One of the major barriers that keep many people from reaching out for help is the simple fact they have phone anxiety. Phone anxiety is when someone is deeply uncomfortable, nervous, or afraid to speak on the phone. This can be for many reasons. Someone may be hard of hearing or struggle with auditory processing disorder (APD). Some may be so anxious that they can’t even pick up the phone, afraid that they will somehow embarrass themselves. There might even be some past trauma that prevents someone from wanting to use the phone.
Anxiety takes time and effort to effectively treat. To do that you have to speak on the phone, which you have anxiety about. You can see the problem here, and many people just decide to treat themselves than deal with the anxiety of calling a center on the phone. If you or someone you love wants help, but are afraid of phones, here are some things you can do to still reach out for help.
Go in Person
This may not be a viable option nowadays due to the ongoing pandemic, but sometimes if you just swing around to the treatment center you are interested you can speak to a receptionist inside. Not all centers have a reception window so you may go inside and see that there is no check-in window. If there is a reception window, you can talk to the person inside. You then can explain that you have anxiety around phones, they will understand and be able to schedule your first appointment in person. For those that are nervous about going in person, there are other options you can try.
Most accredited treatment centers have a website. Going to the contact section will sometimes bring you to a form where you may write your questions and submit them. If they don’t have a built-in form to fill out, they will usually have an office email you can contact for help. Simply state that you are interested in treatment but have difficulties using a phone and someone will follow up with you by the next business day or two. They may offer you other means of communication such as by text or online chat, but this depends on the center.
Some websites have a built-in chat feature. You may have seen such a thing on banking websites or online stores. These chats exist so that people can quickly and easily troubleshoot problems or ask for clarification on something.
For a treatment center website, this is so you can ask a question for a quick answer. Usually, chats are staffed by real people, so these chats usually operate during typical business hours. Some chats are automated and can be used to schedule appointments, though not all can do this and are designed to answer frequently asked questions. It is worth a try, and it will let you know if chat is open or closed during certain hours.
Ask for a Referral
If you already see a psychiatrist, they may already be working with a treatment center. They may be able to write you a referral to a treatment center. In this case, you can ask them for help with the scheduling process if you are afraid of speaking on the phone. They may very well be able to speak to a representative on your behalf (while keeping HIPPA compliant) to help schedule an appointment. If not, they will still have valuable information that you can use to schedule on your own, such as an email address or text number.
Ask a Trusted Person
When you have no options at all left, you can ask a trusted friend or family member to help you. The receptionist will need to know some verification details about you before they call, such as your birthday and address. It’s best for the person needing the appointment to be there when the call is made, as they will sometimes ask for specific information that only you or they would know.
They will never ask this person why you are asking for therapy, that is for your therapist to know. It is also important to have your insurance information ready, if you have it, as the receptionist will ask to verify if your insurance will cover your visit. You won’t be judged for having someone call on your behalf as they will be happy that someone is reaching out for help.
With the advent of technology that is becoming more ingrained in our lives, it is easy to predict that in the future, phones will not be needed as much as they do now. Texting and email seem to be the most comfortable route for many people to take, and in the effort to continue to make mental health care accessible to all many centers are expanding their communication options. Some places even have patient login sites, where you can schedule appointments through the system without having to touch a phone.
The point is that a treatment center for mental health is going to understand your fears and worries, and will do the best they can to accommodate you and make you as comfortable as possible. They will never judge you or see you as a ‘baby’ for being nervous around phones. Reach out how you want to in a way that is comfortable to yourself. They will be glad to help you.
One of the major hurdles for people seeking treatment is the very first step, especially when you are afraid of phones. Phones are so integrated into our daily lives that it’s hard to imagine going through your day without one. However, some people are afraid of speaking on the phone and for very valid reasons. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we offer ways to reach out besides calling on the phone. Our contact page has a map for in-person meetings, as well as an email and chats feature so you may ask a question at any time. If you are calling on someone else’s behalf, call (949) 866-3461 today to speak with one of your staff members. They will understand the anxiety involved and will do everything in their power to be sure that you and the ones you love are treated with compassion and respect.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.