You see them, don’t you? Those ads that keep popping up on your Facebook or social media accounts about therapy delivered online at any time you want it for an unbelievable price. Athletes and celebrity spokespersons are singing their praises- trying to get you to try therapy without much effort or cost. Many of these companies have these glowing client reviews about how they are always there, no matter when or how often.
Wait a minute, your therapist doesn't have client reviews! (this is because client reviews are forbidden by many licensing boards and deemed unethical). Your therapist doesn't have celebrity spokespeople! (professional therapists in private practice don't have corporate budgets for that). Your therapist isn't available anytime, anyplace, as often as you want them (because they have to abide by professional boundaries). Your therapist doesn't offer a monthly subscription for services (because it is of questionable ethics to sell subscriptions for services you may never actually use and that pressure you to attend to "get your money's worth"). Let's examine some pitfalls of these corporations using therapy as the next hot technical commodity.
Have you ever google image checked these photos of happy clients- If you do, you'll find they are mostly stock photos with fake names. DoMental is a free stock photo site where you can find many of these photos. Being mislead isn't exactly a great place to start a relationship, but it gets better. Then they get to the part, “I talk to my therapist every day and I don’t have to wait long- it's like having a therapist in my pocket!”
A huge selling point of these services is that they offer 24/7 access to your therapist, which licensed professionals recommend against because that can cause client dependency, not healing, and improvement. Plus, do you want to rely on a burnt-out therapist who is on-call 24/7 with no personal time to refresh and grow?
During my practice, I have worked with many clients who were in crisis and may need a little between session attention for few days randomly to help them get through a crisis. This is not the norm and regular practice. The goal was to help them get through a rough place and find their own tools to get through it. As therapists, we always want our clients to work with their own tools and network of support. One of our goals is to help them get through whatever they are feeling at that moment and develop the security of knowing they can handle it, get through it.
One of therapy’s big overall goals is to help clients develop healthy patterns. One of these important lessons is being able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. Like many other therapists, I help clients identify what’s feeding their painful feelings. Clients need time to discover what triggers their pain and practice what can be done to reduce it without handholding to teach helplessness.
Having your therapist available at the touch of a button actually prevents clients from developing the space to listen to what they're feeling and prevents them from uncovering the feelings that are beneath the surface. When they do, they learn to put aside the thoughts and actions that mask their issue or keep them from resolving.
One of a therapist's biggest jobs is to teach and reinforce boundaries. We do this by also holding firm to our own boundaries- those of our schedule, timing, and location of services. We help our clients learn that a boundary is not a reflection on our care about them, but is a teaching method for clients to learn that they must both develop their own boundaries and respect those of others to become a healthy person.
Another downside to the corporate takeover of therapy is that there is yet another person between you and your therapist. Insurance is already there taking a huge financial payout to reduce care and deny claims. Getting your therapy through another large corporation introduces another hand taking a cut of the money you pay to your therapist. The result is that you are likely getting the newest, greenest therapist there is out there. Newly graduated with the least experience and support. Your therapist is getting paid pennies on the dollar while being required to be on call 24/7. The turnover rate is incredible as well as the burnout rate. Also, have you ever thought about the platform you are using? Every time you engage in online therapy, you are going through a server, a network, where a multitude of people could see your information and possibly even your conversation. Using text for therapy? What is written is always at risk of being read. The safest and most confidential therapy continues to be in-person in the office therapy.
Attaining Mental Health care can be difficult today. From insurance rules that are confusing and often cover nothing until a large deductible is met to the tiny provider network, it is enough to make anyone feeling bad to be made to feel even worse. Many times you find a therapist, but they aren’t taking new clients. Please know that therapists have expanded their hours, open pro-bono/sliding scale spots, and have grown to incorporate virtual therapy into their office-based practices. But even all this barely scratches the surface of all the need.
We need to continue to push the insurance system for positive change that makes care more assessable and affordable. The solution to this problem is not to bring other huge corporations into a system where it is already overcrowded by corporations who make the decisions between a client and their therapist- working against the very nature of the therapeutic relationship. You can’t solve a problem by making another bigger problem to focus on. If you need therapy, choose a therapist and not a corporation.
If you or someone you love needs mental health care, please contact us and we will be happy to schedule you an appointment or help connect you to a provider.