Accessing Supports And Services

Asking for help is tough, but it can be exhausting doing everything on your own. It’s also a sign of strength to ask for help because it shows you want to make changes for yourself. Since it’s not an easy thing to do, here are some tips on how to use your current supports and how to take the next steps to start therapy when you’re ready:

If you are not ready to start therapy:

  • Make a list of supports you have in your life and identify how they can support you. Some people are good to go to when you need to vent, some people do well at pushing us to move forward, some people are good at problem solving, and some people may help provide us with distractions. Do you know who those individuals are for you if you need them? If you do have thoughts of hurting yourself, do you have someone you trust who can help remove anything that could be potentially dangerous, like medications or weapons, or a person who is willing to stay over and supervise you?
  • Journaling can help you start processing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Engage in something that makes you happy or do something productive. If you do decide to start therapy, you will have to put in some work of your own outside of sessions. Practice doing activities you enjoy or accomplishing small tasks you’ve been avoiding or feeling unmotivated to do.
  • Try an app. There are apps that can help you track your mood to teach you potential patterns in your mood, apps that can help you create a safety plan, and apps that can help with coping skills such as mindfulness. Here’s a few of those apps:
  • Try a confidential line. such as the National Suicide Prevention Line (800-273-8255), the Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386), or the Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741).

If you are ready to reach out for therapy:

  • Call the back of your insurance card to see who is in your network. If you are uninsured or your insurance does not cover mental health services, search for agencies that provide low-cost or sliding-scale options.
  • If there’s a waitlist, call around to a few other places to see which one can fit you in the quickest if you are flexible with where you want to start services.
  • Write a list of questions you have for a therapist so you feel more prepared. Here’s some questions to start with:
    • Treatment style: What kind of therapy or diagnosis do you specialize in? Can you explain that treatment style to me? What are the benefits of that treatment? Are there any risks with that treatment?
    • Appointment structure: What will the first appointment be like? What will the following sessions look like? How often will we meet? How long will we meet? What is the cancellation or missed appointment policy? What time is the agency open until?
    • Finding a good fit: If you identify as a different background (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity) than the therapist, ask them about their experience working with someone who has as similar background as you, and how they will address those differences.
    • Language: Are there therapists available in your preferred language or will a translator will be used?
    • COVID: Due to COVID, ask if services will be done in-person or through telehealth so you can choose which method is best for you. If in-person, ask what safety precautions are being taken.
  • If you do not have reliable transportation, see if the agency is close to public transportation, a friend or family member could drive you, or if your insurance provides transportation.
  • Think about what your goals will be for therapy. Therapy should be guided by you and the goals you want to work on for yourself. If you don’t know what you want to work on, discuss that with your therapist so you can create goals together.

Starting therapy can be scary because you are sharing your story and being vulnerable with someone new, but once you are able to work through your feelings and thoughts in a safety space, it can be a relief. Keep in mind that “sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make. You don’t have to go it alone.”

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