One in five adults in the United States suffer from mental health issues each year, and two-thirds of this group has limited or no access to mental health care. Therapy is often hard to schedule, difficult to make time for when you are busy, stigmatized and quite expensive. For those of you who think your problems are too minor for therapy, I would advise you to rethink your stance. By working through our insecurities and shortcomings, we can all reach our full potential. It is especially helpful if you need someone to talk you through your decisions or if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. This third party can help you feel safe in a new city or talk to you through your new relationship. A therapist is unbiased and can help validate your feelings. According to Dr. Amy Cirbus, PhD, LMHC, LPC and Manager of Clinical Quality at Talkspace, “There’s still a stigma related to talking about and participating in our own mental healthcare. The vulnerability of needing help, of feeling unable to manage our feelings or take care of problems on our own can feel shameful. For people who haven’t been to therapy before, the unknown of the experience can be overwhelming, scary and uncomfortable.”
When googling therapists near me who would take my insurance, Instagram’s algorithm kicked into hyperdrive. I started to see a series of targeted ads centered around text-message therapy on my feed. After sponsored ad number eight, I decided to try out a month of Talkspace, the online and mobile therapy company where users have access to licensed therapists through both their website and mobile app. The concept is so 2019 that I chuckled to myself. I took a short assessment where I answered a series of personal questions to get matched to a licensed therapist. I was also asked to make a list of bullet points listing my treatment goals and if I had any positive or negative experiences from past therapy. I wanted my sessions to center around themes of self-esteem, anxiety and healthy coping mechanisms. After submitting my final answer, I was given three options of therapists to choose from, along with their expertise and educational background. It was a pretty seamless process and I chose a nice woman named Wanda.
Once I opened up my chatroom, I realized that I had no idea where to begin. Luckily, I am somewhat of an oversharer, so talking to a stranger online was easy for me. Plus, I grew up in the early days of social media. Following people, you do not know? Stranger danger? Never heard of it. Compared to regular therapy, Talkspace is a more seamless process. While I loved traditional therapy, it was hard to make time for it once I started working. Appointments were always during work hours, and by the time I scheduled an appointment, I forgot what was bothering me in the first place. With the app, it was easy to word vomit because I did not have to face anyone in person, which I had previously found to be intimidating. And because you are not limited to an hour like in traditional therapy, I had an infinite amount of time to talk about myself. I felt as though I was working on the manuscript for my autobiography. It was hard deciding what was necessary to share and what was meaningless. Oddly enough, I wanted to make a good impression on my therapist. I felt as though my intro paragraphs were all over the place. Family, friends, relationship issues, work — all things I wanted to discuss and solve right there and then.
Two hours later she responded with a quick message: “Thank you for sharing this information with me,“ and a follow-up question. Much to my chagrin, this is not an instant chat messenger or emergency platform; rather, it is asynchronous messaging. I have 24/7 access to the chatroom and the ability to leave messages by text, audio or video as much or as little as I liked, but Wanda will only reply up to three times a day Monday to Friday. Each Talkspace therapist has their own set schedule of at least five days a week to check in with clients during morning or evening response times.
I had a hard time adjusting to the app during the first week. I missed the personal connection I had with my last therapist. I missed unplugging from my phone and sitting on a comfortable couch for an hour in a dimly lit room. I did not necessarily have a difficult time opening up to the app, but I am sure text therapy is far more difficult if you are someone who needs to be coaxed into opening up. However, as time went on, I developed a stronger relationship with Wanda and really settled into this new routine. On my commute to and from work, I would send multiple voice memos discussing what happened that day or what bothered me. I tried to stick to one central theme per rant but there were definitely times I sent panicked messages in the dead of night when struggling to fall asleep. These were all benefits that are not possible with traditional therapy. Plus, I was not worried about keeping up appearances for Wanda. Since I could not see her facial expressions, I felt unfiltered and free of judgment. “[The app] supports a deep therapeutic relationship through consistency and immediacy. Research shows that when the hurdles of finding the right therapist or scheduling time to travel to an office are removed, clients stay in treatment longer and leave successful. Through digital therapy, clients benefit from the convenience, accessibility and privacy without sacrificing quality,” says Cirbus.
I am a big believer in journaling or venting to friends to help process my feelings. The difference with Talkspace is that you get a helpful response from a professional. Friends can be amazing support systems, but they can also be busy, biased or dealing with their own personal problems. Thanks to Wanda, I no longer had to worry about irritating my friends by talking about the same problem for the fifteenth time. No problem is too minuscule to discuss on Talkspace, nor too redundant. I can vent about my friends without the slimy feeling of being fake. It is almost like screaming into the abyss. But this abyss is HIPAA compliant and gives you science-backed advice.
The app really helped me deal with the day-to-day chaos by giving me someone to vent to. I could unpack the deeper meaning behind why little things were bothering me and I had someone to validate my feelings. However, if you are someone going through something more serious, I would recommend paying for the live video sessions or using this as a daily filler while waiting for an in-person session.
Having someone to vent to at all hours of the day has really helped me feel less alone. In the past month, I was able to let go of toxic relationships, come to terms with my anxiety and develop more confidence. Whereas before I looked to those around me to help me feel less broken, I now feel whole on my own. Talkspace takes your mobile phone and turns it into a virtual cheerleader. Getting the help you need has never been easier.
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