Therapy is normal, it's needed, and it can save your life.
Years ago, as I faced a season of crippling anxiety following an on-air anxiety attack while reporting, my primary care doctor advised me to seek therapy. I thought that meant I was broken. So, I stubbornly avoided it, and thought that if I tried hard enough, I could fix it on my own and steer clear of the “embarrassment” of getting help. However, by not taking my doctor's wise advice, and I paid the price in the agony of many sleepless nights and tense days.
And then, my father died. His death in the summer of 2011 left an indescribable ache in my spirit—and an emptiness I tried to fill with the same thing that contributed to his demise: massive amounts of food. I wanted peace, but I was putting my faith on a plate, and that kind of peace only patches a wound with the same thing that made you sick.
I kept asking God why He didn’t send relief, and eventually my thoughts fell back on my doctor’s suggestion to see a therapist. I had to make a decision: continue to live in denial or be vulnerable enough to get help—and peace. So, I humbled myself, picked up the phone, and made an appointment eight months after my doctor first referred me to therapy. It is one of the best phone calls I’ve ever made.
Therapy helped me understand that anxiety didn't mean I was broken, and it didn't have to define my life. Therapy also helped me understand that anxiety was at the core of my unhealthy relationship with food. You see, food had become a coping mechanism for the tension and uncertainty that felt overwhelming at times. It was an escape, but it paved the way to more pain. Understanding the why behind it all, gave me the freedom to find and use better tools to stay afloat and thrive in the face of anxious moments.
So where do you begin? Most health insurance plans will cover mental health therapy, requiring only a co-pay for your visits. Other insurance companies may require a bit more. I suggest you reach out to your insurance provider and ask for in-network therapists who could be a great fit for you. You can ask your primary care physician for referrals, too. If you don't have insurance, there are therapists who offer services on a sliding scale, too. I’ll admit, I got very lucky with Dr. Robin Nottingham. She's been guiding me more than a decade. She’s the first and only therapist I’ve had; however, it could take a few sessions for you to find the right therapist for you. Here are some options that could help you get started.
Mental Health and Addiction Support Services
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
You can call or text 988 if you’re in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It’s a national network
of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential support. They are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can learn more at 988lifeline.org.
Findtreatment.gov is a confidential and anonymous resource for locating treatment facilities for mental and substance use disorders in the United States and its territories. Visit
https://findtreatment.gov/locator to locate treatment options near you.
PsychologyToday.com is a free online database of mental health professionals. You can search the directory based on the type of therapist you’re looking for, including location, race, gender, cultural background, religious affiliation, and more. You can also search for therapists that offer services on a sliding cost scale. You can learn more at www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline
The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-supported service providing information,
resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition. You can text
“HelpLine” to 62640 or call 800-950-6264. Learn more about additional resources at
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year referral and
information service for people and families facing mental health and substance use disorders. You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline for additional resources.
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
The Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nationwide network of mental health professionals who offer virtual and in-office sessions at a steeply reduced rate to people who qualify. You can learn more at www.openpathcollective.org.
Overeaters Anonymous is “a community of people who support each other in order to recover from compulsive eating and food behaviors.” You can find a virtual or in-person meeting to get support at https://oa.org/find-a-meeting/?type=0. You can also call
Therapy for Black Girls
Therapyforblackgirls.com is an online resource to find “culturally responsive therapists” to
provide mental health support specifically to Black women and girls. You can search by in-office and virtual options. There are also podcasts and a “sister circle” community found on the site, too.
The Loveland Therapy Fund
The Loveland Therapy Fund provides financial assistance to Black women and girls seeking
therapy nationwide. The Fund supports four to twelve therapy sessions, and assists with securing affordable therapy options once their support has ended. You can learn more at
Postpartum Support International Helpline
The Postpartum Support International Helpline promotes awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing. You can call 1-800-944-4773 to leave a confidential message, or if you’re in crisis, you can call or text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-943-5746. Learn about more resources at www.postpartum.net/get-help.
GoodTherapy.org is an online resource to find mental health resources, therapists, counselors, rehabilitation and residential treatment centers. The site also offers guidance on ways to find free or reduced therapy options. You can learn more at https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-free-counseling-and-affordable-therapy-options.html.
BetterHelp and TalkSpace
BetterHelp and TalkSpace each offer online therapy options with licensed mental health