Low-cost therapy on the go offered by the Talkspace app is great for Solo Moms
For years, I’ve wanted to go to therapy. But the prohibitive hourly rates of most therapists, along with medical plans that leave much to be desired, automatically left me in the crowded pool of those who want counseling but are unable to afford the services long term.
I never understood why some people who have the means and opportunity to go to therapy are resistant. What could be better than having a trained professional listen to and help you process all the trauma, fears, complications, and difficult points of your life, and move you toward a better place? As I navigate the highs and lows of being a 45-year-old working Solo Mom to a preschooler, and continue to learn to manage all that makes up my life and his, that quiet desire to talk to someone steadily grew into a momentous roar.
Therapy anywhere, anytime
While listening to podcasts, sometimes I would hear a guest mention a therapy app called Talkspace. The concept of the service is kind of like therapy on the go. Instead of having to do the legwork of researching potential therapists, scheduling appointments, and traveling to an office somewhere to sit and talk, Talkspace offers the convenience of matching you with a therapist from a prescreened group of licensed practitioners with expertise in the areas in which you most need help.
The busyness of life continually got in the way of me checking it out, but when something unexpectedly came up in my life that was extremely anxiety producing for me, and potentially so for my son, I decided to give it a try. In less than 24 hours of downloading the app, I received a message informing me that I would soon have a group of therapists from which to choose. Shortly thereafter, I selected one who specialized in areas in which I currently feel the most challenged. In what felt like no time at all, I received an introductory message from my therapist, and she could not have come at a more needed time.
Something I had been fretting over for years was suddenly and quickly unfolding. I was unprepared and very anxious about how to deal with the situation. My first instinct was to pour all my unfiltered feelings of fear and angst into a diatribe that she would hopefully be able and willing to dissect. But before I could formulate my message, I grew skeptical. How could I fully explain what was going on in my life and give accurate context to a therapist I had never laid eyes on, spoken to, or even shared the same space with? The idea of messaging with a virtual stranger about something so personal and sensitive going on in my family seemed crazy. So I said nothing, although deep down, the situation troubling me was all I wanted to talk about.
For days, we messaged about what my life looked like, and my work and interests. She invited me to think about some things burdening me that I might want to eventually “unpack” with her. I felt no pressure from her to deep dive into anything or hurry and get to my issues. For quite some time, we lingered somewhere between the mundane and the innocuous. I shared vacation pictures with her. She checked in daily to see how my day was going. We talked about movies. This pace worked for me. And before I knew it, we had eased into a comfortable space where she felt more like a friendly acquaintance than a therapist.
As my family situation continued to unfold and grew more complicated, I felt ready to share and begin to process it with her. I had already done so with one of my best friends, but my frustration and anger were too intense. I needed more: more reassurance that my feelings were valid, more feedback on the overflow of thoughts I had, and more assessment about whether I had done right by and for my son.
One day, while on vacation, thinking about the situation burdening me, I picked up my phone and tapped on my Talkspace app. I told her I was ready to “unpack” all of it with her—how the situation came to be, the people involved, my skepticism about my ability to properly handle the situation, and where things were now. I detailed my feelings, and admitted my fears and worries.
Anything that weighed on my mind, I messaged—whether walking in the park, sitting poolside, watching my son while he played outside, waiting in line at the supermarket, or lying in bed unable to sleep at 2:00 a.m. And she always replied—typically within a couple of hours or, at the latest, the very next day (if I reached out late at night). As we delved deeper, she reminded me that my plan allowed for an audio or video call if I was comfortable. She assured me that we didn’t have to look at each other during a video chat if I was not yet ready. At the time, I was donning a tattered tank top, was makeup free, and had hair standing all over my head, so I quickly opted for the audio chat.
As my son jumped on and off the furniture yelling, “Cannonball!” at the
top of his lungs, I sat out back with a cup of coffee in hand and had my
therapy session, with cameras disabled. Our conversation flowed easily. The preceding days of continual texting had served us well. We were able to delve into the depths of my situation without laborious small talk.
Life continues to unfold. Complicatedly in some ways, better in others. Through it all, I feel comforted knowing my therapist is only a message away. And as a full-time working Solo Mom, who easily amasses as many driving miles as a part-time Uber driver transporting my son to regularly scheduled extracurricular activities and social commitments, the convenience of communicating with her from anywhere, no matter the hour or whose company I am in, works for me. Might there come a day when I prefer in-person interaction with a therapist? Perhaps. But at this early stage of my Solo Mom life, low cost and convenience win.
Why go it alone when you don’t have to?
Solo Moms are most vulnerable to mental-health conditions such as depression and anxiety. We shoulder enormous financial and emotional weight, often alone or insufficiently supported. For many Solo Moms, endless worry about how bills will be paid, how to navigate a contentious relationship with the other parent of their children, and how to keep feelings of isolation and invisibility at bay are among the myriad factors that can slowly and quietly drown us in a sea of despair.
It was not until I started my Talkspace journey that I realized how haphazardly I’ve been moving through life: always on autopilot and carrying emotional baggage of some sort or another—mostly alone and usually with a one-sided exploration of my feelings.
But over the course of my daily messaging, I found myself wanting to reach out to my therapist to communicate moments of overwhelm, feelings of frustration or fear, and successes in meeting small wellness goals we set together. When I was able to get in a walk on a glorious sunny day, I’d snap a picture and send it to her—proud to show that I was paying more attention to my self-care as we had discussed. When I needed help figuring out relationship stumbling blocks with people in my life, it helped to receive an article or book recommendation from her on the heels of an exchange that helped me further dissect the situation.
As someone who picks and chooses what to share with family and friends, it has been freeing to have unfiltered and frank talk with my therapist about anything. For the first time since becoming a Solo Mom, I have felt the relief of not having to go it alone. There is someone just a text or audio/video chat away who is ready and able to listen and help me begin to find solutions.
In our quest to be good Solo Moms, we inadvertently hold ourselves to an impossible “superwoman” standard in which we try to have it all, do it all, and be it all—but we don’t have to. Mental and emotional wellness is key to our ability to not only survive but also thrive. Talkspace is one resource that is uniquely suited for us. It removes the typical barriers to accessing therapy, such as high cost and scheduling inconvenience. Allow yourself the grace to be supported on your Solo Mom journey. Without a doubt, the lives of you and your children will be better for it.
Terri Linton, ESME’s Incarceration Resource Guide, is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she is currently pursuing a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction writing, and a graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Newark. Terri is a freelance writer and professor of criminal justice. She hosts and produces the podcast She Roads with Terri Linton, where she interviews women about their journeys of endurance and resilience. Terri’s writing has appeared in Ninth Letter, the Huffington Post, Motherly, and Mamamia. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.