I'm a therapist who is vocal about seeking therapy and who wholeheartedly believes that therapy is a must for all of us at different times in our lives. A few years ago, I was struggling with many life transitions at once. They weren't at all negative, yet I felt so overwhelmed by everything. I felt anxious, worried, unmotivated, and alone. I knew I didn't want to feel that way. I wanted to be the happy and hopeful person I've always considered myself to be. My usual coping skills weren't doing the trick, so I decided it was time to seek a therapist. I left voicemails for many therapists in my area. The main issue I found was the commute. At that point in my life, I was starting my private practice and didn't have a set schedule. It was hard, logistically, to fit my own personal therapy accounting for the commute into my ever-changing schedule. So, finally, I decided on this particular therapist because she replied back to me in a timely and compassionate manner AND she offered telehealth. I had never considered telehealth before and had my doubts on how effective it would be. Yet, it seemed like the only option for me at the time and I chose to give it a try. It was the experience I needed at that moment in my life. It provided me with the flexibility I needed and eliminated commuting, this allowed me to not miss one single scheduled appointment and be disciplined about my healing.
Despite my own personal experience with telehealth, I was afraid to transition to exclusively providing telehealth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I feared some of my clients would not even give it a chance. What if they did give it a chance but ended up hating it anyway? Do I have the proper equipment? How would I tackle technological issues? Most importantly, could I be as effective online as I am in person?
All these questions ran through my head for days. I'd probably never gone exclusively telehealth if it wasn't for the coronavirus. Yet, it has been amazing to continue to see clients who were doing such great work before the stay at home orders were given. It wouldn't have been ethical or humane to leave them hanging without a return date. What has been even more amazing and gratifying for me, is working with brand new clients who I've never met in person. Creating a safe space for their healing, virtually. Getting to see our therapeutic relationship grow and their improvements increase over the past few weeks.
All of this is to say, that seeking help can be scary in and of itself. It requires vulnerability and courage to share your innermost fears with a total stranger. Requesting services via a new platform in a way you maybe weren't aware of before, can definitely make someone hesitate. Truth is that there are so many advantages to telehealth for the client if you only give it a try.
Telehealth makes therapy accessible to a wider range of people, specifically those living in small towns or rural areas. Instead of having to drive 45 minutes to the therapist closest to you, all you need is the internet and a computer or phone. It also gives clients more options when looking for a therapist that specializes in their specific presenting problem and is a good fit for them. Some specialties are hard to come by and having a good connection with your therapist, according to research, is crucial for therapeutic success. People are no longer limited to the mental health professionals within a 25-mile radius and can expand their search to any licensed in their state.
Accessibility for Disabled Populations
If you are bed-bound due to an illness or recent medical procedure you might not be able to make it to the office for weeks or even months. This will delay your treatment probably at the time you need it the most. With telehealth, you can continue to work towards your therapy goals from the comfort of your bed. This also helps caretakers of chronically ill family members, who would otherwise not have an option to seek help for themselves. In addition, not all buildings are ADA-accessible. Telehealth eliminates this barrier for people with physical impediments.
Scheduling is much less complicated when you don't have to commute. I keep reinforcing commute because I am from Miami, but honestly, this is a huge factor. People can easily schedule their session in between work and school, or work and picking up the kids, or any gap in their schedule. It allows clinicians to provide a wider schedule to also fit the client's needs.
You don't have to worry about stumbling upon someone you know in the parking lot or at the waiting room. You can schedule therapy at a time where you'll have the utmost privacy and confidentiality, whether is at the office, your car, or at home. Mental health is still highly stigmatized and a lot of people don't seek help because they are worried about others knowing. This takes care of that obstacle and very valid concern.
Research continues to grow in this area and thanks to COVID-19, I'm sure we will know much more. What we do know, is that telehealth in the form of video-conferencing is as effective as face-to-face therapy for most clients. For years telehealth has been used, to provide therapy to individuals with a wide range of presenting issues. In recent years, telehealth has been expanded to couples and families. There's a myth that telehealth is a watered-down version of face-to-face therapy and that certain modalities are not effective online. This is untrue, most modalities are adaptable to a videoconferencing platform. Because of the demand, COVID_19 has created for comprehensive online services, therapists across the globe are seeking additional training and mentorship on how to use more specialized modalities like EMDR online. Online therapy might not be ideal for everyone, that is definitely true, and that is something that needs to be discussed with your potential therapist.
Many states continue to have shelter-in-place orders and even those who have begun to reopen are enforcing social distancing, therefore, the majority of private practitioners have migrated to telehealth. I along with most of my colleagues are apprehensive of returning to the office "too soon" and exposing ourselves, our families, and our clients, as well as, our client's families. For that reason, most of us are uncertain of when we will feel comfortable providing face-to-face therapy again. Now, you shouldn't wait for weeks or months for therapy. Thankfully, technology makes therapy accessible to you from the safety and comfort of your home, more so in the midst of COVID-19.
Genesis Games is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in FL and is currently licensed temporarily in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Genesis provides video-conferencing telehealth services to individuals and couples struggling with anxiety, depression, life transitions, recovery from addiction, and relationship issues. Genesis is a Gottman Trained Couples Therapist and has a passion for helping people recover from heartbreak.
Genesis wholeheartedly believes that our lives are only as satisfying as our relationships. Her goal is to help you have healthier relationships with yourself and others.