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Tips For Starting Or Continuing Mental Health Care From Home

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

More than 4 out of 5 adults say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their mental health. That's based on a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But stay-at-home orders mean people can't attend their regular therapy sessions in person. NPR's Lauren Hodges worked with NPR's Life Kit podcast to figure out the best way to start - or continue - therapy right in your home.

LAUREN HODGES, BYLINE: Therapy - or the goal of finally starting it - may be taking a backseat right now. People can't leave the house and have a lot on their plates - telecommuting, homeschooling, unemployment. Mental health care seems out of reach if you've lost your insurance or your main source of income.

SETH GILLIHAN: It's really difficult to feel so powerless, to feel so out of control.

HODGES: Seth Gillihan is a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia who's moved all of his patient sessions online. He says it's become a necessary outlet as tension builds up at home.

GILLIHAN: People are on edge and cooped up and without their normal coping resources and access to friends and gyms and things like that. So it's definitely normal and common for nerves to get a little frayed and for people to be shorter with each other.

HODGES: But how common is it to move sessions online? Crispin Roven is VP of product at Psychology Today. He says the mental health community is adapting - fast.

CRISPIN ROVEN: It looks like every therapist is starting to support online therapy in one way or another.

HODGES: Therapists are stuck at home, too, so they're willing to accommodate - and not just when it comes to location. With millions of people out of work and losing their health insurance, hourly rates are becoming more flexible.

ROVEN: There are therapists that specifically mention discounts or sliding scale applies during this time and are willing to adjust pricing according to financial need.

HODGES: That's mostly up to each individual, so reach out and ask. Let them know your situation.

Another place to search is Open Path Collective, a website with hundreds of professionals that offer rates between $30 and $60 per session. But if even that's out of reach, consider a free or low-cost support group. Psychology Today lists several groups by topic, and most of them have moved online or to conference calls. If your Wi-Fi's out or unstable, there are free 24-hour hotlines you can call. The Health and Human Services Department runs the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. And if you're thinking of harming yourself, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK.

ROVEN: We're seeing concern over family life, sleep, career. It's a real assault on people's stability.

HODGES: Once you get back on track with therapy, Seth Gillihan says to try and work the topic of therapy into those FaceTime happy hours with friends and loved ones. They're probably struggling, too.

GILLIHAN: We're only just realizing all the reasons why it's stressful and all the things that we've lost. Realizing that - oh, OK - so pretty much everyone is going through something like what I'm going through, I think is really validating. And it may even help.

HODGES: Because even though we're all apart right now, we're definitely not alone.

Lauren Hodges, NPR News.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, we incorrectly say 4 out of 5 American adults say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their mental health. It is actually 45% who reported a toll on their mental health.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 11, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
In this story, we incorrectly say 4 out of 5 American adults say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their mental health. It is actually 45% who reported a toll on their mental health.
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.