Sometimes in-person therapy just isn’t realistic. I spend most of my time traveling or living abroad, so finding a therapist who speaks English and establishing an in-person therapeutic relationship is just out of the question.
But, perhaps like you, therapy has been an incredible tool to help me manage anxiety, depression, chronic pain, unemployment, breakups, and more. Right now during this whole pandemic thing it’s especially important to have access to mental health therapy.
Coronavirus pandemic + quarantining and social distancing + threats of economic collapse and unemployment = the perfect storm for triggering mental health struggles.
I first took the leap and tried out Talkspace, an online therapy app, starting at the end of 2016. I wrote a Talkspace review post a few months into using the service. Even though I updated it frequently to reflect my ongoing experience with text therapy, I felt like I should write a follow-up review of Talkspace after using it for over a year and working with two different Talkspace therapists.
Before reading this post, you might want to check out my first review post.
I’ll start where I had left off…
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New year, new mental health problems
When I started using Talkspace, I was seeking help to become less stuck in my life. I had recently graduated from grad school and was trying to figure out what to do next professionally. I also was in a relationship that just didn’t feel right and was trying to figure out how to handle that.
Over the course of working with my therapist for a year, I had made some substantial changes in my life, thanks to her support and gentle guidance. I had more or less tackled the question of what to do next professionally (I started freelancing) and how to handle my relationship (we broke up), and now my biggest mental health problem was my chronic jaw pain.
(By the way, I make it sound super casual like I just got over all my issues but it was a loooong process with many ups and downs, and a lot of stuff I still struggle with.)
Eventually, I felt like my therapeutic relationship with my first Talkspace therapist had naturally come to an end. So I decided to switch therapists. This felt appropriate as well as the issues I wanted to discuss in therapy also shifted completely.
My experience switching Talkspace therapists
Switching therapists on the platform was incredibly easy, especially compared to switching therapists in in-person therapy. (I don’t know if you’ve ever done that, but it’s such an awkward conversation to have. And then if you switch to someone working in the same office as your former therapist (because they’re the only ones who take your insurance or something), it can be even weirder.)
I was grateful to not have to deal with any of that awkwardness. I just messaged my therapist and explained that I wanted to switch and we debriefed…
Then I was connected with someone new, in the very same chat room.
This meant my new therapist, who we’ll call Ashley, could still access the conversations I had had with my former therapist. It was a year’s worth of conversations so I felt it would just be easier to explain to her where I was at than have her read through all that text. However if you’ve only been working with someone for a short time and switch therapists, know you don’t have to re-explain everything once you make the switch.
Ashley and I got to meet in a free 10-minute video call the same way I had met my first therapist when we started working together.
She also had me sign an informed consent form and emergency contact information form. These were two things I was never asked to fill out before and I was pleased to see Talkspace is now including them (especially the emergency contact form) in their onboarding process. This was something I had criticized in my initial Talkspace review post because I felt Talkspace was working with an at-risk population and needed to take responsibility for their role.
Ashley and I talked about my goals and then we got started working together. Like Rachel, she worked five days on and took two days off a week. She responded to my texts twice a day and asynchronously, meaning not necessarily when I messaged her but usually a few hours later.
Talkspace review: How my new therapist helped me manage my pain
Like I said, the main thing I wanted to work on was dealing with my chronic jaw pain. While I worked with my dentist and a physical therapist to try to reduce the physical pain, I felt I needed a therapist to attack the issue from a cognitive, behavioral, and emotional perspective. I recognized my pain was related to my stress, anxiety, and thoughts in general.
After learning more about me, Ashley came up with a treatment plan based on the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) models. The idea was to fully understand how my thoughts and behaviors contributed to my pain and identify any triggers and relievers. She helped me create a Google spreadsheet to start tracking my symptoms and my mood. Then we added physical exercise tracking to the same spreadsheet…
Next Ashley taught me three different types of relaxation methods and we added those in and started tracking that. Then added in pleasurable activities and tracked that as well. This is what the main page of my spreadsheet looked like (it might not make complete sense without the legend to identify what the numbers meant, but the legend was on another sheet in the document, and you get the idea):
Eventually the combination of attacking the problem from multiple directions at once (both physical and mental/emotional) got me to a place where the pain in my jaw was manageable and I could focus on other things in my life. If you want to read my full TMJD story with all the details, check out this post.
I was even able to use the data I was collecting on myself to chart my pain over time, among other things:
My physical health issues (related to my anxiety surely) were, alas, never-ending. With my jaw pain at manageable levels, I could tackle the next physical cause of much emotional distress: my cystic body acne. Ashley (the grey speech bubbles) worked with me to explore treatment options and adjust some of my thoughts:
Again, I combined Talkspace mental health therapy with seeking physical treatment for my symptoms and eventually got to a place where my skin condition and anxiety around it is manageable.
Answering some more Talkspace FAQs
Is Talkspace legit?
Yes, Talkspace is a legitimate company and the professionals you work with are licensed therapists. I have spoken with members of the Talkspace team on the phone and have met both of my therapists through video chat so can confirm they are all 100% real and legitimate people.
Can Talkspace prescribe medication?
Not that I know of. (See: this blog post.)
What does Talkspace cost?
You can sign up for as little at $65/week for text, video, and audio messaging wherein your therapist responds to messages daily, 5 days/week, and they have packages going up from there. You are billed monthly and can cancel anytime.
I was always on the lowest tier package. When I’ve gone in for in-person therapy, the lowest fee I could negotiate (ask for a sliding fee scale if you are seeing an in-person therapist and don’t have health insurance!) was $75 per 50-minute session.
Depending on what kind of health insurance you have, I find the cost is a little bit less or equal to the cost of seeing a therapist in person once a week.
Honestly, Talkspace has its pros and cons. It’s an amazing resource for people like me who don’t have access to any form of in-person therapy. I also express myself way better in writing so that’s a plus.
One thing that did bother me was I felt like the asynchronous and evenly spaced therapist response rate over time didn’t align with the way my mental health struggles presented: I would go through troughs of feeling bad and wanting to talk a lot and work through things then peaks of feeling better and not having much to communicate. I felt like my therapist wasn’t there enough during the low times and I couldn’t stay engaged in conversation during the high times, if that makes sense.
That said, Talkspace was truly nothing but helpful for me. I used the service for about a year and a half and worked with two different therapists during that time. My therapists helped me through issues like depression and feeling stuck, love/sex/relationships, professional frustrations and roadblocks, and anxiety and chronic pain.
They worked with me on gratitudes, affirmations, trauma work, CBT, and other treatment strategies.
I eventually stopped using the service because I couldn’t stay engaged; I took it as a sign that I was ready to move on without therapy in my life.
I feel grateful to know my Talkspace room and therapist are still there if I ever decide to go back. I would use the service again in an instant if I started struggling with depression and anxiety again.
Should you try Talkspace? If you’re considering it, I would say try it out. There’s no contract so you can always cancel. And with the code below you’ll get a discount on your first month. I’ve referred friends to the service and some have stuck with it and really like it, while it wasn’t a good fit for others. I think that’s just how these things are, but you’ll never know if you never try.
Get $65 (!!) off your first month with Talkspace
Again, as I said in my first Talkspace review, whether you choose text therapy or not, don’t give up on seeking treatment. The right fit is out there.
And, as they say, this, too, shall pass.
From VeryWellMind: Talkspace Review