Written by: Kaycee Beglau, PsyD
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States and the world, many of us are left looking towards the internet for creative ways to meet some of our physical, emotional, and social needs. With the growing government restrictions and orders for social distancing, sheltering in place, and the closing of all non-life sustaining businesses, the opportunity to begin in-person therapy is likely to be extremely limited. This is, of course, occurring during a time when many of us are experiencing unprecedentedly high levels of fear, panic, anxiety and worry, isolation, loneliness, sadness, grief and loss, among other overwhelming and complicated emotional reactions. Under more typical circumstances, I imagine many folks would be quickly trying to find a new therapist to help them process and cope during these overwhelming times.
As it currently stands, if someone wants to begin therapy, they are left with understandable questions or concerns about what it would mean to meet a new therapist for the first time online and to begin working with them in this manner without ever having met them in person, or wondering if this is even a realistic possibility at all. Let me start by saying that, yes, it is possible to begin a new therapy remotely or online.
Although online therapy (also referred to as telehealth, telemedicine, virtual therapy, distance therapy, telepsychology, web therapy) has been around for many years, it has recently been growing in popularity among some office-based therapists, and also because of the development of several text-based or app-based companies offering only distance therapy options. Even so, I believe most people (both therapists and clients alike) would agree there are potential downsides and costs to receiving therapy in this format, with something being “lost” without the ability to be physically in the same room with one another in a fully embodied way. While downsides to online therapy will not diminish during the coronavirus crisis, the potential benefits of starting to work with a therapist remotely, will likely outweigh the costs, particularly if you can begin working with a local therapist who can eventually transition into in-person therapy once it is deemed safe for everyone to do so.
Some of these potential benefits may seem rather obvious, such as having increased contact with another human being, being able to receive support, and learning new ways of coping with overwhelming feelings. However, there are many other potential benefits, that may include:
If you are emotionally struggling or suffering, or could even just use some more support, please do not hesitate to contact local therapists and inquire about their current procedures for beginning therapy remotely. It may be helpful to write down a list of questions or concerns ahead of time, so that you get a chance to discuss these prior to your first session. I know this may seem like a lot of work during an already overwhelming time, but many therapists have already made this transition successfully and are eager to help provide support during this time when it is needed the most.
If you found this blog post to be helpful and you would like to explore with others how they are implementing these self-care suggestions, consider coming to our virtual Anxiety During COVID-19 Support Group on Wednesday afternoons. Find out more here: Turning Leaf Online Support Group
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Resources:
Reliable sources of information regarding COVID-19:
New York Times’ Parenting During COVID-19 Collection: https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/parenting-kids-coronavirus