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Why App-Based Teletherapy Has Been the Best Option for Me

Mental Well-Being

May 07, 2024

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Photograhy by DZ FILM/Stocksy United, Damir Cudic/Getty Images

Photograhy by DZ FILM/Stocksy United, Damir Cudic/Getty Images

by Effie Koliopoulos

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW

•••••

by Effie Koliopoulos

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW

•••••

It took a long time for me to understand why therapy could be beneficial. After years of learning to prioritize self-care, I realized I was finally ready for therapy.

Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was an overwhelming experience.

I vividly remember a rheumatologist handing me a prescription for the new medication he wanted me to start, along with the option to speak with a therapist. I accepted the former but declined the latter.

Speaking my emotions to a stranger wasn’t appealing to me at the time. But as I experienced some hard life lessons and learned about other people’s positive experiences with therapy, the idea started to become more appealing.

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Cultural barriers to seeking therapy

As a teenager, I knew nothing about arthritis or therapy.

Nobody in my family or social circle had talked about therapy. It was more of a taboo topic and considered something that wasn’t needed.

When I was asked if I wanted to speak to a therapist after my diagnosis, nobody explained why this might be important. I was left wondering, “Why do I need this? Why would it help? How can it benefit me in navigating this new normal? How can I afford it?”

Looking back, these questions were never answered — but I also never asked. Coupled with not having enough knowledge and coming from a cultural background that wasn’t readily open to therapy, it was easy to decline the service.

Nobody in my family or social circle had talked about therapy. It was more of a taboo topic and considered something that wasn’t needed.

Though there is a stigma attached to mental health services, times have changed, allowing for any preconceived notions about therapy to fall by the wayside. And in hindsight, therapy would have been just as important as my yearly physicals and checkups.

Ironically, what led me to enroll in online therapy nearly 2 decades after my RA diagnosis was not the disease but a bad relationship. However, it led me to explore how my RA, any trauma, and other life occurrences are all intertwined.

Whether it’s online or in person, therapy can help get to the root of the problem and connect the dots.

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Getting ready for the idea of therapy

Not understanding the importance of therapy was just one factor contributing to my initial ambivalence. Another factor was not being ready. I wasn’t ready to share myself with others.

Over time, there were certain practices that I think led to me feeling more ready. These included reading self-help books, sharing my feelings with those around me, journaling, meditating, and other self-care practices.

Not understanding the importance of therapy was just one factor contributing to my initial ambivalence. Another factor was not being ready. I wasn’t ready to share myself with others.

Caring for myself in these ways was a form of self-love that I was slowly learning to prioritize in my everyday life. This helped me cultivate more self-awareness and understand my own needs.

In my therapy sessions now, self-love has been a huge topic. My therapist asks me how I define self-care and self-love, and a lot of the things I would do before starting therapy were part of my definition. Therapy was my next big step on my self-love and self-improvement journey.

Finding BetterHelp

BetterHelp is the largest therapy platform in the world, and it’s 100% online.”

What appealed to me the most was the online appointments and affordability.

When you live with RA, you don’t only visit your rheumatologist. There are so many different doctors you might need to see, and often, these appointments have to be in person.

One thing I shared with my therapist is the burnout from coping with a chronic illness and everything that comes with it — including going to appointments.

Luckily, telehealth therapy (also known as teletherapy) has provided me the flexibility to seek care from the comfort of my home and to make the appointments fit my schedule. The platform gives you the ability to either message online, talk on the phone, or have a video chat.

There are some days when I prefer to talk on the phone, and other days I do video chat. On days when I don’t feel like doing either, I choose the online chat option. Sometimes, being on and ready for appointments isn’t always doable with RA. So, if you’re flaring or having a bad day, the options are plenty with this platform.

Another aspect that helped was the affordability. Being on disability and already having medical bills, therapy can be an expensive add-on.

Luckily, telehealth therapy (also known as teletherapy) has provided me the flexibility to seek care from the comfort of my home and to make the appointments fit my schedule.

While BetterHelp doesn’t accept insurance, they offer financial aid and discounts, which bring down the monthly payment considerably.

Other therapy platforms do accept insurance if BetterHelp doesn’t have what you’re looking for. Your insurance may cover certain providers as well, so it’s always worthwhile checking.

To get some other personal reviews and more details about BetterHelp, including how it compares to alternative options, check out this resource.

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It’s an ongoing process

It will soon be 2 years since I began therapy.

Right now, I do talk therapy, and it helps me get a handle on any emotions and recurring thoughts.

The only caveat is that the sessions are weekly. There are some weeks when I don’t have much to share, and I just talk about how my week has been.

BetterHelp has an online daily and weekly journal where you can write down anything to send your therapist. Therapists are also on call to answer any messages between appointments.

Instead of worrying about the future, it’s brought me back to the present moment to live fully despite any obstacles or setbacks.

My therapist will send me articles to read, assignments, and check-ins to see where I’m at in all areas of life.

Therapy has allowed me to see how much growth I’ve been able to do on my own in the years before being open to talking to someone.

Through working with my therapist, I’ve also been able to have a different perspective on various life situations. Instead of worrying about the future, it’s brought me back to the present moment to live fully despite any obstacles or setbacks.

Will I ever move to in person sessions or try another method with my therapist? Possibly. But as I navigate this new therapy regime, I give myself grace, patience, and empathy. I’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of myself for taking steps to be a better version of myself each day.

The takeaway

Starting therapy is a personal choice. Nobody can make you talk to someone if you’re not willing, ready, or don’t have the means to do so. There are a lot of factors that come into play, but there are many options out there to explore.

If online and app-based platforms such as BetterHelp aren’t something you think will be of use, asking your doctor for a referral is something to consider. Starting with certain self-help books or caring practices such as journaling, meditating, or other hobbies can also be very worthwhile.

Medically reviewed on May 07, 2024

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About the author

Effie Koliopoulos

Effie Koliopoulos launched a blog, Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis, in 2017 after recovering from a total knee replacement. This also started her advocacy work to shine a light on life with arthritis. She was awarded the WEGO Health Rookie of the Year Award and is a recipient of the HealtheVoices Impact Fund, which helped fund her recent book project, Keeping It Real with Arthritis: Stories from Around the World. Her advocacy efforts can be found on AiArthritis, Creaky Joints, RheumatoidArthritis.net, NewLifeOutlook, Everyday Health, Healthline, and Good Housekeeping. Effie is currently working on other writing projects, and she’s a passionate storyteller at heart. She graduated from DePaul University and lives in Chicago.

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