If you’re looking for help or trying to help someone in need, rest assured that with the array of mental health tools available online, relief is easier than ever to find. You no longer have to pay for a licensed therapist or ask around for references for a mental health professional. You can take the reins and find tools to help yourself or your loved ones. If you’re dealing with post-trauma there are specific apps to help you cope, and if you’re suffering from depression, these online tools can quickly put you in touch with mental health professionals who are well-trained to deal with such issues. If you’d like to try meditation or breathing exercises, there are also many different online resources where you can learn these practical methods to help yourself. Simply put, with today’s online tools, you can find affordable, professional help, practical methods of self-help, and finally, a community of like-minded people who will listen to you and let you know you aren’t alone.
What Are You Looking For?
Just like you would offline, before you consider which service to use, consider what you’re looking for. Are you interested in speaking to a licensed therapist? If so, there are online services that will put you directly in touch with a certified therapist. If you just need someone who will listen, a kind ear who will hear you out and let you vent, then there are apps that will provide you with a dedicated listener.
What about skills to help you treat your own issues? Many people are interested in learning about meditation and how they can use it for self-treatment. Others have heard about breathing therapy and how it can help them deal with anxiety and stress. Both can be treated with online options available today, saving the trouble of attending any sort of in-person session.
Finally, many people who are in some sort of distress can turn to these online options for help. For people suffering from PTSD or who are having thoughts of hurting themselves, these apps while not a substitute for professional assistance, can still help users get over that first hurdle that often prevents people from pursuing help at all.
Perhaps the main benefit of online mental health services is the convenience - you don’t have to work around the calendar of a heavily-booked psychiatrist, or make it to a therapist’s office. You can easily speak to someone from the comfort of your own home, and usually at times that are more flexible than office hours. This is not merely a matter of convenience – for the disabled or those whose anxiety keeps them behind closed doors, this could be the difference between getting help and suffering in silence.
Another important factor is cost. While appointments with a licensed therapist can cost hundreds of dollars an hour, online it’s far cheaper. With Talkspace for instance, you can purchase unlimited messaging with a licensed therapist for as low as $32/week, or you can opt for couples therapy that costs as little as $59/week.
Many companies will also help match you with a therapist who is trained to deal with what ails you, often through the use of an online questionnaire. BetterHelp uses a series of questions to match you with one of more than 2,000 licensed therapists. This is no small thing. Unlike other services, people are often embarrassed to tell people they’re interested in counseling and will not ask around for a reference. On sites like BetterHelp, you can also stay with the same therapist, building up a personal relationship in time, just like you would offline.
Not everyone is looking to hear what a therapist has to say though – some people just need a friendly ear. With 7 Cups, you can get in touch with trained listeners who will hear you out, and provide a sympathetic ear over a secure, anonymous line. It’s a solid solution for people who want to get something off their chest, or just want to be heard and perhaps they don’t feel they can tell anyone they know, and they don’t want to build up an entire relationship with a therapist.
Not everybody is looking for someone to help them. Many people are trying to find a way to help themselves.
With Pacifica, users learn daily routines to manage stress and anxiety, part of what the company advertises as “real progress, a day at a time.” The program involves the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (which focuses on understanding and changing thinking and behavior patterns) and the help of a community of like-minded people to help users get relief from their troubles. The app is loaded with tools, including audio lessons, relaxation techniques, and “mood and health tracking” that keeps a log of your moods and tracks your sleep and exercise to pick up any changes.
Mindshift is a similar app, but designed specifically to help teens and young adults deal with anxiety. It includes help with distress about tests and school, as well as social anxiety, and coping with the intense, rollercoaster of emotions that defines adolescence. The app could be seen as a tool to help people going through a phase in life when so many feel helpless in the face of constant, rapid change.
Headspace helps users “learn to meditate and live mindfully”, with hundreds of themed sessions covering everything from stress management to sleep. The product is billed as a “personal meditation guide right in your pocket”, and it’s highly-customizable to fit the programs and goals that you devise.
In a similar vein, Breathe2Relax does just that – it teaches breathing routines to maximize your relaxation. The app comes with handy diagrams that provide detailed information on how breathing exercises help your body as well as tutorials to walk you through the process.
On SAM (self-help for anxiety management), users are given 25 self-help options covering issues ranging from physical relaxation to health and anxiety. Users can join a closed network of fellow users and can monitor their anxiety with a handy graphical display.
Online therapy programs are not a substitution for professional help in the case of people in real danger. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately.
It’s important to note that every single online, digital therapy company advises users that if they are in serious distress to the extent where their lives may be in danger, they need to get professional help immediately. In those life-threatening cases, do not rely on the app, and get immediate help.
Having said that, there are digital options that help people who are in a very tough spot. While these programs aren’t a replacement for professional help, they can serve as a helpful initial step for those who can’t get over that first hurdle – asking for help.
PTSD Coach was developed by the Veterans Affairs Administration’s National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology to help veterans dealing with PTSD. The app includes helpful relaxation tools and tips to help deal with daily life, as well as contacts for when they want to reach out for support.
A similar app is Operation Reach Out, which is geared to help veterans who suffer from PTSD and may be dealing with suicidal feelings. The app is meant to encourage people to reach out when they’re in distress and helps them stay connected with people who care, so that they don’t fall off the grid. The app includes a series of video vignettes with helpful messages and tips for dealing with distress.
Asking for help isn’t easy, and sometimes one of the most difficult parts of improving your mental health is just taking that first step. With online mental health solutions, you don’t have to worry about your privacy or accruing big expenses attending sessions with a mental health professional. With these digital options, you can easily reach out to people who are trained and able to help you, and also learn the tools that can help you help yourself. It’s now easier than ever to seek out some sort of assistance on your own terms online. See what it can do for you.