My Experience with Online Therapy at Breakthrough.com

Yesterday, I had my first session with a clinical social worker and I was in my pajamas. Instead of sitting in a waiting room surrounded by germ-ridden magazines, dusty wall art, and administrative noise… I was in the comfort of my own bed.

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Breakthrough.com is an Online Therapy service that provides access to mental health professionals via web cam. Sessions are conducted as a video call over a secure video system that you download when you register for the site. Sessions range in cost from $50 to $250 dollars a pop, and many have self-pay options for people without insurance.

Form this point forward, I am going to discuss my personal experience with Breakthrough.com and the mental health provider that I selected. There are multiple articles about Online Therapy, and many different websites that now provide the service, and I think that you, as a person who is reading this now and using the internet, are capable of using a search engine to find information about those sites.

I have Medicare parts A, B, and D. None of that provides mental health coverage. Therefore, I searched for a provider who had a self-pay rate I could afford. Breakthrough.com has a great search-filter set that allows you to winnow down to a list of professionals who will best suit you. I chose a young woman who is a clinical social worker. She’s worked with people who have histories of past trauma and abuse, as well as helping with depression and family issues. Her self-pay rate is $60 an hour. Phone sex actors and actresses make more than a dollar a minute, so I feel like this is an excellent deal.

When I selected her as my therapist, I was given the option of a free, 15 minute consultation. I chose to go ahead and schedule an appointment with her, because I don’t feel like 15 minutes is long enough to get into the things that I, personally, need to get out of therapy. When I scheduled my appointment for 2 PM, she promptly messaged me, using Breakthrough.com’s secure messaging system, to ask if I wanted a 30 or 60 minute session.

Her message to me was polite, upbeat, and made me feel like she was welcoming. She let me know that if I had any questions, she was happy to answer them. I did have questions about what would happen before our session, and if I’d have to fill out paperwork. This was information that I later received in an e-mail from Breakthrough.com, however she provided the information happily. I didn’t feel like I was hassling anyone, and I wasn’t made to feel dumb that I had missed the big, green “TUTORIAL” link on the home screen.

Before my session with A (which is what I will call her), she let me know that I’d have to read some terms and information and also fill out a mood assessment. This information only becomes available 10 minutes prior to your session.

Breakthrough.com Is Beyond User Friendly

I’m web-savvy. I can figure things out on my own. With Breakthrough.com, I didn’t have to figure anything out. I asked, and was given information, and the website does an excellent job of making sure that your appointment will go smoothly. They offer a 15 minute test session where your tech issues get worked out. They check your internet connection to make sure that your session won’t be interrupted or lag. They tell you how to turn on your camera and mic. They show you where to download their secure video software. It’s user-friendly as all get out. I had no issues with the software installation.

The only tech problem that I had at all was caused by my son uploading things online when I had asked him not to. He created lag on my end, and there were 3 instances in which my video call with A froze.

Breakthrough.com Gave Me the Best Therapy Experience I Have Ever Had

I don’t want to gush. I’m not a gusher. However, there is praise due to A, and to the way that Online Therapy works as a whole. Below are some issues that I have had with therapists and other professionals in the past:

  • They don’t start right on time
  • They aren’t prepared for my session and don’t seem focused on me at the start
  • They take care of administrative tasks in front of me, such as billing, insurance calls, etc
  • They answer phone calls during sessions
  • They have to start from the BASICS in our first session and ask standard questions as opposed to actively listening and letting me talk about why I am there
  • There’s too much paperwork… paperwork… paperwork
  • They assume that I will be back and want to work with them
  • Waiting rooms suck
  • Receptionists vary from awesome to rude

None of this was the case with my session with A. Here is what was different about my Online Therapy session:

  • My start time was scheduled for 2 PM. My therapist video called me at 2 PM
  • My therapist used information from the e-mails I sent her prior to our session to break the ice, “You say you’ve been in therapy before…” and seemed prepared to talk
  • Breakthrough.com takes care of all of the paperwork before your start time, and separately from your therapy session. I wasn’t charged to do paperwork, and I wasn’t bogged down by a lot of administrative yuck. My therapist merely took notes in front of me
  • My therapist had her phone accessible at the start of the session, and stated that she was having technical problems on her end and was going to call me. Luckily, the website cooperated and she didn’t have to. I never saw or heard her phone again
  • My Online Therapy session was centered around me. I didn’t have to explain why I was there or justify wanting therapy. I was permitted to dive right into my issues and ramble. She asked reflective questions and showed true active listening skills the entire time. It wasn’t until 30 minutes into our session that she began directing the conversation back to things she wanted to get more information about. And when she asked, she was informed
  • She said phrases like, “if you want to work with me,” and “I’d be excited to work with you on these issues.” At no point did I feel that she was above me. She made no assumptions. She praised me for reaching out to someone, and acted humble about the fact that I had chosen her, and that I wanted to keep seeing her for a bit
  • I didn’t have to deal with a waiting room. I didn’t have to talk to a receptionist to schedule my next appointment. My therapist scheduled my next appointment and I received a confirmation on my Breakthrough.com home screen

Breakthrough.com Allows True Connections with Your Therapist

A, my new therapist, said that I… her meager client, could message her before our sessions with the topics I’d like to discuss. She said that it would give her a chance to look up possible resources for me to use outside of our sessions. She said that if I need her at any time while in crisis, to contact her and she will work with me. She was utterly focused on me and my needs as a human being during our session. Because I was at home, in my comfy bed, I felt so very safe discussing harder topics with a complete stranger. I left the session I had with her feeling like I had done therapy work, instead of going through therapy motions. That is extremely important to me.

Granted, this is my experience with one of their providers. However, I have to speak for those of us who are uncomfortable in office settings, or can’t always make appointments because we don’t feel well, or don’t like to make eye contact. Online Therapy permitted me to have my physical comfort needs met. I didn’t have to look at the screen. I could just listen and talk. She could see me. I could see her. She looked into the camera. I looked to the side. I could fidget. I could take sips of things. I had everything I needed without having to ask for it. It’s tremendous to be disabled or neurodiverse and have access to therapy that makes your environment for you.

Having control over your environment is so important when you’re talking about things that make you feel vulnerable.

Final Thoughts about My Therapist

There is one important thing that A did that no other therapist has done before. She asked what I have disliked about previous therapy sessions in which I’ve participated.

That’s a huge question. We all know I’m a quitter when I’ve decided that something just IS NOT WORKING (for me) and that I bail. I bail hard. I admit to it. I don’t see the point in dragging things out if there is no hope. I’ve left so many therapists.

Why? Well, here is the short list: feeling judged for my relationship style or sexual orientation, feeling like the professional was more focused on how interesting I was than helping me, feeling like the therapist was focusing too much on an issue that I felt was tertiary to the core issues I need to work on, feeling like the therapist had made a decision about something in my life and was exerting their personal opinion in session… etc.

I said all of this to A. She made notes. I told her that I, as a researcher and knowledge-seeker, have been doing my own trauma work and that I am ready to just dive into the deep issues I have from my past. She said she wasn’t sure if that was okay. More than okay. More than okay.

I like her. I hope this works out. Because I surely do like going to her office, aka my bedroom.

Also, I can go to therapy sessions without wearing pants. Bonus.

Payment

This is the thing that everyone really wants to know. I will reiterate that there are mental health providers who don’t require insurance. It isn’t a hassle to not have mental health coverage and the self-pay rates for many are reasonable. Breakthrough.com takes your credit or debit card information when you sign up, and then charges you after your session. It was easy. There was no extra billing to take care of.

Again, minimal paperwork with this site.

Things Breakthrough.com Professionals Can’t Do

They can’t prescribe medication. That’s the biggest thing. And honestly, I don’t go to therapy for medication. I see doctors for medication. I can find psychiatrists who will take mental health recommendations from my doctors if needed. Yet, my neurologist has been managing my antidepressants because she’s my primary prescriber and juggles all of my meds.

They have a long list of Terms and Conditions. As expected. Otherwise, except for the medication thing, I really haven’t seen a hole in what I consider MY therapy needs.

So far, 4 stars for Breakthrough.com and 5 stars for my new therapist.

“We Did The Thing!” – Self Doubt and Self Care

I wrote the title for this blog enthusiastically and with happy tears in my eyes because I have recently experienced something I want to share with the world. Then, I stared at the screen, started typing, hit the backspace key, typed something else, and stared some more. The truth is that I don’t know how to talk about this in an articulate way. I have expressed parts of the feeling to individuals as I have deemed it necessary, but, ultimately, the emotion is too huge to pin down in a few words.

I am, however, going to try. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a human. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a woman. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with autism. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with chronic pain. I will do my best, and I will ramble, but I will be as sincere as I damned well can be.

I don’t trust easily. I’ve never had close humans whom I’ve felt I could tell anything to or whom I felt I could call if I needed support. I’ve never felt comfortable asking for help. I have always stringently avoided inconveniencing people. I have kept up appearances as much as I possibly can. I have forever tried my best to deal with me… myself.

Over the past few years, I have learned the importance of self care, the benefits of therapy, and how to speak to myself more positively. I had not learned, though, how to rely on others for support (or trust others to support) until two weeks ago.

I like to consider myself a fully-formed emotional being who is self-aware and capable of doing grown-up things. Unfortunately, life, which is complicated and often ugly, can sometimes smack a person around and you don’t always behave as gracefully as you should. Sometimes you break the fuck down. Sometimes the world ends. Sometimes things are just bad. Sometimes you end up in a parking lot somewhere and you don’t want to exist. Sometimes you are in such personal crisis that everything seems dark and dreary and hopeless.

It was in such a moment that I learned that other people are more than just social outlets. Apparently, and this is still new so bear with me, other people who are not family or in romantic relationships with me are capable of caring about me enough to want to help me. Other people do things like show up in parking lots with water and chocolate and hugs. Other people offer to meet for ice cream just to talk without wanting anything in return. Other people check in to see how things are. Other people offer beds and coffee and make dinner and out-of-season Christmas happen. Other people share their ups and downs and feel happy when they hear about ups and sad when they hear about downs in return.

These other people are called “friends.”

It isn’t as if I haven’t had friends all my life, but I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to have this level of friendship with other people before. I had to reach one of the lowest points in my life to finally be able to look up and see all of the hands being reached down to lift me up. And there were so many hands, and they all glowed with unconditional love and compassion.

This is where typing becomes tricky, for the tears, they are a’flowing. It has been a long thirty-five years of striving to feel accepted and loved for who I am by ME, let alone other people. I am trying very hard to let the love that I feel for humanity extend to myself. I know that I am a lovable, likable person. What I have never really believed or understood was that other people see me this way, and I am overwhelmed by how truly cared for and supported an uplifted I feel. I genuinely hope that other human beings have felt this feeling at some point in their lives. I want this feeling for everyone.

I am spending this week engaging in radical self care to eliminate some of the disquiet of self doubt that eats away at me moment by moment. I know that to move forward in a positive way with my life, my relationship with my self, and my relationship with others… I have to regain some of the self esteem that has been lost to years of pain.

I will leave you with this. One of my lovely friends, with whom I discuss aforementioned ups and downs and with whom I celebrate and commiserate, and I have a saying. It is silly and motivational and it puts our intention into the world:

“We did the thing!”

It means that what ever it is that we want or need to do is already done and we were successful. We aren’t going to do it. It is done. We aren’t doing it presently. It is done. We did the thing. The thing is accomplished. Wipe of the hands. Be it difficult and stressful or fun, we did it.

Whatever you have to do, it is already done. You did the thing. But you aren’t alone…

We did the thing.

5 Quick Self Care Tips

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Bad day? Here are 5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to feel better:
  1. EAT, SLEEP, HYDRATE! Okay, that’s three things. I cheated. But, trust me, if you’re hungry, tired, or dehydrated- you can feel better instantly by taking care of it NOW!
  2. MUSIC! Listen to something that soothes you. It could be Enya or your fave death metal. It doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as it speaks to your inner calm.
  3. BREATH! Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, or any deep breathing strategy to relax your body and engage  the parasympathetic nervous system. It slows the heart rate and calms the body.
  4. CREATE! Art can take our brains to another place. It can help us focus when we listen, and help us express feelings in a safe way. It can also help us relax. Try painting, colouring, or using whatever you have on hand to get creative. anything crafty will do. Sew, knit, sculpt, glue something! It doesn’t have to be pretty to make you feel better.
  5. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT! If you’re at work, try taking a quick break. If you’re at home, change rooms. Wherever you are, if you are upset, in pain, or anxious… it can help your mind and body switch gears if you change locations. Work within your limits. If a walk is too challenging, sit on the porch. If you can’t take a break at work, try a quick stretch. Adjust the temperature, change the channel, cuddle something soft. Think of the following words when you’re making a change: stimulate, distract, control.

Connection = Humanity

My plan for the day was to work on some vlogs, but it’s freezing, and tea and a shower most definitely have to happen before anyone (let alone a camera) looks at me.

One of the things that has been really important and special to me since I started writing My Brain Hates Me is connecting with you, my beloved readers and fellow sufferers. I love hearing your stories and getting and giving advice. When I have a bad day, you’re there with a kind word. You’re like my own “hang in there” kitten poster.

I try to respond to comments and e-mails and tweets and things in a timely fashion. It doesn’t always happen though. I sometimes go weeks without internet contact because I just don’t feel up to it. When my pain levels are as bad as they are I tend to retreat, and I’m trying very hard not to do that.

For me, it is very emotionally unhealthy to cut myself off from everything, and that is my exact instinct when things are bad. And right now I’m doing the exact opposite. I’m putting it out there for the world to see. I’m talking about my depression. I’m talking about my pain. In my next vlog I’m going to talk about my stupid brain thing that never ends. I’m asking the world for help. I’m doing all kinds of things that are very contrary to my instinct. My instinct is to hide under the covers, cry a lot, clutch my ice pack, and wait for some kind of end.

Maybe this is me fighting. Maybe this is me trying to stay sane. Maybe this is me just doing a better job taking care of myself.

Regardless, keep commenting. Keep telling me to hang in there. Keep telling me your stories. It means a great deal to me. You are precious parts of my life.

Here’s how to contact me:

Twitter: @MyBrainHatesMe

Facebook: MyBrainHatesMe

Tumblr: @BrainHatesMe

E-mail: brainhatesme@gmail.com

Interacting with you makes me feel like a person.