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What to do while you’re on a therapy waitlist

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Waiting for therapy is hard! This post is for people who want to start therapy soon, but were put on a therapy waitlist.

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If you’re looking for a therapist, you probably want to see them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, waitlists are common in mental health clinics and agencies, especially if they offer free services or accept Medicaid or public insurance. They are usually less common for therapists working independently or in a small group (called private practice). Waitlists can range from a week to months or even a year or more depending on the agency or clinic. 

So what can you do if you have to wait more than a month to see a therapist? Read this post to learn three ways to see a therapist sooner and support your mental health while you wait.

1. When you are put on a waitlist, let the scheduler know you want to start therapy as soon as possible.

Ask them to call you if a cancellation comes up. You should also call the clinic every month or so to ask how much longer you need to wait. This can help you know what to expect but also lets the scheduler know that you are still very interested in their services. 

2. Get on waitlists at more than one agency or clinic.

Even if you found exactly what you’re looking for in a therapy provider, it’s a good idea to get on as many waitlists as you can. Although the waitlist you’re on might move faster than expected, it could also move slower. By getting on multiple waitlists, you can accept the soonest appointment you are offered. Here are some ways to find other clinics or agencies that meet your needs:

3. Find other ways to take care of your mental health.

It’s hard to be told to wait when you know that you need help. It’s common to feel frustrated, disappointed, and stuck. Here are some other ways to take care of your mental health while you wait: 

  • Use a free mental health app, like MoodTools, The Safe Place App, or the UCLA Mindful App
  • Use a self-guided mental health program, like This Way Up or Project Empower.
  • Join a virtual or local support group for people who are experiencing similar challenges (for example, coping with a cancer diagnosis or struggling with alcohol use). Search Therapy4thePeople’s directory to find a support group that meets your needs.
  • Use a text, phone, or chatline. Search Therapy4thePeople’s directory to find one that meets your needs.
  • If you’re in a crisis, see Therapy4thePeople’s guide on what to do.

Although waiting isn’t easy, remember that your hard work to find a therapist will pay off!

If you’re still in the process of finding a therapist, Therapy4thePeople has a national directory of free and low-cost mental health services.

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