Like so many others, I’ve struggled to find mental healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of depressive or anxiety disorder during the pandemic, up from 1 in 10 in 2019.

And a New York Times article reveals what many have likely suspected: that mental health professionals have had a hard time getting people the help they need since the surge.

After losing one therapist as a result of an insurance change, losing another due to countertransference issues (my concerns triggered my therapist’s concerns, causing her to transfer her emotions onto me), and adding myself to several practices’ wait lists to no avail, I was looking for an alternative.

I spent some time searching the web for something different: A support group? A counselor in training who could possibly see me? On a whim, I Googled “mental health gym” in hopes that such a thing existed.

I was happily surprised to learn that, indeed, it did! I knew I had to try one.

So, what is a mental health gym anyway? It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a place to go to exercise your mind.

More specifically, depending on the “gym” — and it’s still a fairly new phenomenon, so there aren’t a ton out there — it’s a facility that offers classes, support sessions, exercises, or treatments designed to help people with their mental wellness.

Some take place in a physical space; some have live, virtual sessions for now with the intention of transitioning to in-person when it feels safer to do; and others feature prerecorded material.

While they are particularly helpful in the face of the pandemic, most gyms were founded before it began, in the last 5 or so years. And they are so well timed. This relatively new concept is ripe for the current moment, in which athletes, celebrities, and regular folks alike are shining a light on the importance of mental healthcare.

“I think that mental health gyms at the beginning were seen as a competitor to an individual therapist,” said Jennifer Silvershein Teplin, LCSW, founder and clinical director of Manhattan Wellness, “but I think people are now realizing that it can work in tandem.”

She sees …….


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