I Need to See a Therapist Today: What Should I Do?
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It’s important to have a strong support network of people you trust to be there for you when you need help. You may have some close friends and family that you trust with mental health discussions. However, they can’t provide treatment in the same way a therapist or mental health professional can. There are some times when mental health distress and disorders require immediate help from a therapist. 


If you don’t currently have a therapist or if your therapist can’t see you on short notice, there are a couple of ways to get mental health care services right away. Keep reading to learn about your options. (Please note that this article doesn’t apply to stabilization for symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol or drug use.)


What are some examples of urgent mental health situations?


Some types of mental health situations may require immediate attention without necessarily needing emergency services — for example, if you’ve called off work because of a conflict with a co-worker and you’d like to speak with a therapist before returning. The intensity of your symptoms and your understanding of them can also be factors that drive you to seek out a same-day therapy appointment. 


A mental health crisis is any time when you’re severely distressed and your mental health symptoms feel like they’re overwhelming you. This usually comes along with intense and abrupt changes in your behavior or body function, like hyperventilating, self-medicating, or being unable to engage in activities like showering, changing clothes or brushing your teeth. 


Behavior that might be a crisis warning sign for one person might not be an urgent concern for someone else. You know yourself best, so most of the time, you can determine what’s typical for you and what’s not. However, in moments of acute crisis, you might not have the self-awareness to recognize changes in your symptoms and their severity. You may need to rely on your personal support system to help you put your symptoms into words or determine what kind of help you need. If you know you tend to engage in certain behaviors like drinking to excess or self-harming when you’re not well, these can be important warning signs too.


There are many possible situations when you would need to see a therapist as soon as possible:


  • You’re self-harming or having thoughts of self-harm.
  • You’re having thoughts of suicide.
  • You’re having symptoms that come and go, like intrusive thoughts, and you want to see a therapist while you’re symptomatic.
  • You’re taking time off work or school to deal with a difficult situation.
  • Something unexpected is troubling you, like a car accident or a traumatic loss.
  • You’re afraid you might engage in destructive behaviors like taking drugs or taking dangerous risks.
  • You’re not sure what you’re experiencing and you want to speak with a therapist before you change your mind.
  • You’re experiencing psychosis — seeing or hearing things that aren’t real. 
  • You’re experiencing delusions or feeling paranoid.
  • You’re having a panic attack or flashbacks.
  • You’re experiencing mania or hypomania — feeling very energetic and high.
  • You’re feeling agitated, extremely angry or violent.


How can I see a therapist today?


Some therapy practices offer same-day outpatient therapy appointments that may or may not be covered by insurance. Try searching for same-day therapy appointments using your city and state or ZIP code. Before you go, you may want to verify that they take your insurance and that they have availability for walk-ins today. 


Now that telehealth has made it easy to connect with a therapist online, you may be able to get a same-day appointment with a virtual therapist. If you’re a student, you may be able to speak with a therapist on campus right away. You can also look into student mental health resource sites, such as this one for California students. 


If you think you may need a higher level of care, you can go to a psychiatric urgent care center or a hospital emergency room to begin inpatient treatment immediately. (Make sure the hospital has a psychiatric department.) Most inpatient programs are short-term intensive services intended to stabilize individuals in crisis. You’ll have 24-hour access to mental health care professionals, and you’ll be closely monitored during your stay for your safety. You will likely need additional care afterward to maintain good mental health.


How Lightfully can help


Once you have addressed any immediate mental health challenges with a therapist, you may need more intensive help to fully address your mental health challenges. Though we don’t offer same-day therapy appointments or inpatient services, we do have intensive programs that can help you work through tough times. 


We ensure that our clients get the help and support they need through our process-based therapy (PBT) model, which focuses on healthy core processes. We only use evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered treatment modalities. 


Our Residential Treatment program (RTC) is the most comprehensive program we offer, set in a comfortable home-based environment with 24-hour support. Unlike inpatient programs, clients in Residential Treatment bring their own clothes and personal items. We also offer structured outpatient programs for clients who need a lot of care but are able to commute from home. Our Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) includes five full days of treatment per week, and our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) includes up to six hours of treatment per day. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for residents of California and Colorado. 


Plan for long-term mental wellness and support at Lightfully


It can take a significant amount of time to address your mental health challenges. You’ll need dedicated time with a therapist to work through things and new skills to support your mental wellness in the long term.


If seeing a therapist today is the first step for you, then don’t worry about all that just yet! We’ll be here to help you if you need continuing mental health support. Until then, you can get to know us by coming to our free online support group, currently on Thursdays from 12pm to 1pm PT (2pm CT & 3pm ET).


You’re doing the right thing by seeking out the help you need. When you’re ready, get in touch with our Admissions Concierge Team to start making plans for treatment. We can’t wait to meet you!

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