How to Find a Good Online Therapist: Q&A with Psychologist Lindsay Henderson

How to Find a Good Online Therapist: Q&A with Psychologist Lindsay Henderson

Amwell offers online therapy and your mental health is always on our minds – this week in particular. In honor of World Mental Health Day (October 10) and Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 6-12, 2019), we sat down with Psychologist Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, Director of Psychological Services at American Well (pictured here with her family). We discussed everything from her own experiences as an online mental health provider (and offline busy mom!) to the patient and provider benefits of teletherapy – and how to find a good therapist. Read on and explore if online therapy could help you!

What are signs of a good therapist? How can someone choose a therapist who’s right for them?

The most important thing in finding a therapist is finding someone you feel comfortable with and someone you feel you can open up to – you feel comfortable sitting with for 45 minutes at a time. That looks different for everyone. This may be more important for some than others, but generally speaking, it’s important, in our opinion, that a therapist keeps up with current literature and research and integrates some evidence-based treatments into their practice, because we know that those types of treatments have research behind them and have been shown to have the best impact on folks in the shortest amount of time. So it’s nice to know that your therapist, like any other doctor you’re seeing, is keeping up with the latest advances in the field.

When did you first decide you wanted to work in behavioral health or the mental health field?

I originally thought I wanted to be an architect, and truthfully wasn’t sure what exactly psychology was until a Psych 101 class freshman year of college. I loved the class and went on for more. When a close family member died as a result of her mental illness, my focus really shifted away from architecture.

What conditions are you frequently seeing online?

We see everything that may present in a brick-and-mortar setting, but I most frequently see folks struggling with family and relationship stress, anxiety and depression, and life transitions.

I think there’s a common misconception is that we can’t treat as many conditions (online). Once you find a good provider who matches what you want and need, and you are able to use the technology consistently and reliably, and you’re safe, we can treat almost anything online.

Do you have a favorite story about how online therapy helped someone in a unique way?

Lots of stories! I love seeing how this technology allows people to creatively fit mental health care into their busy lives. I worked with someone who had a very strict 60-minute lunch break each day and no other availability as a busy single mom; she saw me from her parked car outside of her office, which she called “the most private space in my life.” My favorite story is when I was able to keep someone from a higher level of care by seeing them twice over a weekend. Traditional office and clinic settings, which rarely have Saturday and Sunday hours, would have necessitated an emergency room visit for this patient, but we were able to stabilize and keep her safe by meeting over the weekend.

What is your favorite feature of practicing online?

My favorite thing is the flexibility that it brings for both the patient and the provider. We talk all the time about the benefits of telehealth for the patient, which we should – our goal is to make health care easier and more accessible for patients. But I think that you can’t underplay the benefits for the provider as well. When we’re able to integrate providing good mental health care into our lives more seamlessly and more successfully, it makes us better providers for our patients and really contributes to a much higher quality of life.

I find that it lets me fit more work into my day and into lot less time, so less energy and burnout. I came to telehealth when I had my first child. I now have two toddlers – 3½ and 1½ – and I was committed to figure out a way to fit a full career into the life of a young parent and sacrifice less.

Do you feel like what you experience as a working parent helps you connect with what you’re hearing from patients?

Definitely. I find that a lot of our patients are just like you and me – they’re busy people with young families and full-time jobs, and I hear all the time that, “I wouldn’t be able to get mental health care, I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my life, without this technology and this service.” I think the more life experience we have, the better we are at understanding where our patients are coming from.

What are your favorite tools (beyond online therapy!) for managing mental health?

I don’t really have a favorite. I think broadly speaking, any tool – whether it’s a book or a website or an app that helps you apply some of hands-on skills to your everyday life – is great, whether that’s mindfulness – which helps you learn how to focus on the present rather than being consumed by the past or the future – or cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT), which helps you to restructure your thinking patterns to improve your mood overall. There are tons of apps and books and websites that really help people integrate and practice these things. Any tool that works for you – actually helps you integrate that information into your life – is great.

What do you like to do for fun?

My husband and I, as much as we can, we put effort and work into making our house our own, doing little projects around the house and yard, spending time with our two little kids. We spend time in summer months on one of the Finger Lakes here.

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