In line with Government advice regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) people have been asked to restrict their movements and social distance to help stop the spread of the virus. In such extraordinary circumstances, it is important to look at the possible consequences that these measures may have on mental health and what support we can continue to provide.
Research which looked at mental health outcomes of quarantine and isolation for preventing infectious diseases observed a number of psychological conditions. Hossain and colleagues (2020) found the presence of mood disorders, fear, guilt, loneliness, feeling a lack of control, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorders, perceived dirtiness, vigilant hand-washing, and avoiding crowds and social gatherings even after quarantine or isolation.
Now more than ever, it is important that psychologists continue to provide therapeutic services. Many therapists are using online technology to facilitate this. The use of online therapy, in the delivery of psychological services is still a relatively new concept. It has been discussed that some clients may find that they are less inhibited in their online interactions where online therapy may lead to the expression of previously unexplored thoughts and feelings. Online therapy is also beneficial for people living in remote locations with limited facilities. Disadvantages have also been highlighted however, where some feel that there is the potential for non-verbal cues to go unnoticed in the use of online therapy. The increased used of online therapy due to the Covid-19 outbreak will likely shed further light on these discussions and impact the future of online therapy.
Online Therapy Tips:
If you are about to commence therapy online as a client, or therapist, there are a few things which you can do to help facilitate successful therapeutic practice.
- Start to set-up your device 5 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Test that your audio and video are fully operational and ensure that your device is fully charged. It might also help to agree on an alternative procedure in advance should technology fail mid-session, e.g. phone call.
- Carry out your session in a private setting where there is no risk of being overheard. Wearing headphones can help to make the conversation more confidential and improve sound quality. Headphones also help you stay free from any auditory distractions.
- Mute or close all other apps or files on the device which you are using to attend your session. It is harder to stay focused and present if notifications pop up on your screen – it’s only natural to read them!
- If you are someone who found that the journey to and from your face-to-face sessions helped you prepare, and then come down for your session, try to work in a detaching ritual before and/or after your session, e.g. have a shower, eat a snack, watch a short television program. If you feel you need further help with this, bring it up in session with you therapist.
- If you feel online therapy an uncomfortable medium, discuss it with your therapist. You are of course free to end the session at any time, however before doing so, it might be beneficial to discuss other options.
Written by Helen Torney