Finding a therapist in Washington can be hard.

Clinicians throughout the state say don’t give up on trying to find a provider who fits your background, lifestyle and individual needs. But while you’re waiting, The Seattle Times has gathered some supplemental resources for mental health care and wellness.

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

The suggestions below include at-home options, community support, opportunities included in many benefits packages, and organizations throughout the state.

While these don’t replace medical care or the personalized treatment a therapist can provide, they can offer some help in the meantime.

Free and low-cost resources

Several options are available for improving your mental health that cost no or very little money.

Seattle yoga teacher and massage therapist Jennifer Weston suggests setting aside five minutes to sit quietly and practice breathing. “You can tell if it feels like your breath is stuck or shallow, which is a really good sign that you’re experiencing stress,” she said.

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Access to mental health care

The Seattle Times’ Mental Health Project has been exploring issues of access to mental health care. A series of stories published in December took a deeper look at why it’s so hard to get help when you need it.

Why it’s so hard to find a therapist, and stories from readers

Naomi Ishisaka: Finding care shouldn’t be this hard

Guide: What to know when looking for therapy

How Washington’s approach to mental health has changed

Mapping mental health: Washington’s capacity for care

Guide: Tips for when you can’t find a therapist

In another at-home technique, you can lie with your back on the floor and rest your legs straight up against the wall. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, and feel your breath underneath your hands. “Set a timer for however much time you have — five or 10 minutes — and just be there,” Weston said.

Ultimately, she said, moving your body around in some way, whether it’s taking a walk around the block or standing up and stretching for a few minutes, can be immensely impactful. Washington’s many public parks allow you to get into the woods and walk among the trees, getting fresh air.

While meditation, yoga and wellness activities don’t replace critical care for people in crisis, they can be part of a person’s overall mental health care journey.

Many organizations also provide free online support groups and webinars on topics like managing burnout and parenting your inner child.

Support by phone

Trained professionals are available by phone across the state and nationally to support you and loved ones in times of crisis.

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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 800-273-8255.

The Washington Warm Line is a peer support help line for people experiencing emotional and mental health challenges. Specially trained volunteers answer calls and provide emotional support, comfort and information. Calls are confidential. The service can be reached by dialing 877-500-9276.

The Washington Recovery Help Line is available for people with substance use disorders. The confidential help line provides referrals to treatment options and local resources for people in Washington state. Professionally trained volunteers and staff provide emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Individuals or family members can call the phone line at 866-789-1511.

Each county in Washington has a local crisis line, where people can call to request assistance. King County residents can call 866-427-4747. Other county numbers are available on the Washington State Health Care Authority website.

Other services are available nationally, such as the Crisis Text Line, where trained counselors provide free, text-based mental health support and crisis intervention 24/7. Those in need can text HOME to 741741 to reach a counselor.

Sometimes people call help lines to chat and hear a human voice on the other end of the line, said Nicole Davis, the clinical director of crisis services at Crisis Connections.

“If you have somebody to check in with every day, things might not get worse,” she said.
“If you feel like you have a connection, that you’re not alone, it is a good intervention.”

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Included in benefits

Many academic institutions and large companies provide mental health support as a benefit of being a student or employee.

The University of Washington provides limited free therapy sessions for students through its counseling center. Mindfulness programs are available through the recreation center.

Seattle University also provides counseling and psychological services for students.

We’d like to hear from you.

The Mental Health Project team is listening. We’d like to know what questions you have about mental health and which stories you’d suggest we cover.

Get in touch with us at mentalhealth@seattletimes.com.

Often, large companies, such as Boeing, provide an Employee Assistance Program that includes mental health care.

The companies will typically contract with an agency and allow people who might not meet the criteria for medically necessary therapy to still gain access to care. The programs usually provide about three free sessions that don’t cost the client any money, said Geralyn Peterson, a licensed mental health counselor in Puyallup. From there, agencies can often refer patients out to other services or connect them with a counselor from the agency.

Community support

Some people find community and connection through group therapy and peer support options.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a Washington chapter that provides educational resources and events, statewide outreach and advocacy. Local affiliates within Washington offer free peer support, education and outreach programs. The NAMI chapter in South King County has also launched a mental health support group for young people between the ages 13 through 17 called Teen Check-In. While the group operates virtually, the program is open to any teen in the state.

Artist Miranda Sheh organizes Grief Circles, discussions on Zoom, to talk about death and grief as a group. Participants respond to prompts in whatever form they desire or may choose to listen only.

Death Cafes are also designed as group discussion — rather than grief support or counseling — around death and end of life. Death Cafes are available in Auburn, and in Oregon and British Columbia.

Recovery Café has community centers in South Lake Union and Sodo that help people who have experienced homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges.

People living with serious and persistent mental illness can find a healing community through the Seattle Clubhouse, which provides employment and educational opportunities and support seeking stable housing.

Other resources

Lambert House is a community center for LGBTQ+ youth ages 10-22. The organization provides social activities, support groups and other events.

Many mental health professionals recommend books for additional perspective.

“Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Gottlieb details an account from the perspective of a therapist seeking counseling. Weston recommended “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, for an analysis of how trauma impacts the body and the brain.