In Chicago, we know that coronavirus is dangerous. The death toll rises daily and collective anxiety persists. However, the coronavirus wreaks havoc on our lives in many other ways as well. Despite the dance at “Quarantine club“, Walk around Lakeview daily, organize virtual happy hours with your friends, Netflix gamesand famous musicians entertain us every day – the experience of social isolation is palpable.
The simple nature of fighting this pandemic – social isolation – can create a feeling of loneliness and isolation. This social isolation, although the best option we have, is also problematic. In fact, Dr. Alcaraz of the American Cancer Society analyzed data from 580,000 adults and concluded that social isolation increases the risk of death from all causes and for all races (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2019) .
Not only that, social isolation can cause and / or exacerbate symptoms of mental illness such as generalized anxiety, depression and bereavement.
This means that psychotherapy can be more important than ever. But, how can you access therapy when there is a mandate to fight coronavirus with social isolation and stay at home? Through teletherapy (for example, the provision of psychotherapy services using videoconferencing technology or the telephone.).
So whether or not you’ve ever participated in in-person therapy or teletherapy, here are some considerations your therapist wants you to know during the coronavirus pandemic:
- You can always start therapy! In fact, it might be the perfect time. Most of us have more time and flexibility than ever before, and issues like anxiety and depression are more problematic than ever. AA meetings are less available, couples are reunited because of quarantines causing discord, the stress of planning the wedding is exacerbated and anxiety abounds. So start now! Prenuptial advice, advice for couples and general support are available.
- Consistency remains the key. If you’re on therapy or starting over, it’s essential to stay consistent. Consistency in therapy allows for the most effective treatment, but also contributes to a sense of normalcy, which is crucial for reducing anxiety and other psychological problems.
- Teletherapy is actually more flexible than traditional therapy in person. Availability and office hours are less of a concern, which means that therapists can often be more flexible in meeting your schedule. You are also much less likely to be placed on a waiting list.
- Save travel time when engaging in therapy from a distance. Time is often considered the greatest stressor for Americans, but teletherapy actually requires less time investment. Not only that, hiring a therapist remotely, can allow you to have access to a specialist (ie in queer issues, trauma, addictions, etc.) that you should have traveled a great distance (and spend a lot of time) otherwise access.
- Privacy laws still apply. Although much of our world is uncomfortable, the laws that protect the privacy of what you share in therapy still apply. This means that, with a few exceptions, what you say to your therapist is legally bound to stay between you and the therapist. In addition, people in rural areas may know the only local therapist or worry about being seen by someone they know in the waiting room. Engaging in teletherapy gives you the opportunity to see someone you don’t know and there is no waiting room.
- You don’t have to be a tech master to engage in teletherapy. Most platforms that support teletherapy, such as me and VSee are fairly easy to use. But, during this pandemic period, the Civil Rights Office (which oversees the laws on the confidentiality of therapies) made exceptions to also authorize more well-known and public platforms like Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts. This means that you do not need to learn a new system. Always concerned about your mastery of technology, you just need to request an appointment by phone.
- The teletherapy process is practically the same (pun intended). Teletherapy is not just a chance to let off steam on a single basis (although these companies do exist, you have the option of engaging in real therapy instead). The therapeutic relationship is repeatedly the best predictor of therapeutic outcomes. So consider teletherapy as a chance to build a therapeutic relationship while being socially distant from others. In addition, therapists are always licensed and highly qualified. They use most of the same techniques they would do in an office (in a non-pandemic period, the vast majority of our work is done in person) and will likely expect you to work on personal development in session and between sessions.
- Your insurance probably covers your care, even if you practice teletherapy. Under Governor Priztker’s Disaster Proclamation, health insurers are required to cover the costs of all telehealth services (if provided by network providers for clinically appropriate and medically necessary services and treatment) . In addition, most major insurance companies offer telehealth benefits. If in doubt, our office can help you contact your insurance company for information on benefits.
- Therapy, including teletherapy, is effective. Speech therapy has long been considered effective and continues to be used by an ever increasing number of people. Teletherapy, although a much more recent way of providing services, has also been shown to be effective (Wagner, Horn and Maercker (2013); Acierno et al. (2014); Mitchel et al. (2008); learn more about the effectiveness of teletherapy here.). When in doubt, talk to your therapist about your goals and what you might expect.
All in all, this time is difficult enough – you don’t have to manage it alone!