B. Building a more robust relationship with their therapist.

“It’s far more difficult to establish the therapeutic relationship that is required for a client to be successful in message counseling,” says McCombs. “Nor does it allow the clinician to see a client’s behavioral response when discussing specific topics that can contain a wealth of therapeutic information.”

She also worries that therapists who work for apps like BetterHelp and Talkspace could take on too many patients. A low pay rate can encourage clinicians to take on a high caseload to earn a decent wage, McCombs says. They could end up providing worse service than if they had fewer patients to work with.

Nonetheless, the apps go a long way in advancing therapy and mental health in general. For example, Talkspace reports that more than 60% of users are entering therapy for the first time.

“I’ve seen the power technology can have when it comes to supporting people’s mental health and emotional well-being,” says Nordlund. “Introducing this mental health prioritization earlier in our youth can help. It can help introduce the concept of taking care of yourself and your mind. It can help make learning about, using and receiving mental health support and services more accessible and normalized.”

For many people, this accessibility is key. By putting therapy at your fingertips, app-based therapy can go a long way in helping prioritize mental health.

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