The pandemic opened the door to increased access to everything from the comforts of home. Of course we all got burnt out with the use of screens. We all missed face to face interactions and learned a great deal about the importance of connection and community. We also learned how we, as humans, are able to adapt things to our needs and find solutions in crisis.
Many of us depended on those Zoom calls for both our work and social meetings. And now, as the pandemic has died down in intensity and everyone finds ways to get “back to normal” in a post COVID world, we have reduced our use of online platforms for everyday needs. However, some of the changes have stuck giving us the benefit of options. One of those options is Telehealth appointments for medical and mental health care. Another is increasing “work from home” options, which has benefited many families. Not to mention the increased accessibility that is so helpful for a variety of disability challenges.
As a mother of three school age children, I found my job as a Mental Health Therapist supported by Telehealth options. The range of emotions was real. There was frustration of learning the technology. There was immense gratitude that I could still do my job during lockdown months. There was some sadness and resistance as I found that I “prefer face to face” sessions. There was insight and more gratitude that working from home allowed me to balance my time better as a mom and a therapist, even increasing the time I could spend with my kids. And there was the joy of having soft leggings as my work wardrobe, my cozy kitchen 10 feet away, and the comfort of my home all around me during my work day.
Things got “back to normal” and I returned to the office. But things in my personal life kept shifting, as they do, and I found myself re-locating and needing to be more available for my children. So I opted to do 95% of my job from home again. On purpose. This was necessary for me and I’m so grateful to have Telehealth options.
I wanted to highlight why Telehealth is still a good option for so many and give some tips on how to maximize your Telehealth experience in mental health care.
One of the largest benefits of Telehealth is accessibility. For those who struggle with chronic physical or mental health issues and other disabilities, Telehealth increases access to much needed services. Most insurance companies created quick changes to cover Telehealth options and many have maintained this, as it has had clear benefits of increasing accessibility to needed services. Mental health services in particular became more accessible online and this will hopefully remain a lasting change for the better. It also increases accessibility when resources are low. If you have difficulty accessing transportation or the cost of gas for the drive, Telehealth is an option that may be more accessible.
Blocking out the hour for therapy in a busy schedule can be a challenge. Telehealth can be helpful by reducing the factor of drive time. It can open up options to meet during a lunch hour without feeling rushed. It can open up options for a mom of young kids to meet from home while the kids nap. It’s easy to hop on that Zoom call at the last minute when you almost forgot your appointment. Reschedule options when things pop up can be more open when the therapist and client are using Telehealth. College students can still meet with their therapist from a dorm room hundreds of miles away. Convenience is a real benefit to the online options for therapy.
Leggings. Sweatpants. Blankets. I mean, the comforts of home are priceless. Not having to leave your bed for an appointment can be such a lifesaver. Especially if you are struggling with mental health, the easy access and comfort of Telehealth can be a factor in how much you able to show up for the important self care of therapy.
The Right Therapist
Most insurances are applied statewide. The option of Telehealth can open up the opportunity to connect with the right therapist for you. If you have felt limited in your options of where to go and who to see for therapy, Telehealth can help you branch out in your search. Maybe you know someone who knows someone who would recommend Therapist X for you… but that person lives in another city 2 hours away. If they are in your state and accept your insurance then the opportunity is now available to see this recommended professional. Knowing you have options to find a therapist that you feel can understand you or offer specific areas of expertise is empowering in advocating for your mental health needs.
Tips for Telehealth:
1. It’s okay of it feels a little awkward at first. Usually that feeling subsides after the first session or shortly thereafter.
2. Make sure you have privacy for your therapy appointment. A room with a door or scheduling meetings when you can be alone in your home/office are good options. Some people even opt to sit in their (parked) car during the appointment to ensure privacy. 3. Have your appointment in a spot with decent internet connection.
4. Begin therapy with an open mind, be honest with your therapist, and express any concerns or fears to the therapist. Communication about these issues usually resolves the fears and therapist are happy to help address any concerns.
I am grateful for the opportunities that have expanded in mental health care due to the increased use of Telehealth and I hope that you find the best path on your mental health journey in whatever ways you may need through life.
About the author:
Becca Woods is a LCMHC with 5+ years of experience. She is a mother of three beautiful children. She loves spending time hiking our beautiful western NC trails, painting, writing poetry, and light gardening. Her therapeutic style centers on mindfulness and CBT, creating a space of support and non-judgment with a person centered approach, and fostering empowerment and self compassion for each client on their healing journey. Becca is accepting new clients with both Telehealth and in person options.