#Askingforafriend: Mental health, teletherapy and COVID-19
By Nicholas Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care
As a clinical mental health counselor, I am concerned about many aspects of the COVID-19 global pandemic that relate to mental health.
One of my biggest concerns for my own clients, as well as for society, is maintaining access to mental health services. There are two important factors at play:
- How do people currently receiving mental health services continue to get their needed care during COVID-19 safety measures?
- How do people who need mental health care services, perhaps because of COVID-19, get it during a global pandemic?
Enter telehealth. While there are many names for this format (e.g., telemedicine, teletherapy, online therapy, etc.), telehealth leverages video conferencing to provide physical and mental health care to patients virtually.
For many, this is a new phenomenon. They might have never seen their doctor or counselor via telehealth or even known that was an option. As with anything new or unknown, it is natural to have some concerns or reservations.
My practice has been entirely on telehealth since GCU’s spring break in the middle of March. After many months of telehealth, I have some observations to share with the GCU community that may help you as you navigate your own mental health needs.
First and foremost, telehealth works.
Personally, I’ve seen it work with my own clients these past few months as they have continued to make progress on their therapy goals. But don’t take it just from me – numerous research studies show that telehealth is generally as effective as in-person counseling.
Don’t stop going to counseling just because of needing to transition to telehealth.
Transitioning to telehealth may involve some growing pains and may not be everyone’s preferred therapy format. But your mental health care needs don’t stop just because of a pandemic; if anything, they may be increasing. You and your therapy goals are worth your continued investment. If you are struggling with telehealth, discuss this with your mental health provider so that you can figure out ways to increase your comfort and maintain your access to care.
If you need therapy, understand that telehealth may be the best current option.
Mental health care services still are available even if you can’t meet in person. Now, more than ever, mental health providers are here for you. It just looks different right now. It is OK to seek help; if you need it, please get it and don’t let telehealth deter you.
There are ways to make your telehealth experience more effective.
- Just as you would for in-person counseling, have your session in a comfortable, private space without distractions.
- Use a stable internet connection; cellphones often don’t have the bandwidth for telehealth.
- Use headphones. Have adequate lighting.
- Ask questions and talk to your provider about your experience in telehealth.
- Develop a plan for technical difficulties.
- Many insurance plans are covering telehealth services; however, I recommend you check with your plan regarding your specific coverage.