Therapy During Coronavirus? Now Might Be A Good Time

A Mental Health Resource Guide for Asian Americans
April 15, 2020

Self care isn't selfish

Photo by Madison Inouye

We’re in an unprecedented time. Social distancing is becoming the norm as we learn about how to “flatten the curve” and try to help those who don’t understand the concept get up to speed as well. We’re remembering the real people that keep this country running: the gas station attendants, grocery store clerks, operators and suppliers for our food systems, hospital staff and other essential service workers. Mutual aid among communities is sprouting up in creative ways. Some of us are uncertain about the future of our work, healthcare benefits and housing. We feel a need and curiosity to consume the news, but it’s also overwhelming.

Asian Americans are experiencing increasing challenges as our communities are targeted with violence and hate for wearing a face mask, coughing, taking transit and simply existing in public around those who associate us with a “foreign virus.” 

The stress is real. Here at Hyphen, we’re big proponents of access to quality therapy and mental health care. Of course, there are a ton of ways to maintain a healthy relationship with our minds and emotions, but therapy has given many of us the guidance and healing we need, especially during times of crisis. So we put together a guide on mental health resources.

Please note that this list is for your educational reference only. Hyphen is not able to guarantee the validity of any product or service obtained from these links.

Places To Be Heard

Connect with other Asian Americans on mental health and report incidents of anti-Asian hate/violence:

  • MannMukti is a storytelling platform that enables the South Asian diaspora to normalize and discuss mental health issues through a Facebook community forum.
  • Subtle Asian Mental Health is a Facebook group where APA folks can go to share your feelings and thoughts about anything, especially mental health.
  • Go to Stop AAPI Hate Project to report incidents of anti-Asian hate or violence. Incident report forms are also available in Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Khmer for your loved ones who feel more comfortable communicating in those languages.

Getting Started

Since mid-March, most therapists and clinics are offering telehealth (therapy via phone or video) for new and existing clients. Depending on your preferences, you may want to seek someone who is local so that you can switch to in-person sessions after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Or you may prefer someone who can offer teletherapy indefinitely. Either way, the therapist must be licensed to practice in the state where you live.

First, determine your insurance coverage for mental health and look at your finances, including whether you have health or flexible spending account funds (HSA/FSA). This will help you determine how much you can afford to budget monthly and whether you can get help paying from your insurance. Think of therapy as a budget category, just like a car payment or eating out. Therapy costs vary widely based on where you live, your insurance coverage, the therapist’s licensure type and specialty and other factors. Some therapists will accept only certain types of health insurance while others do not accept insurance and require out-of-pocket payment. Asking friends and loved ones for therapist recommendations can also be a great way to find a good fit and can save lots of time. You can then contact the therapists directly to see if they’re taking new clients and inquire about costs, etc.

Paying Out-Of-Pocket For Therapy (Paying Therapists Directly Instead of Using Insurance)

If you have the option of paying out-of-pocket for therapy, check out these resources.

  • Through Psychology Today’s website, you can “find an Asian therapist.” You can also refine the search by languages if you prefer to do therapy in a language other than English.
  • Asian Mental Health Collective has a national directory of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American therapists.
  • Queer Therapists of Color (QTOC) is a grassroots group in the San Francisco Bay Area with a directory of therapists.
  • Bay Area South Asian Network of Therapists (BASANT) has a directory.
  • Desi LGBTQ Helpline for South Asians offers peer support and help finding resources like a therapist through their contact form
  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network has a directory.
  • South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network has a directory.
  • Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker has a directory of adoptee-identified therapists who work with adoptees and adoptive families.

Therapy Through Health Insurance

If you have the option to use insurance, call the number on the back of your card to find the details of your benefits for mental health. Do you have to use the in-network providers on their list? Or do you have coverage for an out-of-network provider as long as they are licensed? Does the plan offer coverage for telehealth? How many sessions are you limited to? 

Ask your insurance company for help locating an appropriate therapist. If you are limited to using a list of in-network therapists, know that many insurance companies have staff who can support you to find a culturally appropriate therapist, especially if this will help you to succeed in your goals for therapy. For example, you might request that they give you some names of Asian American therapists in their network within 25 miles who specialize in eating disorders and currently have openings. 
If the insurance company can’t find an appropriate provider in their network, there is a recourse where they pay for you to see someone out-of-network who can help you. This is called a single case agreement (SCA) and this is how it works.

Free Counseling through Your Employer’s EAP Program

If you’re currently employed, your employer may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers a limited number of free telephone counseling sessions to you. The sessions remain confidential and your employer will not have any access to what was discussed during the sessions. This service is meant to be for temporary, short-term issues and is not a substitute for ongoing sessions with a licensed therapist, but can be an additional resource that can often be quickly accessed. 

Lower Cost Therapy Options

If using insurance is not a viable option and you don’t have available resources to afford a therapist’s full fee, there may still be options.

  • If you live in a metropolitan area, there’s a decent chance that there are low cost options for therapy through training clinics. A google search for “affordable therapy” or “sliding scale therapy” might turn up options in your area.
  • With Open Path, you pay a membership fee to gain access to therapists in private practice at a sliding scale (typically $30-60). Their directory includes the ability to search by Asian as an ethnic specialty. Before signing up and paying for the service, you can search their directory to see if there’s someone you would like to work with..
  • Ayana is a relatively new online app that markets teletherapy to POC & LGBTQ+ with an emphasis on intersectionality. The cost is $140 per month for two sessions and unlimited texting with a therapist.
  • Some therapists in private practice offer reduced fee/sliding scale slots in their private practice to those who could not otherwise afford their services. 

Find a Therapist Who Gets You

Once you’ve made a short list of therapists that appeal to you, reach out to them either through phone or email. Each therapist will have a different process for enrolling new clients, but many will offer some kind of initial consultation for free. This is so both you and the therapist can see if it’s a good fit.

To prepare for the consultation, ask yourself, what am I looking for help with right now? Have a sense of what kind of change or outcome you want. The more specific you can get, the more helpful the consultation could be. Here are some examples:

  • Improve boundaries and communicate better in relationships
  • Manage symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Deal more productively with difficult feelings like anger, grief, fear 
  • Get support through a transition or life change
  • Heal issues around identity, oppression and trauma
  • Learn to take care of yourself better
  • Next, make a list of questions that you want to ask the therapist. You want to leave the call with a sense of whether they could help you with your goals. As such, you might ask about their background and experience with your issue, approach to frequency/duration/pacing of therapy and practical matters like cost and scheduling. This all depends on what you need to know to feel comfortable with the process. 

Once you consult with the therapists on your list, you’ll want to make your decision. If you struggle with anxiety around making decisions, it might be tempting to put this part off, but things can only get better if you take the important next step of setting up the first appointment. 

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Annie Chen

Annie Chen image
Health Editor

Annie Chen is a licensed marriage and family therapist who works, writes, and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is author of The Attachment Theory Workbook: Powerful Tools to Promote Understanding, Increase Stability, and Build Lasting Relationships.