Teletherapy: Reasons to Offer and Participate in Virtual Mental Health Services

Being quarantined means being open to alternative forms of everything you normally do outside of your home. Trips to the gym are now Youtube workouts, brunch with friends is now group texts with an exponential amount of emojis, and trips to your therapist’s office is now teletherapy from the comfort of your couch. For therapists and those participating in mental health services, this can be an unwanted, but necessary shift. Participating in teletherapy services (aka telemedicine) is a great way to connect however, and access mental health services for both the professional and the client.

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Reasons Why Teletherapy is a Positive Alternative

  1. Ease of Access: Utilizing teletherapy means you can access therapy appointments from virtually anywhere. For mental health professionals licensed in California, that means being able to provide mental health services to any resident in California from Sacramento down to San Diego. It also means clients don’t have to travel too and from an appointment or find parking or hit traffic or miss their appointment all together.
  2. Best Fit with Therapist: Over the years, I have had many clients move to find better opportunities for their life, but a sense of continuity was felt when they knew they could continue seeing me from their new location within the state. Teletherapy also allows you a wider selection of therapists/clients to work with as you are not confined to those located within a 30 mile radius. Having options means being able to find the therapist that can best understand your story and guide you to the change you want to see in your life.
  3. Feeling Comfortable: Being able to talk to your therapist/client from the space that is most comfortable for you can make a huge difference. Having control over your space can be a invaluable part of being able to open up in your therapeutic process. I have personally noticed that from my first sessions with a client to my closing session with a client, there is definitely a difference in how they and I dress (yoga pants make a regular appearance) due to finally feeling more comfortable in that therapeutic relationship. Utilizing teletherapy means having some of that comfort on the front end of your journey and meeting your goals on your terms.

The Downside of Teletherapy

As with anything there are pros and cons to teletherapy, and highlighting one side with out the other would be unfair to you. Fortunately, the major cons of teletherapy have less to do with the therapeutic process and more to do with technology’s short comings. At the end of the day, teletherapy is a fancy term for Facetime with your therapist. Although, teletherapy should be used on a HIPAA compliant platform (such as doxy.me, Simple Practice, Vsee, etc.), if you’ve ever used a video conferencing application you know that poor connections, cyber security, and “hello. hellloo?” moments can all be a damper on a good conversation. Making sure you are in a safe space with a good connection is an easy fix to this problem however.

For therapists, our number one priority is always your safety, so it is smart to go over the nearest emergency room, emergency contacts, crisis line numbers, and any other safety precautions that can be made prior to starting your mental health journey.

With all this in mind, feel free to reach out for a 15 minute phone consultation, so you can see if teletherapy will be a helpful tool on your therapeutic journey!

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Why I have a Waiting List: What To Do in the Meantime

I know. You came here to schedule an appointment, but you saw I had a waiting list. You got yourself pumped up for starting therapy and were disappointed. I sincerely apologize. I created a waiting list so I know who to reach out to when an appointment opens up. I do not encourage rushing people through their therapeutic process, so as I help my current clients, I will try to leave you with some ideas on how to utilize your time and start the therapy process before your first appointment!

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Start Journaling

One way to document your emotions, events in your life, or just ideas and to-do lists is by keeping a daily or weekly journal. The first question I ask all my clients is, “what brings you into therapy?” If you keep a record of how you have been feeling, you will have collected all the data necessary to answer this question. The therapeutic process would have started before you even walk in the door, and you’ll feel prepared for the work that happens in the therapy room.

Do some Self Care

If you are willing to dedicate an hour a week to therapy that means you have an hour in your schedule already to do some self care. Take that time now to schedule something just for you. Self care can look like taking a walk around the park, lake, or by the beach. It could be spending some time doing something creative like painting, coloring, or knitting. It could mean practicing mindfulness or meditation in a peaceful setting you create just for yourself (candles, mood lights, and white noise machines welcome!). Self care could also look like setting up a coffee date with some of your favorite people every week. Whatever you choose to do with your time make it all about self love!

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Talk to your Support Network

Maybe you can’t grab coffee every week, but maybe you can incorporate some other form of communication. Write a letter to an old friend or to someone you never got to say how you really feel too. Call up a sibling and laugh about old shenanigans or vent about your crazy parents. Join a book club or support group that helps you learn how to open up about your thoughts. Or just carve out time for you and your partner to connect every week. Who ever you give that time to, make sure it is spent with those that will add to your life instead of take away from it.

Try Something New

You thought therapy would be a new adventure for you to take. Why not try something else new and different from your normal routine? Being uncomfortable is a skill you will definitely utilize in therapy, so might as well practice now. Whether that is a new restaurant in town or a new hobby, get outside of your comfort zone and try something that the new you could really dive into!

Reach out to one of the Referrals Provided

If waiting isn’t something you are open to, please utilize one of the referrals emailed to you after adding your name to the waiting list. You could also call the following numbers to get resources more quickly!

Mental Health Resources: 2-1-1

Access & Crisis Line (San Diego): 1-888-724-7240

Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

 

I hope to see you soon along your path to wellness!

Young Therapists: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Accepting that First Job

Diverting from my usual audience, I want to speak to my fellow blooming therapists out there.

Deciding to become a therapist means deciding to be selfless more hours out of the day than not. This is a daunting task and takes a special kind of person to take it on. So kudos to you for choosing to walk down that career path!

However passionate you are about this path, I would like to send the reminder that being a therapist is a lot more than just being an empathetic person to those that choose to sit in front of you…it’s a full blown job. A job that is both physically and mentally draining. Preparing yourself for what you are about to take on and preparing yourself for where this career path will take you in the future is important!

Making an informed decision about how being a therapist will affect your overall life will help you grow into your career with ease. That is why I want to pose to you 5 questions to ask yourself before accepting that first job…

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What are you doing for self-care?

As much as we preach “self-care is important!”, are you taking care of yourself? Can you think of one thing you do on a regular basis that is purely for yourself? If you can’t think of something, you better assign yourself some self-care ASAP. We tell our clients all the time that self-care is important, but we often forget that as “helpers” we are often the ones that need some self-care the most. Knowing your hobbies, happy place, or support systems can be life saving when working in this field. Also, think about how you will incorporate this self care when you begin your career. Establishing these self care activities into your routine NOW, will make it much easier when things start to get even more hectic.

What are your priorities?

Are you single, and hoping to still have time for finding love? Or do you have a  family where being present for all the big moments is important? Or do you really love taking trips and participating in events and get togethers with friends? No matter what your priorities are, make sure to take these into account BEFORE signing on to a new job or side project. Knowing what comes first on your priority list enables you to choose what will be a good fit for you. Also, take into account that these priorities may shift. Working two jobs and 60 hour weeks may seem fine when you are pre-licensed, but once you become licensed you may want to reduce some of these hours to fit in other more important activities.

What do you want your schedule to look like?

There is no typical therapist schedule, so don’t try to match what you see someone else doing. In grad school you may have been handed a class schedule that you had to work around, but it may have seemed easy to just fill in the space before or after classes each week. After graduation however, you have to figure out your entire 24 hours each day to really maximize your time. If you are considering agency work vs. private practice, choose wisely. You may expect a typical 9-5pm, but crisis happens at all times of the day, so therapy jobs often mean working nights and weekends. Something they don’t tell you in grad school.

Look at your schedule and decide what line of work fits into your lifestyle. Outpatient programs offer the most typical schedule, as they are mostly office-based (M-F, 9am-5pm). School-based jobs often give more flexibility due to school year schedules (expect working anywhere between 7am and 3pm, M-F, with all the typical school breaks). A community-based job will often involve more evening hours (think hours between 9am and 7pm, M-Sat., with minimal holidays). Though some add the flexibility of working a 4×10 (4 days a week, 10 hours a day). Private practice work can seem to be the most flexible, but at times it can be the most restricting, as you are catering to when your clients will most likely be available (think M-Th.+Sat., 4pm-9pm or 9am-12pm). With most clients working a typical 9-5, you’re often offering the off hours. Each job you apply for will come with a different set of requirements, so do not be afraid to ask what a normal work day/week looks like for their therapists.

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How do you set boundaries?

You may have been taught about legal & ethical boundaries, but personal boundaries can be just as important to establish in your career. Being a pre-licensed therapist, you often forget just how much you have to offer, which can be detrimental to your sanity. Pre-licensed therapists are often taken advantage of in the work place due to our natural desire to help. Be firm with your boundaries when it comes to working extra hours, taking home work, carrying your client’s baggage, and all the other ways in which you may be asked to go above & beyond your job description. Decide what will be hurtful to your well-being and what will be helpful to your goals. If it feels like too much, it most likely is WAY too much!

What are your career goals?

This is a major question, and arguably the most important. Some people go into the mental health field because they love the one-on-one contact with people, and doing anything other than direct therapy doesn’t interest them. Some people want to be the director of an entire non-profit because they want to see agencies run differently. Some people really want the ability to work for themselves, part-time, and have more time for their family. While others really love the educating aspect of therapy, and see themselves eventually teaching. And still others may have completely different goals tied into their mental health related degree. Figuring this goal out now however, allows you to line up and prioritize what is most important to you.

Think about where you see yourself in 10 years…what are you doing? Where do you live? How hard are you working? These questions will allow you to seek out a position that will help you reach your end goal. Finding a position that gives you room for growth and professional trainings can be game changing when you finally become licensed. Additional items on a resume or just additional knowledge in your head, can make all the difference in that professional transition. Start by making a vision board or writing a letter to your future self, then hold yourself accountable to accomplish the dreams you have.

It will all be worth it in the end.

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Suite303 Podcast: Episode 6: Mental Health & The Stigma of Therapy feat. Lee from SimpLee Therapy

I had the pleasure recently to collaborate with not just someone I look up to, but one of the people that inspire me daily, Mr. Albert Phang, also known as my big brother. His podcast, Live from Suite303, is THE place for entertainment, culture, and generally uplifting the community known as The Inland Empire. I was privileged enough to get to sit down on the show and discuss how mental health has become such a big conversation in every community, but also how the stigma around therapy is being shattered by new generations in the black community.

Take a listen at Suite303 on SoundCloud or

Watch the podcast on YouTube at

Live from Suite 303 – Episode 6