Mental health services are needed now, perhaps more than ever. Research indicates that telemental health services are just as effective as in-person, traditional counseling. The biggest advantage of telemental health services is access to care. During a time like the one we are in, fear of exposure to a contagion prevents business as usual with close human contact. To eliminate any risk to our physical health, but still tend to our mental health, a virtual connection is a terrific option.
There is a growing trend to incorporate counseling as part of a healthy self-care routine. Let’s face it, we all have some parts of ourselves or our lives that could use some exploring to see how it is either serving us or not. Many people enter therapy due to the discomforts in their life created by high levels of depression or anxiety. The process of initiating therapy typically looks a lot like this….a person researches therapists, looking for the ideal match whom they will most likely connect with and make the process both enjoyable and effective (it is best to like and respect your therapist). Next, the person gets up the courage to call the counseling office and schedule an appointment.
They choose to carve out an hour a week to sit with a trusted professional, put words to thoughts and feelings, and talk about how to both identify and achieve mental and emotional goals that will enhance everyday life. Perhaps on the way to a therapy appointment, the individual stops to grab a coffee or tea, adding another self-care element to the experience.
The therapists’ office becomes a safe space that is associated with comfort and exploration. Over time, there is anticipation for these appointments and an eagerness to share small victories and insights that happen throughout the week. The therapeutic relationship and counseling process are valued and become part of a person’s weekly routine. Hoping for the best, let’s assume positive changes are becoming to take effect. Things are going great.
Therapy Now – Enter Telemental Health
Then, a pandemic strikes. A coronavirus, known as COVID-19 devastates our versions of reality. A tiny virus steals from us the safety and security of our daily life.
Not only does counseling change, everything changes. Business as usual is no longer possible. Within a few weeks, every aspect of our lives is impacted. Grocery shopping is different. Libraries are closed. Getting a hair cut is impossible. No more encounters with friends as “social distancing” is recommended as a new norm to stop the spread of a virus. Schools are shut down. Workers are now home-based, essential business heroes, or unemployed. And throughout all of this, people are scared and worried, two feelings that commonly bring folks to therapy in the first place.
Helping in a Crisis
During a graduate course titled “Family Crisis Management”, I recall learning that change is an essential element for moving through a crisis. It may be a change in mindset or a change in behaviors, but a change will need to accompany settling into a new normal. A complicating factor is that many of us resist change. By its very nature, change comes with more uncertainty. Change can ignite a sense of loss. Additionally, being forced to change often spurs resistance and a sense of resentment.
Those people that successfully navigate a crisis have a few things in common. Resilient people, those who are able to bounce back, exhibit both flexibility and adaptability. They adjust and bend to new elements that are required of them. This does not mean this happens easily for them. They will likely still struggle emotionally along the way, experiencing many intense feelings and having plenty of rough moments. However, they lean on their resources of flexible thinking and behaving, think about the big picture, and rally social support.
Changes to our Service Options – Telemental Health Services
Mental health providers, as a profession, have been required to lean on these vital elements of flexibility and adaptability in order to continue to serve clients during this time of monumental stress. No more is it the norm to meet with your therapist in an office setting. In a very short time period, therapists were required to muster up the courage to learn more about technology than they likely never wanted to know. Not only did they have to be savvy enough themselves to initiate a video-conference session with a client, they need to be cool, calm, and confident to be able to teach and guide the client through a completely new process. Perhaps that is overstating it a bit. The process of therapy remains sacred and includes intimacy, vulnerability, acceptance, non-judgment, and trust – no matter the delivery model. The format is what changed, and as stated earlier, with any change, comes trepidation, uncertainty, discomfort, and fear. Many clients’ first response was to “wait until this is over.” Then, we learned, as a society, that ‘over’ may be many months away.
Like most experiences, once you have done it a couple times, it is no longer new and weird. The same goes for teletherapy. Of course, there is an adjustment period, but very soon it is evident that the core elements to a successful therapy experience are still present – a therapist who listens well, asks meaningful questions, is present with the client and great at ‘holding space’. It is indeed possible for a therapist and client to co-create a safe environment where terrific therapeutic work can happen, even when not sharing the same four walls.
**Telemental health services are available through Perspectives Therapy Services, LLC which is located in Michigan. Our providers are eager to get to know you in an authentic and caring way, focused on understanding your story and reshaping your future to be more aligned with your image of mental, emotional and relationship wellness. Most health insurance plans are accepted.
Source: The Effectiveness of Telemental Health: A 2013 Review. Telemed Journal & E-Health. 2013 Jun; 19(6): 444–454. Donald M. Hilty, MD, Daphne C. Ferrer, MD, Michelle Burke Parish, MA, Barb Johnston, MSN, Edward J. Callahan, PhD, and Peter M. Yellowlees, MD, MBBS
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.