My early 2022 energy feels like being very ready for change, but struggling with knowing where to begin. What’s missing from my care plan? Therapy or coaching? A massage? Or just one day to only nap?
Before the pandemic, I was the self-care queen – pre-outfitted with a circle of practitioners, healers and support. But as the times changed, so did I, and it became time to take a look at new ideas available for healing myself so I could do my part in the world. I had no idea going into this pandemic how much I would need to overhaul my mental health program to meet the changes I would face in society and therefore myself.
Leaving In-Person Talk Therapy
That’s the thing about a house of cards. They fall down all at once. The summer of 2020, I was hit with a good old fashioned existential crisis. I had lost my job in the pandemic. . Being at home with the people I loved was not exactly the experience I had always fantasized about. I was disillusioned with my marriage and family life. I loved my family, but I was also newly aware of how disconnected and resentful we each felt over the roles we were playing in the home and society instead of existing more in the authentic connection we craved.
This all sounds like the perfect time to have a therapist on speed dial, but that fell too. As I explained my depression, angst and fear to my therapist over the patriarchal grip I felt on my life and how it was affecting the members of my family and my own mental health, I felt feedback from my therapist to accept my conditions instead of empowerment to change my circumstances.
While I’m a bootstrapper kind of person, there was an “it is what it is” mentality in my therapy sessions that triggered me, reminding me of growing up in my neighborhood and being told that my heart and passion for equity was “too much,” that I was “too loud,” or that “no one likes an angry woman.” I thought of how many women are complicit in blocking progress, not through violence but with apathy. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe it was because, by the nature of looking for an in-person therapist in my area, it just so happened that my therapist grew up in my neighborhood and attended my high school.
The feelings of anger, resentment, desperation and awakening I shared in sessions are the exact feelings I’ve heard about in different but similar anecdotes from other women in the last two years. I’ve felt trapped in a painful existence for myself and my family, feeling second to a corporate American salary and dealing with the effects that a capitalist providership mentality has on the psyche (I might say, especially in men). I needed support to stand up to the side effects of hustle culture, set some new boundaries in our family and create a shared vision for a life forward. Bringing these feelings along with concerns for my happiness and emotional safety to my therapist, I heard a response that I should find ways to accept and let go because, I was told, this was life in this neighborhood where many of her clients had this same problem .
I realized at that moment, I was not meant to live the life of a woman in this neighborhood if these were the terms. Therefore, and without judgment, I shouldn’t be seeing a therapist whose reality and biases were based on community values I did not subscribe to. As much as I knew I needed support, I was discouraged to find a replacement. Part of my turmoil was feeling like many of my ideas and goals for myself and society felt so radical in the conservative community I was in at the time that they were often dismissed, even by those claiming to be activists.
Blending Therapy and Coaching for Short Term Goals and Long Term Healing
Right as I was leaving my therapy practice, it felt like the makeshift zoom therapy sessions we all tried on at the beginning of the pandemic just became normal practice. Soon, coaches and therapists were using their telehealth capabilities to reach a farther audience than only those who live in a reasonable commute to their office. New methods of one:one emotional work, such as coaching, as well as a new ability to find practitioners outside of my neighborhood and closer to my values, excited me to get back to helping myself.
In 2021, I finished work with an executive coach by phone who helped me condition out of a lot of anxiety and self-sabotaging habits in my time management and build a structure for my executive identity. I worked with a financial coach on Zoom who did some incredible mediation of different financial values in the family and planning for future goals. I went to a talk therapy couples’ therapist in-person and became the happiest I’ve ever been in my marriage. For my own personal reflection and healing, I started working on Zoom with a counselor in the Bay Area who specializes in somatic therapy involving family constellations, which has given me more peace and forgiveness for myself and others than I’ve ever experienced before.
As I feel this abundance of options in mental health care coming through, it’s so exciting for me to think that, as we all have different needs, there’s more opportunity to be seen, heard and served with more approaches in play. Once again, what once felt like a major loss of 2020 now feels like an abundant opportunity.
With that in mind, I sent a few questions out, one set to my favorite therapist and one set to a favorite coach, to get caught up on where these fields are in response to the pandemic. The answers inspire me to see where we are headed in collective healing. If you’ve been thinking about giving yourself more care and asking, “Do I need a coach or a therapist?” I hope these give you a helpful start!
Q&A with Katy of Austin City Counseling
Have you had an influx of new clients this last year? Generally speaking, what issues have you noticed that are new clients coming to you for?
I have definitely seen an increase in the number of people wanting to start therapy over the last year. My practice, Austin City Counseling, had over a 500% increase in folks inquiring about starting therapy between September 2020 and September 2021. Anecdotally, other therapists in my network have had similar experiences. It can be challenging to find a therapist you click with who also has openings right now.
The commonalities I’ve noticed amongst folks wanting to start therapy are:
- Feeling increased symptoms of anxiety, which often presents as feeling on edge, having shorter patience, difficulty sleeping, feeling like something bad is about to happen, feeling dysregulated, and crying more than they used to.
- Feeling “not like themselves,” and grieving what normal used to feel like.
- Having difficulty managing life the way they did pre-pandemic. I hear lots of folks say things like “I used to be able to do this no problem and now…” or describing a loss of motivation.
- Comparing themselves to other people and how they appear to be doing. I’ve heard more folks talk about how social media has been hard for them, which often sounds like “It seems like everyone else is doing fine. And I don’t understand why this is so hard for me.”
- Wanting to make a big life change, like changing careers or relocating, and needing mental and emotional support to make those changes.
What do you wish new clients knew about an in person appointment vs teletherapy?
At the beginning of the pandemic (literally overnight), I transitioned from doing 100% in-person therapy to doing 100% virtual therapy. If I’m being totally honest, I used to be skeptical of virtual therapy, which is often called teletherapy. I worried that it would be difficult to connect with people in the same way I did in-person. To my surprise, teletherapy has been awesome. So awesome in fact, I plan to stay fully virtual and not to return to in-person therapy.
What I wish people knew about teletherapy is that your connection with your therapist can be just as deep and meaningful as in person. Teletherapy makes therapy more accessible. There’s no commuting, traffic, parking, waiting rooms, or having to leave work early. It takes less time and stress to access teletherapy. Teletherapy also allows you to do therapy from wherever you are most comfortable. And when you’re comfortable, you’re able to do deeper work in therapy.
I should also mention that they are folks that are going to prefer in-person and folks that truly need in-person. Options for how to access therapy have greatly increased during the pandemic, and that’s one of the more beautiful things to come out of all of this.
Does location or community come into play with working with a client in terms of understanding the client’s environment and situation? How are you finding the transition to working with clients outside of your area?
Location and community absolutely come into play. Our environment, along with the culture and the systems we live within all influence how we’re doing. If you’re curious to know more about this, check out “micro, meso, and macro systems in social work.”
In my work, I’m always curious about the client’s life experiences (which includes their current and past environment) and I try to approach getting to know folks with curiosity while checking any assumptions I may have going into the process. To me, it’s critical to be open to learning.
What are some ways you someone interested in finding a new therapist should conduct their search?
Such a good question! First, figure out what you’re looking for. Fit with your therapist is the most important criteria for how and if therapy will work for you. Fit is how well you click with your therapist. So think about what traits you might be looking for in a therapist.
Then think about the finances of therapy. Do you need to use insurance? Are you able to afford private-pay?
Once you have a sense of who you’re looking for and what your personal options are for financing therapy, begin your search.
- Ask friends and loved ones for recommendations.
- Check online directories: Inclusive Therapists and Psychology Today are both good resources and allow you to filter what you’re looking for.
- Reach out to therapists you’re interested in working with and ask for a consultation call. Most therapists do free consultation calls with potential clients, in order to feel out potential fit. If that therapist doesn’t work out, don’t hesitate to ask them for recommendations of other therapists they know.
- Instagram is also becoming a great resource for finding a therapist. Lots of therapists have professional accounts and share content regularly. This is a fresh way to connect with therapists and you can really get a sense of fit / connection with that therapist based on what they share.
- Trust your gut when it comes to fit with a potential therapist! 🙂
Q&A with Liz of Alongside Liz Coaching
How do you see your coaching sessions as different from a traditional talk therapy session?
I am always trying to find new and better ways to answer this question. One of the shortest ways I’ve heard it explains is that therapy is for getting out of a hole and coaching is for climbing a mountain. I don’t think that explanation gives therapy enough credit but it at least gives you an idea of the difference.
Coaching is often very goal focused, but what a goal is or means is highly dependent on the person. Some goals are very specific, like ‘I want to exercise 4 times a week,’ while others, like ‘I want to have more life satisfaction,’ are bigger in scope and less defined. I think the nature of the relationship between coach and client is a bit different also. It’s my job to partner with the client in our work together. That usually means providing support, challenge, and accountability.
What are some things our clients are coming to you for help with?
I am trained as a health and wellness coach and the cool thing about that is health and wellness touch so many aspects of life. I find myself working with many clients at the intersection of personal and professional well-being. People that come to me know their mental, emotional, and physical health is directly connected to how they want to show up professionally and in their relationships with friends and family. The specific goals people bring me vary wildly. Depending on the client we work on everything from eating better and sleeping more to better work/life boundaries and getting support through big life changes.
What do you want someone to know before working with a coach?
You know how stretching a muscle can be a little uncomfortable but also very rewarding? Coaching is like that. If you’re in a place where the idea of growth sounds exciting (even if it also feels a bit scary), then you’re ready for coaching.
How do you feel like your strengths based coaching helps your clients make the life they want for themselves?
Strengths are one of many lenses we can use to look at ourselves. Most people are very focused on what’s wrong or deficient, and strengths provide an opportunity to look at things from a different angle: focusing on what’s right and working well. Strengths’ power lies in giving us language for things that have always existed, but we may not have been directly aware of. When I coach people around their strengths, it’s really fun to help them see themselves from a new and fresh perspective. It opens up new areas for growth and improvement and gives people new understanding for why certain tasks drain or energize them.
Anything else we should know?
I am primarily focused on my 1:1 coaching. I’m currently taking on new coaching clients and am available for one time strength coaching sessions for people that aren’t currently interested in ongoing coaching. If people want to connect with me I they sign up for my free weekly email or send me an email!
What do you think? Have you tried in-person talk therapy, teletherapy or coaching before? What’s your preference? Share it in the comments below!