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Tips to help locate the best online therapist for you

Dear Savvy Senior: What is the best way to find online therapy services for my anxiety and depression? I just turned 63 and have become increasingly hopeless since the COVID pandemic hit and cost me my job. I need to get some professional help, but I’m also high-risk for illness and very concerned about leaving the house. — Need Help

Dear Need: I’m sorry to hear about your job loss and the difficulties you’re going through right now, but you’re not alone. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, fear, anxiety and depression are being reported by 45% of Americans, according a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.

To help you through this difficult time, there are a variety of therapists, psychologists and other mental health providers you can turn to. And because of the pandemic, most of them are now offering counsel to their clients online through teletherapy services. This will allow you to interact virtually with a therapist from the comfort of your home using only a smartphone, tablet or computer.

How to find a therapist

A good first step to locating a therapist is to ask your primary care provider or family and friends for a referral. You can also look on your insurer’s website for a list of therapists covered under your plan. But be aware that some insurers have limited or even no coverage for mental health, and many mental health care providers don’t participate in insurance plans. (Medicare does cover mental health services.)

Other resources to help you find a good therapist include online finder tools at the American Psychological Association (locator.apa.org) and the American Psychiatric Association (finder.psychiatry.org).

If you want some help, there are also online platforms that can help match you with a licensed mental health provider. For example, Talkspace (talkspace.com) and BetterHelp (betterhelp.com) are virtual services you can access through your phone or computer that contract with thousands of licensed and credentialed therapists.

The process starts with a few questions to assess your goals, your condition and your preferences, and then matches you with some top therapists in your state.

If you don’t have insurance coverage or can’t afford therapy, you can call or text 211 (or go to 211.org) anytime for a referral to a provider who offers support at no cost or on a sliding scale, based on your budget.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 and ask for a referral to a local resource or provider or ask to be transferred to their “warm line” for nonemergency calls, where you can talk anonymously to a trained professional at no cost.

Another possible option is federally qualified health centers, which are community-based health centers, some of which might offer teletherapy services at no cost. To search for centers in your area, visit FindAHealthCenter.hrsa.gov.

There’s also a website called Open Path Collective (openpathcollective.org) where therapists offer low-cost online sessions for between $30 and $60.

Interview your therapist

Before you start sessions with a therapist, it’s important to make sure he or she meets your needs.

If you’re not comfortable with the person, you’re unlikely to benefit from the therapy. So, schedule a call or a video chat to get a feel for each other and to ask about the therapist’s training, years in practice, specialties, therapy techniques and fee. Ideally, the therapist you choose will be a good personality fit for you and be within your budget and/or covered by your insurance.


Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.


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