So, You’re Thinking About Teletherapy.
With COVID-19 on the global news docket and quarantines issued across the nation, teletherapy has become more important now than ever. Many people are cut off from their normal support network and from everyday, in-person interactions. Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high as we sit in the fear of the unknown of what our future is likely to bring.
As of Friday, March 20, the Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced the state-wide stay at home order, aiming to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. Those of us in the greater Chicago area and across the state, country, and globe, are asked to remain quarantined, and with many people’s school and work forced online, as well as canceled trips and events, even doctor’s appointments are postponed, and local parks shutting down, we do not have anywhere to go. The world is on pause.
The response to the pandemic appears to be as varied as the symptoms it presents, with many people not entirely sure how to react and remaining in a place of unrest about what the future will bring and how long we must remain isolated. This state of limited social interaction, when not balanced properly, can ultimately be damaging to our current and future selves.
For many people, this isolation can be very frustrating and depending on our mindset, even a dangerous time. Not only can this isolation lead to stress, anxiety, or fear, but it is when we’re alone and left to the confines of our own mind that we often have no one to check our narrative in the stories that we create for ourselves about who we are, and what exactly is our role in the world.
In imagining the experience of those already struggling with their mental health, and looking at the world around me as I walk through this pandemic experience myself, I am reminded of a chief tell-tale sign of depression: withdrawal from others; and the silence and isolation that so often accompanies the vicious cycle of shame. What better breeding ground for these gremlins to grow than in our current cultural climate?
Of course to combat these gremlins creeping in, we are reminded time and time again that social distancing does not mean social isolation, that we need to stay connected. We’re told to make sure to spend time with those in our immediate circle, and to video call the others. We are reminded that there are creative ways to invest in self-care, ways to bring our workouts right into our living room, and inspired to take up hobbies long ignored that are deserving of our attention.
However, while helpful, many of these actions do little to address the storm raging within. To protect our mental health during this trying time, we may have even considered speaking with a therapist after seeing a post online about teletherapy.
At this point however, I can no doubt hear the questions in your mind: What is telehealth? Isn’t it going to be weird or uncomfortable? How can it possibly be as helpful as meeting with someone in real life?
Although these may be very real concerns, often you’ll find that when you take the first step out of your comfort zone and face the fear that’s holding you back, you have also taken the first step towards healing.
In telehealth, as in all methods of therapeutic delivery, the main factor that is going to affect your ability to change is your motivation to do so. If you enter an online therapy relationship with thoughtful consideration of a goal in mind, and a readiness to do the work, whether the therapist is sitting right in front of you, or in their home office, should make no difference.
Benefits of Teletherapy
There are a number of benefits regarding online therapy. It allows for instant communication between clients and therapists. This level of communication can help increase feelings of support and also adds to the therapeutic relationship. Research has also supported the fact that online/ teletherapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.
We, as humans, often feel safer in our home environment, which, in therapy, can actually help us get to a place of authenticity and vulnerability quicker, and in turn make the process more effective and efficient. When we feel safe and comfortable disclosing not only what is going on for us on the surface, but finding also the courage to share about our internal worlds, we are constructing, little by little, a strong therapeutic relationship which is the foundation of successful therapy.
Although you may be unsure about using technology to connect to mental health support, this is the time to step out of that comfort zone. It is often in the moments that we risk being vulnerable and reaching out for help that we are able to grow and learn.
There is no shame in reaching out to professional support to help you manage your emotional reaction to what is happening all around us, and in the news. Remember you are not alone in this and there is support waiting for you, all you have to do is take that first step.