How to Help Yourself if You’re on a Waiting List for Therapy

One of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has increased mental health awareness. Limiting our activities and contact with others has led to so much talk about fear, loneliness, disconnection, and mental health. These experiences have made people notice their needs and feel more comfortable seeking help.

More people now seek therapy

For some, actually getting help has been easier, because they could reach out from their living rooms and receive virtual therapy. Yet for others, it has been harder, because they didn’t have the privacy to address the issues they are facing.

Now we are transitioning to a new phase with COVID. As more people are getting dressed in work clothes again, going back to the office, and returning to activities and busier schedules, we are seeing even more people reach out for help.

We notice people having to manage new and increased anxiety and depression. We see more awareness around mental health, including the much-needed reduced stigma. And we see a greater number of people with an increased need for support because of COVID!

People need resources while on a waiting list for therapy

So many people are connecting after COVID — which is a beautiful thing! The tough part? Right now, there are not enough mental health providers for all those who want support. Across the country and around the world, many prospective clients are currently finding themselves on a waiting list for therapy and the care they deserve.

So, what can you do during this “wait” time? Even if therapy is currently not available to you, here are some ways to take care of yourself in the meantime.

If you are in crisis, please do not delay, call 911 or contact one of the crisis resources immediately. You deserve immediate help!

8 ways to help yourself if there’s a waiting list for therapy

If you are able to safely wait for care:

  1. Appreciate yourself and your effort to grow. Reaching out for help is an amazing step. I hope it gives you some peace of mind knowing you’re actively pursuing and will be getting the help you deserve. This may not feel very big, though we know it’s a huge victory. Know that you have taken the first step and feel the victory in that.
  2. Consider a support group / Seek alternative support in the meantime. A support group may be able to provide you help until you can get the deeper support and healing that comes from therapy. Whether online or locally in-person, there are many support groups available — from 12-step programs for drug and alcohol use, and behavior involving food, sex, gambling, and self-harm. Other organizations host bereavement groups and other mental health groups. You are not alone.Here is a list of resources where you can find support based on your specific need. Mental Health America also has this resource to help you find support groups.
  3. Approach your inner critic with self-compassion. Being compassionate towards yourself is an important part of healing. Try to approach each day with the intention of being kind to yourself. Approach inner criticism with nurturing and compassion.Have curiosity — what is that voice or part trying to protect you from? Perhaps you can get to know these parts of yourself in a way that’s more gentle. Another healthy way to deal with negative self-talk? Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary.
  4. Reduce isolation. If you are isolated or feeling lonely, consider some ways you can be around others in a positive way. Maybe this means joining a book club or hiking club or getting involved with your church, mosque, or synagogue.Healthy relationships help to heal trauma. Though the idea of giving through volunteering may, at first, feel like a big responsibility, helping others (people or animals) can actually provide a sense of purpose and replenish rather than deplete.
  5. Physically support your body to reduce stress. Trauma gets trapped inside the body. This is why we integrate a three-stage mind-body approach to trauma and therapy, also known as bottom up therapy.Whatever you can do to take care of your physical health and bring calm to your nervous system will help you on the road to healing. This may include meditation, yoga, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, healthy exercise and movement, getting a physical exam or seeing a dietician. If you feel stressed, you can reduce the stress you’re feeling right now.
  6. Incorporate self-care — however that looks for you! Do you identify with some of these signs that you need better self-care? Self-care can be different things for different people. It is essential, especially when you are working to heal from trauma. Here is why you deserve self-care, and how you can do it.
  7. Take notice of the present moment. Do you notice using food, alcohol or self-harming behavior to feel less badly? Do you notice not showering or not wanting to connect?Consider what it would be like if you allowed yourself to be present in these moments, noticed what you needed or were avoiding, took in some calming slow breaths, and compassionately reminded yourself that you are safe today and deserve only the best.
  8. Empower yourself with knowledge and resources. Here are some of our recommended books on mental health, organized by topic. Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram where we provide daily resources.

If you have already connected with us, we will be in touch to schedule your appointment as soon as we are able. We are honored that you have chosen to have us walk beside you on your journey. If you have not yet connected with us but are interested in care, please contact/email me. We are eager to support you on the road to healing, and we thank you for the opportunity!

About the Author

Robyn E. Brickel, M.A., LMFT Robyn E. Brickel, MA, LMFT is the director and lead therapist at Brickel and Associates, LLC in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, which she founded in 1999. She specializes in the therapeutic treatment of individuals (adolescents and adults), couples, families and groups. Robyn E. Brickel offers treatment and psychoeducational services for many life issues and transitions, such as: A history of trauma and/or abuse, including Dissociation; Addictions, as well as Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) issues; Body Image issues and Eating Disorders; Self-Harming behaviors, including Emotional intensity and instability; Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders; Challenged family systems; Chronic illness; Co-dependency; Dysfunctional relationships; Life transitions; Loss and bereavement; Relationship distress; Self esteem; GLBTQ and sexual identity issues/struggles; Stress reduction. She is an LMFT, as well as a trained trauma & addictions therapist who has helped countless clients make and maintain positive changes in their lives. To learn more about Robyn E. Brickel, visit her website.

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