Mental health resources available online, over the phone during pandemic
Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, weeks of social isolation and changes in daily routines can take a serious toll on your mental and emotional health.
Thankfully, there are several options for seeking out virtual therapy, and even starting therapy for the first time, using telehealth options.
Start with your insurance company.
Many insurance plans do cover mental health appointments, including ones that are now moving to telehealth.
Visit your insurance provider’s website and look up your specific plan to see what kind of coverage is already included in your plan.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama has several resources available during the COVID-19 crisis, according to media manager Sophie Martin.
Martin says BCBS of Alabama is:
- Providing a crisis hotline that is open to the public and available 24/7 through our behavioral health partner, New Directions. Those experiencing distress or anxiety can call the crisis hotline at 1-833-848-1764 to speak to a licensed therapist.
- The public can visit the website, AlabamaBlue.com. Here, they will find helpful tips and information including the link ndbh.com/CrisisResources that provides a wealth of support for coping with the COVID-19 outbreak and more.
- Expanding access and waiving cost-sharing for telehealth services which includes behavioral health visits for members. This allows members to get the care they need without having to make an in-person visit to their physician therefore decreasing their exposure to COVID-19.
Free and reduced counseling during COVID-19 crisis
The Wise Center for DBT, a Birmingham-based private psychotherapy practice, is now offering free counseling sessions for people struggling mentally and emotionally during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Wise Center Founder and Clinical Director Melissa DeLong, LICSW, PIP.
“These struggles could present as increased anxiety or depression symptoms, trauma symptoms, health anxiety, grief, or an increase in maladaptive coping skills, such as disordered eating, OCD behaviors or substance abuse,” DeLong said.
The cost for three sessions is free, as space permits. They also offer a COVID-19 coping skills group for $25 per group session. Their practice is all online and uses a secure, HIPAA-compliant software.
Reduced rate counseling services
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is an organization that helps uninsured or underinsured people find affordable counseling and psychotherapy services.
For a $59 lifetime membership fee, Open Path Psychotherapy Collective connects you with a therapist in your area who will see you for a reduced rate, between $30 and $60 per visit. They are still connecting clients to counselors during the coronavirus, using an online medium for the sessions.
There are more than 50 counselors in Alabama listed on their website. Find out more at https://openpathcollective.org.
Crisis Center Birmingham
The Crisis Center Birmingham also has several resources available, and their phone lines are being manned 24/7.
“This is a time where people’s coping mechanisms may not be available to them, they’re in isolation, there’s a global unknown that’s going on. Mental health can really be exasperated,” Rebecca Henderson, a Mobile Unit Counselor for the crisis center, said.
The Crisis Center Birmingham serves people in the Birmingham area and five surrounding counties: Blount County, Jefferson County, St. Clair County, Shelby County and Walker County.
Their resources include:
- a crisis and suicide hotline (205-323-7777)
- a phone line specifically for kids and teens to be able to text or call a counselor (UTalk 205-328-5465)
- the Senior Talk line to help senior citizens combat loneliness (205-328-8255)
- a Recovery Resource Center for people struggling with substance abuse (205-458-3377)
- a Rape Response line for sexual assault victims and survivors (205-323-7273)
The phone lines are open for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, depressed or just needing to talk to someone.
“We’re in a time where everything feels out of control and we want to be there and help them,” Henderson said.
People can come in person for sexual assault exams, but that’s the only service they can provide in person at this time.
Henderson suggests calling ahead to let them know you’re coming. The Crisis Center is located at 3600 8th Avenue South Suite 501.
Telehealth is a growing option for mental health care
Using technology in mental health has been happening for the past 10 years, but right now it’s the main way counselors can safely continue to meet with their clients, Dr. David Cecil, LICSW and a professor of social work at Samford University, said.
“You’re suddenly faced with a situation, if you’re going to help your clients you’re going to have to use technology to do that. It’s a fascinating moment because we’ve never been in the situation where it was the only option,” he said.
In his private counseling practice, Cecil has seen a slight drop off in client visits since shifting solely online, but he expects to see a delayed surge of people seeking out help in the coming months for issues including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and somatic symptom disorders, where people are convinced they’re sick even if there’s no evidence of illness, or when physical symptoms arise because of anxiety.
“My sense is most full time mental health providers are seeing a drop as they transition from in person to online, maybe not too much of a drop. I do anticipate a delayed impact. It may hit as soon as the summer or it may take a year to settle in,” he said.
Dr. Cecil said as the coronavirus precautions are eventually lifted, he expects to see people operating in extremes.
“You’ll see some people who never want to go out again, and others who say, ‘We’re free, we’re free!’”
Part of a counselor’s job is “helping people find balance and become more comfortable with the gray areas of life,” he said. “Helping people find that balance again will be very important.”
Read Dr. Cecil’s tips for staying mentally and emotionally healthy here.
Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.