For this community resource article, I would like to share my personal experiences about getting mental health support. I would like to compare the different methods to get support for emotional hardship that I have experienced in my life, in the hope that this can guide someone who is considering getting therapy or counselling.
For us Filipinos, getting medical support is not something we are used to doing except for serious issues. In addition to avoiding clinics, hospitals or even the dentist, the thought of going to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist is an even more awkward idea. The pandemic also doesn’t help because we are experiencing limitations on how we get support.
First, is in-person. I’m glad that my first experiences in therapy were through in-person appointments to help me become familiar with the process.
A therapist or counselor’s office actually doesn’t look like other medical clinics such as that of a physiotherapist, dentist or doctor. It’s more like an office space, with inviting decoration and a soft couch where you can sit really comfortably. For those who are experiencing severe trauma, it is definitely more valuable to have in-person appointments. This is because the nonverbal cues from the patient is a very important component of the interactions between the medical provider and the client. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed and burst out crying, or your face is expressing something you just don’t have the words for, it’s easier to receive a glass of water, a box of tissues, or have a person in front look at you kindly during that moment and wait until you are ready again.
The challenge for in-person appointments is travel, timing, and location. It certainly requires more coordination. I was lucky that my employer allowed me to leave work early on a regular basis during my scheduled in-person therapy appointments.
Second, video call appointments. The pandemic pushed me to switch to video appointments. Luckily, I was seeing the same psychotherapist who I met a few times in person already, so a familiar face and voice, even though the meeting was just through a computer screen, was comforting.
To make video appointments successful, I recommend treating it as seriously as an in-person appointment. So that means, having a private space with just you, no interruptions with family. Doing this in the bedroom and locking the door worked for me. Try to have a stable internet connection and put the phone or computer on a desk or table so your arms won’t get tried holding your gadget. Try to connect five minutes before the appointment time, to give you time to test your webcam, mic, or speakers.
I cannot speak for people who have attempted video therapy as their first-ever therapy or mental health experience. That being said, don’t let this stop you from trying. For people who are introverted or might feel uncomfortable with very close eye contact, this might be a successful way to start.
Third is over the telephone. This is the form of therapy I was most skeptical about because it is unsettling being vulnerable and opening up to someone who you cannot even see even just through video. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. I think what helps is that all the preparation principles for video appointments apply. It is important to have a private space where you don’t get interrupted, such as your own bedroom.
I also recommend telephone appointments for mental health challenges that are not as severely traumatic, as in challenging emotional topics that can cause you to break down and burst out crying. This is because it can be difficult for your therapist to pay attention to the change in your facial expression as they can’t see you.
I hope that this is a helpful overview on mental health support. The resources I have used are as follows:
– Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton – Supports for Sexual Assault Survivors https://www.sace.ca/
– Redtree Psychology – Professional Psychologists, paid out of pocket http://www.redtreepsychology.com/
– Hello Mental Health – Telephone Psychotherapy Covered by Alberta Health https://www.hellomentalhealth.ca/
And if you would like to explore different options for other kinds of support, use the 211 directory through their website https://ab.211.ca/ or by calling or texting 211.