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.

Finding a therapist can be hard.

Where do you look? What do you do if you don’t have insurance? And how can you trust that someone understands your identity and background?

Washington, like other states nationwide, is facing a crisis in providing mental health care: a surge in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by a staggering shortage of clinicians, all as preexisting problems continue to rage.

If you’re among those who have had trouble finding mental health care, The Seattle Times Mental Health Project is offering an opportunity to learn tips for navigating the system, directly from four local mental health providers. Join us for an hourlong conversation over Zoom at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16. To register for the free online event, please visit st.news/AccessEvent.

The Seattle Times has also compiled a list of resources for directories of therapists, specifically those who specialize in serving LGBTQ people and people of color. There are also tips on asking questions to determine whether a therapist serves your needs, and links to other organizations and groups providing communal support.

Many therapists and mental health professionals are willing to offer free consultation sessions, reduced rates for clients in need and referrals to other trusted providers.

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The panelists for the Feb. 16 event are:

Ash Choi is a mental health therapist and consultant who works with people ages 11 years and up in their Seattle-based private practice. They specialize in gender identity development, the spectrum of food and body issues, and often, the intersection of gender dysphoria and food and body issues. Ash’s theoretical orientations are primarily influenced by relational and psychodynamic psychology. They approach their work through a trauma-informed, anti-oppressive lens, acknowledging and addressing the ways in which intersectional systems of oppression affect the lives and livelihoods of marginalized groups.

Lesli Desai is a licensed independent clinical social worker in West Seattle with a focus on reproductive mental health, from preconception, infertility and pregnancy to pregnancy loss and the transition to parenthood, including nontraditional paths such as adoption, donor gametes, and child-free not-by-choice. In 2021, she attained the perinatal mental health certificate, becoming roughly the 40th clinician in the state of Washington with the credential, and currently co-facilitates several perinatal-focused groups in the Greater Seattle area. Before private practice, Lesli was a founding clinician at Swedish Medical Center’s outpatient maternal mental health program and perinatal partial hospitalization program.

Geralyn Peterson is a master’s level therapist with an emphasis on child, couples and family therapy, and specialties in child and geriatric mental health. She also has experience in mental health emergency and crisis work. With over 20 years’ experience, she works in Puyallup for Umbrella Counseling and Wellness providing cognitive-behavioral, narrative and family systems therapy; groups in parenting, depression and anxiety management; as well as supervision. She is the author of “The Up and Up on Parenting: Reframing our Children’s Mistakes as Teaching Moments.” 

Gregory Whiting is a clinical social worker, equity and inclusion consultant, and experienced educator. He is the director of equity and inclusion for Food Lifeline, a food bank serving Western Washington. He has independent clinical licensure in the states of California and Washington. Gregory’s clinical social work has enabled him to serve the complex needs of a variety of King County residents such as people experiencing homelessness, youth in schools, incarcerated people and medical patients with complex treatment needs.

Do you have a question for the mental health providers that you think the event’s audience would benefit from? Ask us in the form below, and we may ask it at the event.

Mental health resources from The Seattle Times