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Three steps to starting therapy

Make your mental health a priority

How are you coping right now? You may feel reluctant to answer. You may not know the answer. Or, you may be certain about how you feel. In fact, it’s likely you’re feeling some level of anxiety or stress right now, as you deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it’s had on your life.

A poll published by Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half (45 percent) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted External Site due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. In fact, more than 30 percent of adults in the U.S. now report symptoms consistent with an anxiety and/or depressive disorder.

It's easy to postpone seeking help for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. And the symptoms themselves are sometimes difficult to self-assess. Plus, the process of researching and scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional can feel like a journey all its own. However, procrastination only allows the problem to grow. And as the problem or issue persists, the more difficult it can be to address Opens PDF.

So, how much anxiety is normal? How much is too much? Do you need help, or would you benefit from therapy? These questions — plus a conversation with your personal doctor — might help you determine the answer.

  1. Would therapy help you?

    When considering therapy, The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests asking yourself two questions External Site: First, is the problem distressing? And second, is it interfering with some aspect of your life?

    When thinking about the stressors or issues in your life, here are some considerations:

    • Thinking about or coping with the issue takes up at least an hour each day
    • The issue causes embarrassment or makes you want to avoid others
    • The issue has caused your quality of life to decrease
    • The issue has negatively affected school, work, or relationships
    • You’ve developed habits, or rearranged your life, to accommodate the problem or cope with the issues

    According to the APA, if your experiences are directly interfering with your life, therapy may help you reduce their effects. It’s especially important to consider getting help if you feel controlled by symptoms or if they could cause harm to yourself or others.

  2. Is there something holding you back?

    For a number of reasons, people who may benefit from therapy resist going External Site. Here are a few of the most common things that hold people back:

    • Shame or judgment

      Our own attitudes about mental health, or the opinions of family and friends, can affect whether or not we seek treatment. In fact, the stigma surrounding mental health External Site can make problems worse and stop a person from getting the help they need. If this is a problem for you, it may be helpful to reframe therapy for yourself External Site, or shift your perspective. For example, you can think of therapy as a way to solve a problem, get a second opinion or improve a relationship. Or, you could consider that improving your mental health is good for your overall health. While you go to the doctor to improve your physical health; it's equally important to see a therapist to improve your mental health.

    • Facing trauma

      The thought of revisiting traumatic events External Site from the past prevents some people from seeking mental health treatment. Even if you aren’t working through trauma, the thought of discussing personal issues with a stranger can be difficult. Therapy is a commitment and requires hard work. But if you’re willing to work through these issues, therapy can be a rewarding, safe space to share your thoughts with a trained professional.

    • Cost

      To determine how much therapy will cost, log in or register for myWellmark® to check your benefits Opens New Window, and discuss cost-related concerns External Site with your therapist. If your budget is holding you back, you may want to consider virtual visits through Doctor On Demand®.

      Since March of 2020, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has seen a 3,000 percent increase in virtual visits for mental health. With this service, you can use your smartphone, tablet or computer to see an experienced doctor who can treat common conditions like the common cold or physical injuries, as well as mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and more. Before scheduling any visit, virtual or in-person, be sure to check your benefits Opens New Window on myWellmark.

  3. How to find the right therapist

    Next, it’s time to find the right therapist — and type of therapy — for you. Log in or register for myWellmark to find a therapist in your network Opens New Window. It may be helpful to talk to a trusted physician or personal doctor and get a recommendation.

    find the right therapist to start therapy

    At this point, it's important to understand the differences between various mental health professionals External Site. For example, psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who diagnose complex and serious mental health conditions and prescribe medications. Psychologists are not medical doctors. They hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty such as counseling or education. They are trained to provide psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help patients. Depending on your situation, you may choose a counselor, therapist or licensed social worker. It all depends on what you need to achieve your recovery goals.

    Before you schedule your first appointment, it's best to talk to the therapist briefly and get answers to a few key questions External Site before settling on your choice. Some therapy offices offer online assessments and scheduling, including an online questionnaire about the types of problems you want to work through during your sessions. This might be helpful if you are worried about making that initial phone call.

    If you don’t feel heard in therapy, if you are experiencing different symptoms, or if your therapist doesn’t feel like a good fit, it’s OK to move on to a different therapist, or kind of therapy, altogether. You won't offend the therapist; they all just want the best for those seeking help.The important thing is to get the help you need, when you need it.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to your mental health

therapy takes time improve mental health

While therapy is a powerful process, it doesn't work overnight. Even with medication therapy, there is no quick fix. To make progress, you must be committed, show up, and do the work, for weeks or maybe months at a time.

A good therapist is results-oriented, will look for healthy signs of independence and help you accomplish what you've set out to do. If issues arise sometime later, you can always come back to revisit issues, or start up again with a different goal in mind.

For more information about mental health issues and treatment options, check out the mental health tag on Blue.

Doctor On Demand physicians do not prescribe Drug Enforcement Administration-controlled substances, and may elect not to treat conditions or prescribe other medications based on what is clinically appropriate.

For plans that include benefits for mental health treatment, Doctor On Demand benefits may include treatment for certain psychological conditions, emotional issues and chemical dependency. Services performed by Doctor On Demand psychologists are covered. Doctor On Demand does not provide psychiatry services. For more information, call Wellmark at the number on your ID card.

Doctor On Demand is a separate company providing an online telehealth solution for Wellmark members. Doctor On Demand® is a registered mark of Doctor On Demand, Inc.