How to Get Help When There’s a Waitlist to See a Therapist

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Sometimes therapists and treatment centers have long waiting lists, particularly if there is an increased demand for mental health services. Reaching out to a therapist takes courage. Once you do it, the last thing you want to do is have to wait to see someone.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do while you’re waiting to see a therapist. Keep trying to get the help and support you need. 

Consider Reaching Out to Another Therapist

If you’ve seen a therapist before, you might really want to go back to the same person. And waiting until they have an opening might feel worth it. If it’s a long wait, however, you might consider seeing another therapist.

If you don’t have a preferred therapist, you can put yourself on several waiting lists. You can also ask therapists to put you on a cancelation list if you’re able to attend on short notice.

Sometimes, therapists have special slots in their calendars for new patients. And when a new patient cancels, they’re able to take someone else on the waiting list to fill the slot.

Talk to Your Doctor

Tell your primary care physician that you’re waiting to get in to see a therapist. If your needs are urgent, your physician may be able to help you be seen sooner (some therapists prioritize their waitlists based on need and a call from a physician might move you up the list).

Your doctor may also be able to provide you with information about other resources in your area—such as community groups or classes that could help you manage your symptoms until you’re able to be seen.

Your physician may also want to discuss medication options. Whether it’s something to help you sleep or a medication that can ease symptoms of depression, medication might be an option.

Your physician can also rule out potential medical issues that may be contributing to your symptoms. And a physician can provide an assessment to help give you a clearer picture of what is going on with your mental health. While physicians don’t provide therapy, they can be a great source of support.

Contact SAMSHA

Contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). It’s a free service that is open all day every day.  The service provides referrals to treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

So while the helpline doesn’t offer emotional support, it can assist you in finding resources in your area. You can also ask for free publications and other educational materials.

Join a Support Group

There are many in-person or online support groups that address mental health and substance abuse issues. Some support groups are specific to conditions like depression or anxiety. Others are geared toward mental health in general.

Online support groups range from chat forums to video meetings. Like in-person groups, some are run by professionals while others are peer-led only.

There are plenty of online support groups for addictions too. Whether you’re looking for a 12-step program or you’re interested in a group for food addiction, there are groups for almost any problem.

Start Online Therapy

There are many online therapy service providers and it’s likely that you’ll be able to see a therapist almost right away. Most of them match people to licensed therapists within a couple of days.

If you decide to try online therapy, do a little research to find the site that is the best match for you, as they offer different services. Some sites, for example, may offer subscription plans that include unlimited messaging while other services may only provide live video meetings with mental health professionals.

Reach Out for Peer Support

Some organizations, such as NAMI, offer peer support. Contact them or visit their website to look for peer support available in your area. 

You might also chat with a volunteer listener on 7 Cups, a website that connects people to someone they can talk to. While the listeners aren’t trained mental health professionals, they can lend an ear while you share what you’re going through.

Access Self-Help Resources

While self-help books, online courses, and mental health apps aren’t a substitute for talk therapy, they may be able to help you manage your symptoms while you wait to see someone.

In fact, just knowing you’re taking a step to do something for yourself might help you start to feel a little better. Being as proactive as you can to address the situation can help you feel more in control of your situation.

Call a Hotline

If you’re feeling distressed and don’t know what to do, call a hotline. You’ll immediately be connected to someone who can help. Here are a few hotlines you might find valuable:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) to take to a trained advocate. They provide support and information to anyone affected by domestic violence. All conversations are confidential.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk to a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area for free. Crisis chat is available online as well.
  • Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741 and you can receive free 24/7 crisis support via text message.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 988 if you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—and you can speak to a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

Go to the Emergency Room

If you are feeling unsafe, or you aren’t sure what to do, visit your local emergency room. The emergency room might be able to provide some immediate assistance or provide you with treatment options to assist you right now.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Woodhouse AE. Reducing waiting times: using an opt-in system and changing prioritisation criteriaChild Adolesc Ment Health. 2006;11(2):94-97. doi:10.1111/j.1475-3588.2005.00372.x

  2. NAMI. Types of Mental Health Professionals.

  3. SAMHSA. SAMHSA's National Helpline.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.