Thursday, January 14, 2016

See a doctor or therapist without leaving your house!

Need to see a doctor for something minor (cold, UTI, flu), but you don't want to leave the house? Now you can do that! In fact, you can even do therapy via video conference, without even getting out of your PJs. 

How do I know? 
I recently realized I need some solid grief support (my father died December 5 and I spent most of his last week on earth with him, helping him through the process of dying). I definitely need more help than I can get from friends and Facebook (and I don't really want to talk about my grief process on facebook. Some troll is bound to turn it into a political argument).

I googled and clicked for hours, with no results (other than the suicide hotline), looking for a bereavement group. So I decided to go ahead and look for a professional counselor.

But I just couldn't deal with the idea of setting up an in-person appointment, waiting a month (or longer), driving through godawful New Jersey traffic (in the freezing cold) and sitting in a waiting room with everyone else's germs/ neuroses/ iphones. And then, what if the counselor is a bonehead? I still get charged some huge fee and have to start all over again. What to do?

I was up late (as usual- my insomnia has returned) and saw a commercial for "Doctor on Demand" app. Apparently everyone else already knows about this, because Dr. Phil started it. I thought, "what a great idea! You can just go online and see a live doctor via video conference right away!" (When I watched the Jetsons as a kid, that idea seemed impossible!). So that led me down a rabbit's trail look at various online apps and websites, and I'll share my mini-reviews of each here.

Doctor on Demand: It's an app and a website. Best use: contact an MD, anytime, 24/7, for basic issues like common cold, sinus infection, UTI, etc. and they can even write you a prescription. They also have a small batch of psychologists, but not very many, and the psychologists are NOT on demand 24/7. You have to make an appointment.

My computer is too old to use their website, so i got the app. I set up an appointment with a psychologist but at the time of the appointment, I was never able to connect to her via the app. I spent the entire time on the phone with customer support, troubleshooting, while the psychologist was on the other end twiddling her thumbs (or playing Angry Birds. I don't know. I never got to talk to her). Total fail. So, at the suggestion of tech support, I set up another appointment, with all other apps on my phone closed, on wifi. Again, could not connect, wasting the Dr.'s time and mine. I asked if I could set up a test appointment with tech support to get the app to work, They acted like that was a weird request and as of a week later, they have never got back to me to do so. I wasn't holding my breath. Moving on...

Bottom line: don't use Doctor on Demand for a psychologist- it's not their strength. And I'm not impressed with their customer support. I hear it's very helpful if you have a non-crisis medical issue, such as a UTI, the flu, a cold. You'll save yourself a trip, a wait, and some money. You can find a coupon code for a free first visit, if you google around for one. The one on the TV commercial was "EASY."

Talk space: This is specifically psychological help. App where you message back and forth for a weekly fee (unlimited, but you have to wait for a reply- could take hours). Once I realized it was just basically texting, but with long delays, I realized this is not what I wanted or needed at this time. I need a higher level of support right now.
Bottom line: definitely not useful for a crisis. And no video/ faces.

Betterhelp: website and app. Again, it's just messaging. They do specifically match you with a counselor based on your answers to a questionnaire, so I like that feature. I may go back to this, as they found me someone who's into using creativity as a tool for working through stuff. But having to wait a long time to get a response, and sometimes a very short response, is disappointing, esp. considering the fee. (weekly rate). They do have a free 7-day trial period, so you can try it out. But you have to enter a credit card to do the 7-day trial, so you'll probably have to make sure you cancel before those 7 day are up, if you do not wish to continue.

Bottom line: This one is a maybe, but not for someone who needs a lot of support.

Breakthrough: website and app. This one, I like. Like Doctor on Demand, you do a video session via the app (feels like skype or facetime). However, unlike Doctor on Demand, they were very helpful and fast about doing a test appointment with tech support beforehand, and it worked on the first try. They also have a LOT of counselors to choose from. I just had my free 15-minute consult (not all of the counselors offer that) and found someone I like and feel good about.

Bottom line: Easy to use, lots of professional to choose from, the most like normal counseling, but without the commute. The fees are per hour as opposed to a subscription. Probably covered by insurance.

It was an aggravating week trying to find help, but i finally did.
Never give up!

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