I am more stressed than ever... Can I get therapy? Do I get tele-therapy? Can I still have in-office sessions?
Stress Compounded. Life is complicated...with stressors, losses, unresolved dysfunctional family dynamics, ongoing anxiety and depression, feeling at a loss of direction, relationship issues and even traumas. Normally, this is just the tip of the iceberg of issues that bring people into counseling. Now, add in the pandemic, with not only a whole new plethora of stressors, but also hurdles about the safety of social contact and of “Business as usual”... we now have a pressure cooker of challenges, including is it safe to go to therapy?
Therapy is still an option and thankfully, there are choices. Therapists are some of the helpers in society who work to stay ahead of the curve to be able to help with the invisible wounds and concerns that result from hardships. When concerns about Covid-19 hit, we acted to protect our clients and adapted to teletherapy overnight and started meeting with clients over phones and computers. Behind the scenes, we have been growing quickly to become comfortable and proficient with teletherapy options, including using HIPAA-compliant platforms to insure highest levels of confidentiality and ways to complete intake forms electronically. We found clients were very grateful for an alternative way to meet and adapted quickly with us. The majority of clients have found teletherapy to be comfortable and helpful. In line with re-opening more professional services, we are looking at what it means to be able to re-enter the therapy room as safely as possible during this time.
The good news is that most insurance companies have amended their coverage to include telehealth and teletherapy as covered treatments during this pandemic crisis. As recently as May 20, 2020, major insurance companies have started announcing that telehealth coverage will continue to be covered through the end of December 2020. Of course, there is a lot of variability in policy coverages – it’s always imperative for people to contact their insurance companies directly to find out specifics about their coverage/plan.
Perhaps you’re reading this article because you’re interested in getting therapy and wondering what your options are at this time. At Beverly Therapists, most of our therapists are providing telehealth services through the end of the year, and ready to continue beyond if needed. Teletherapy has quickly become the primary modality for therapy at this time, allowing us to help people tend to their mental health concerns, while keeping them physically safe, as well. Additionally, some of our therapists are starting to provide in-office sessions again to accommodate those who would best benefit by an in-person counseling option. This article is intended to help you consider if teletherapy or in office services might be the best option for you or your loved ones. This is just the starting point, we encourage you to have a thoughtful conversation with your therapist or potential therapist to decide on the best approach for you.
Consideration number one: protecting vulnerable individuals. With all of the preventative measures we are being asked to take as a society, we are trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to those individuals at high risk for complications. Teletherapy is probably for you:
If you feel safest with maintaining quarantine measures that fit you and your family’s preference/needs, and you are limiting unnecessary social/public contact. This is reason enough, but also assess these considerations.
If you are in a high-risk category, such as an elder or as somebody with compromised immunity or chronic respiratory issues.
If you live in close proximity, or are a caregiver, to someone who is at high-risk.
If your therapist is in a high-risk category, or lives with/cares for someone who is at high-risk.
If you work frequently with people who have Covid-19 or are in a highly public job interacting with people who may be at higher risk; and you are aware that you may be at risk for transmitting the virus.
Counseling is all about self-care! We care about you and want to protect you and your loved ones. We also care about ourselves and our loved ones, and it is affirming to us when our clients understand that teletherapy may be in our best interest as well. Talk with us about how teletherapy can work for you.
Consideration number two: how weird is it to not only start therapy, but also to do it over video? We will be honest here, it is weird not only for you, but for most of us as therapists too – it’s not our first preference either! It’s a good thing that we are “ people people”, meaning that helping other people feel comfortable and connecting with them is what we’re all about. When we start therapy with you over a teletherapy platform, we will be doing our best to have an inviting vibe to help you see if you can be comfortable, open, and begin to engage with the experienced, caring professional on the other end (one of us). We are all about the business of deepening understanding and improvement with whatever you’re coming in with, while all the while making it comfortable for you to be truly transparent and open so that you can authentically benefit. We look at goodness of fit first and foremost. Our motto is, let’s give this a try and have an honest conversation about if it feels right and helpful for YOU.
Consideration number three: what does in-office therapy look like during the pandemic? If in-office therapy seems like the right fit to you and your therapist, we will lead you in our “safety first, socially distant style” of therapy:
With our waiting rooms closed, your therapist will ask you to text from your car indicating you are here and waiting.
Your therapist will text you to come on in, greeting you at the door and will handle all doors for you in an old-fashioned, gracious manner.
In line with recommended preventative measures, your therapist will use a no contact forehead thermometer to scan for a fever, and will give you an option of washing hands or using hand sanitizer as you enter.
Both you and your therapist are required to wear your masks for the entire session. Normally, we offer tea or water to drink throughout your session, but will no longer be able to do this. No doubt, this is weird, but the ability to sit together and to feel the comfort of connection should melt the awkwardness of this pretty quickly for most people.
At Beverly Therapists, your therapist will require you to have a “therapy blanket”. Also, so unusual! Your therapy blanket will be placed by you on your chair so that you will have a hygienic barrier to help you feel comfortable and at ease with where you are sitting. You will be bringing your therapy blanket with you for each session. This may become a comforting ritual for you in your ongoing weekly sessions.
Hand sanitizer will be easily accessible both by the entrance, as well as the room where you and your therapist meet.
In each office, we will look at how to maximize distance within the room, while maintaining the secure, confidential, safe environment that distinguishes therapy.
Your therapist will have at least 15 minutes between clients to sanitize any surfaces touched.
As a group, we at Beverly Therapists are committed to following best practices to keep everyone as safe as possible, and will keep updating our practices as best practices direct.
We hope that this article is helpful in normalizing counseling today. Help is here for stressors you are experiencing. Please talk to your therapist, or any of our therapists, to discuss how teletherapy or in-office therapy can work for you. Reach out to us at 773-310-3488, or any of our therapists at Beverly Therapists.
Learn more about the author of this article: Lisa Catania, MSW, LCSW