This past year has brought a lot of change, and many older adults are becoming stressed from dealing with those changes. High levels of stress can increase depression and even contribute to physical illness such as heart disease, so it’s important for seniors to talk to someone who can help them cope with their feelings before they spiral. Online counseling offers a safe way for seniors to get the therapy they need at home, but the only way for it to work is if the patient feels a connection to his or her therapist.
How to choose an online mental health provider
Choosing a therapist isn’t like choosing a physician. A friend can recommend a doctor who removed an in-grown toenail or relieved their back pain, but when it comes to mental health, every patient’s needs are unique.
Most online therapy sites begin the counselor match process by having the patient fill out an assessment that asks about age, symptoms the patient is experiencing, and what they hope to accomplish with therapy. Those answers help to whittle down a large pool of providers who can address those needs. Long story short— honesty is a must when it comes to finding the best match!
Factors to consider when reading a therapist’s bio
After filling out the assessment, patients are usually sent a list of suggested therapists, and most therapists should have a bio. This is when to start looking for who will be qualified to meet the patient’s needs.
A therapist should always be listed as a licensed mental health professional, which proves they’ve passed a licensing test and background check, and completed supervised training hours. You should see one of these acronyms next to their name:
- LCSW — Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- NCC — National Certified Counselor
- LCDC — Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
- LPC — Licensed Professional Counselor
- LMHC — Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- PsyD — Doctor of Psychology
- PhD — Doctor of Philosophy
- MD — Doctor of Medicine (physician psychiatrist)
Is the patient more comfortable speaking with a man or a woman?
Would the patient rather work with someone his age who may have similar experiences, or someone younger?
Some therapists will discuss their religious beliefs in their bios, while some faith-based teletherapy sites only list Christian providers.
The therapist you choose should have experience with seniors and be able to help with common aging concerns.
Heidi Donald, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Renew Mind and Body Wellness in Columbia, Illinois, stated seniors are dealing with physical issues that greatly impact their mental health, so it’s important that a counselor know how to address these issues— “They feel more pain, they lose control over their bodies, and they lose a lot of independence. All of those things are accompanied by strong emotions, and a counselor who is trained to address these issues will have the tools to help seniors handle those emotions better.”
Donald also pointed out that the brain develops differently throughout life, so a therapist who normally sees children knows how to identify disorders such as ADHD and autism as children grow, while a counselor specialized in senior care can diagnose dementia in older adults.
Don’t worry, it’s always okay to change therapists
No matter how thorough a patient is in choosing the right online mental health provider, the relationship may not work –and that’s okay. The most important thing is to find the best fit in order to get the results, so keep trying until you get it right.