You’ve gotten up the courage to seek mental health services or help for your relationship. You ask for referrals or look at the online directories and start sending some emails.
Then you hit another problem. All the providers you’ve contacted don’t have availability for several weeks. Or worse.
It’s become common, since the pandemic, to have to schedule medical appointments far in advance, causing a lot of frustration and care issues. Some specialists, already with long wait times, might be a year or more for new patients (psychiatry in particular has faced provider shortages for years). Most therapists don’t have quite that long a wait list. However, with far more people seeking mental health and relational therapies than there are providers, scheduling six to eight weeks in advance is not uncommon. It doesn’t matter whether you have insurance, an EAP, or are paying out of pocket.
I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know how long this will continue to be the case. I can offer some suggestions for those of you looking for care and frustrated by the lag time. Here are some ideas to consider.
Consider widening your net.
Your preferred provider might be full, but there may be other good options. - Does your provider or that practice use interns? Interns under the supervision of that provider can offer quality care effectively with two providers, as you get both the intern and the supervisor working on your treatment. (See our blog post here.)
-Ask that office if they have any suggestions. Many offices have referrals lists of providers they know and may be able to point you in a good direction.
-See if your workplace has an EAP. Employee Assistance Programs may have their own counseling staff or a network of providers that can help you get into care a little sooner.
-You can also search in different directories as many are listed with only one or two of many, and some cover different geographical areas better than others. Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Zencare, and Open Path Collective are a few good ones besides the one your insurance may have.
Help yourself. Start making the changes you can while you wait.
-A little self care can go a long way. Try to get good sleep, watch what you eat and drink, get some physical activity, spend some time with supportive family or friends. Something in these areas is better than nothing, and you will have already started on treatment.
-Make an appointment with your PCP. While most don’t have deep knowledge of mental health, they can rule out physical causes of mental health issues and perhaps provide a prescription to help ease depressive or anxious symptoms. You can also look into alternative care, such as chiropractic or naturopathic providers. Our mental/emotional health and physical health are intertwined.
-Use free or low cost resources. Seek out support groups in your area or online, bookmark reputable websites or blogs and follow them on social media, and look for apps that have good ratings and reviews. Do be aware that not every expert on the internet is truly an expert, so look for the credentials! (Ask us about our suggested websites and apps.)
Don’t wait until you are in crisis! (If you can help it.) You know the saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The same goes with relationships and your mental health. As with many other providers, we love it when people come in before things get desperate. Not because we don’t like desperate, but because we absolutely hate to see someone in potentially preventable pain. Although you may be questioning if you really need care, reaching out proactively has at least two benefits – you get a jump on the wait list, and making that appointment helps you feel more positive as you know that help is coming. Although we might wonder why, we don’t mind at all if you decide to cancel that intake appointment because you were able to find what you need elsewhere or able to help yourself in a really good way. (But please, within our cancellation policy!)
Now that I’ve covered wait times, I want to let you know that several of our staff and interns do have current openings. Visit our About page for more information on our therapists, and you will find a booking widget for several of them if you would like to set up a free consultation or initial appointment.