Mental health is a subject that has long been shrouded in stigma, preventing many from seeking the help they need. It’s a subject that needs our attention and understanding—now more than ever. But what if, on top of the mental health stigma, people also struggle to get access to mental health services?
In the city of Chicago alone, there’s a growing need. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers answered over 40,000 calls with a mental health component. Officers report that these encounters were quite problematic since those with mental health conditions may not respond well to traditional police strategies.
With limited options to handle situations, the police become the “guardians of the criminal justice and mental health systems.” Some officers were even frustrated about the lack of a proper mental health system in Chicago.
But there’s good news: online therapy is changing the game. Let’s discover how online therapy in Chicago can help confront the unmet need for mental health services that have held people back for far too long.
The Unmet Need
During the 1980s, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) operated a network of 19 community mental health centers, making it the primary provider of outpatient mental health services in the city. However, by the time Rahm Emanuel assumed the role of mayor in 2011, a significant transformation had occurred. Only 12 CDPH mental health centers remained operational.
The sudden shift was partly a consequence of the welfare reform initiatives in the 1990s, which led to the mass privatization of services and a significant reduction in public responsibility for the care of vulnerable residents. Aligning with his broader agenda to privatize public infrastructure and decrease the number of unionized jobs in Chicago, Emanuel made the controversial decision to close half of the remaining CDPH mental health centers, despite community protests.
The consequences of this decision, both in financial terms and human impact, have been immense. Analysis of 911 emergency calls has revealed that areas with high rates of behavioral health-related calls are concentrated in neighborhoods where CDPH centers were shuttered. The need for more mental health services in Chicago today is staggering, and access to these services varies significantly across the city.
Combatting Mental Health Issues with Online Therapy
Addressing mental health issues is a multifaceted endeavor that requires collective efforts. Today, online therapy is an established and accepted mode of delivering mental health services. It offers a wide range of therapeutic modalities, from individual counseling to group therapy, and is accessible to people of all backgrounds and locations.
A new study shows that online therapy works as well as in-person therapy. It has effectively broken down geographical and logistical barriers, providing much-needed support to those who might have otherwise struggled to access mental health care.
As technology continues to evolve and mental health awareness grows, online therapy is likely to play an even more significant role in the future of mental healthcare. Here’s why it can be a game-changer for people in Chicago:
Anonymity and Privacy
Online therapy allows you to have a level of anonymity that traditional in-person therapy can’t match. You can seek help from the comfort of your home without worrying about running into someone you know at a therapist’s office. This privacy can alleviate the fear of judgment and encourage more people to take the first step.
Convenience and Accessibility
Chicago’s urban environment often leads to busy schedules and long commutes. With online therapy, you don’t need to travel to appointments, making it a time-saving and convenient choice.
You don’t even have to deal with the hassle of scheduling appointments during working hours. Instead, you can connect with a therapist from your smartphone or computer, making it easier to fit into your busy life.
A Diverse Range of Therapists
Chicago is a diverse city with residents from various cultural backgrounds. Online therapy allows you to find a therapist who understands and respects your unique cultural perspectives and needs.
Seeking therapy online can be more cost-effective than traditional therapy. Many online therapy platforms offer a range of payment options, and some even accept insurance, making it an affordable choice for many.
How to Embrace Online Therapy in Chicago
If you’re considering online therapy in Chicago, here are some valuable suggestions to get started:
1. Do your research and choose a reputable platform.
Start by searching and selecting a reputable online therapy platform. Look for reviews and recommendations, and ensure the platform aligns with your specific needs. Platforms like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Amwell are well-known options.
2. Evaluate therapists.
Once you’ve chosen a platform, take the time to evaluate the therapists available. Check their profiles, specialties, and qualifications. It’s essential to find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and understood.
- Specialties: Choose a therapist who specializes in the particular issues you want to address. For example, if you’re dealing with anxiety, seek a therapist with expertise in anxiety disorders.
- Credentials: Ensure the therapist is licensed and qualified to provide therapy in your state, such as Illinois for Chicago residents.
- Personal Connection: Trust your gut. The therapist should make you feel comfortable and understood.
3. Discuss your concerns openly.
When you connect with a therapist, don’t hold back. Be open and honest about your concerns and the challenges you may have faced. Therapists undergo training to provide a safe and non-judgmental space for you to express yourself.
Participate actively in your therapy sessions. Engage with the therapist, ask questions, and share your thoughts and feelings honestly. Your active involvement in the process can lead to more effective outcomes.
The quality of the therapeutic relationship is a fundamental aspect of therapy, whether it’s conducted online or in person. Understanding the dynamics of this relationship is vital:
- Trust will take time to develop. Building trust with your therapist may take some sessions. Being realistic means understanding that it might not happen instantaneously, especially if you have trust issues due to past experiences.
- Therapeutic alliance is important. The therapeutic relationship, known as the therapeutic alliance, is critical to the success of therapy. A strong alliance takes time to develop. Being clear about what you want to achieve through therapy will allow you to work with your therapist to build a supportive and trusting connection.
4. Be realistic with your expectations.
Online therapy may differ from traditional in-person therapy. You must set realistic expectations and understand that it will not be quick and easy. Consistency is key.
It’s essential to recognize that therapy is not a quick fix, but rather a journey of self-exploration and growth. Here’s why being realistic with your expectations is crucial:
- Progress Takes Time: Mental health concerns often develop over an extended period, and addressing them likewise requires time. Clients should understand that significant improvements may not occur after just a few sessions. Realistic expectations mean recognizing that progress may be gradual and sometimes nonlinear.
- Setbacks Are Normal: In the course of therapy, it’s entirely normal to experience setbacks or periods of increased symptoms. These should not be seen as failures but as opportunities for learning and growth. Being realistic with your expectations allows you to cope with setbacks without feeling discouraged.
5. Engage with supportive communities.
Online therapy platforms often offer forums and communities where you can socialize with others facing similar challenges. Engaging with these communities can provide additional support and a sense of belonging.
Be Brave – Take a Step in the Right Direction
Online therapy in Chicago is a promising step toward breaking down the walls of mental health stigma. By embracing the benefits of online therapy, individuals can access the help they need wherever they are while overcoming the fear of judgment. It’s a powerful tool for transforming the mental health landscape.
If you’ve been hesitant to seek therapy or can’t find mental health services that fit your needs in Chicago, consider online therapy as a confidential, accessible, and effective alternative. Take that first step toward improving your mental well-being and breaking through the stigma—there’s a supportive online community waiting to help you on your journey.