Since being in private practice starting in 2009, I had done virtual Telehealth sessions with clients every now and then. However, in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, Telehealth sessions became a necessity. At this point, I had a group practice with two locations and several other therapists whom I employed. One of our offices flooded and several of our clients’ homes flooded. This is when mental health services are especially needed, to navigate recovery, mood, anxiety and huge stressors in our lives.
So I found Zoom. What an amazing company and so grateful for their platform. We quickly signed up for the HIPAA compliant version so we can ensure our clients’ privacy and confidentiality and began doing regular virtual Telehealth sessions in our practice. We were back to “normal” (whatever that means!) within a few months and I just found that clients still often preferred Telehealth sessions.
Fast forward another couple of years and I found myself moving to another state due to my husband’s job. It was so tough to make this decision and I was so sad in the beginning that I would probably lose many of my clients I had strong therapeutic relationships that had been built over years working in Houston.
But I offered Telehealth sessions since I was keeping my licensure in Texas and continued to use Zoom. Now that I’ve been in Virginia about 9 months as of writing this blog, about half of my client sessions every week are still my Texas clients I’ve known for a long time! This has allowed us to maintain our therapeutic relationship and I can keep working with my clients on their recovery, relationships, and personal growth without them having to find another therapist (maybe go through a few to find a good fit) and retell their entire story yet again.
Benefits of Telehealth Sessions
In our busy world, it can take at least an extra hour out of someone’s day to attend a session with their therapist. It could be a longer commute or just a lot of traffic during a particular time of day! Many of our clients really appreciate the convenience aspect of using Zoom for our sessions.
We also love providing virtual groups through A Collaborative Approach where we can have clients attend who are in different states or parts of the world (of course we make sure our licensure accommodates this) and come together to support each other in a group setting where they otherwise never would have met.
I also love Zoom in particular because there is this really easy Screen Share button where I can quickly pull up a worksheet, website or handout I want to share with a client. If I’m in a session in person, I often do not want to take the time to print it and potentially waste paper. So Zoom allows us to be more conscious of being paperless as well!
Clients are often far more comfortable in their home environment. Sometimes there is some creativity to find enough privacy at home (or work) in asking other family members to be in a different part of the house or perhaps sitting in a car on a lunch break to ensure privacy, but it works! And when we feel more comfortable in our own environment, therapy can often begin to shift.
We pay more attention to subtle nuances with facial expressions, body language or verbal intonation. We are able to see clients let down their guard a bit and feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and thoughts. And we occasionally get a glimpse of a family cat who walks in front of the camera or a friendly dog who wants to say hi! Seeing clients in their own comfortable environments allows for us as therapists to get to know them in different ways.
As I find myself writing this blog, we are in the beginning stages of major social distancing recommendations/requirements during COVID-19. Feeling it is our social responsibility to make this decision for our own well being as well as our clients, we are shifting to virtual Telehealth sessions only for the time being. I don’t know how long this will last, but what I will say is that I’m so grateful that many of our clients are already used to virtual Telehealth sessions and this social distancing will not disrupt their therapy nearly as much as if they were completely used to in person sessions. I’m also so grateful for platforms like Zoom that make it safe, secure and easy to continue therapy despite challenges none of us saw coming.
Whether it’s recovery from an eating disorder, dealing with anxiety or stress, experiencing trauma triggers or working on building healthy relationships, having a lot of downtime during things like a natural disaster or global health issues can make it difficult to practice healthy coping skills. Virtual Telehealth sessions can provide the continuity and support needed for ongoing care in these areas!
If you are in this place and you’re not sure which direction to go, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about counseling for awhile but felt like you needed to put it on hold with everything going on, please know we are here to help support you. If you want to try a Zoom session with us, just once, to even see what it’s like, you can contact us here.