• Valerie McDonnell

Teletherapy in the Time of Coronavirus

How teletherapy helps people cope with quarantine


Let’s face it: we’re all living online for the foreseeable future. We can’t predict how long this will last nor what the aftermath will look like.

Now that we’ve accepted that, it’s time for mindfulness and mental health management. Everybody’s lives have been disrupted, and will be for a while. Think of it as a challenge. An obstacle that makes you stronger in surmounting.

Choose to adapt and thrive

Adaptation is one of the key elements of mental health. And it’s fundamentally part of what makes us human. Here’s a problem. Let’s solve it. Here’s a new circumstance. Let’s adapt. It’s why humans alone live on every continent in every habitat. How we survive disasters and technological revolutions that forever change the face of the world and humanity itself.

Our adaptability is why we’re able to not only survive crises and trauma—but channel those experiences toward progress and self-improvement. We’re all going through a collective trauma right now in the Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020...and we’ll all have to manage the afterimage—whether it’s bad enough to call PTSD, or as mild as catching up on credit card payments and errands.

A lot of people have been asking questions about how teletherapy works. That’s great, because it means people recognize the benefits of therapy and strategizing their mental health through social distancing and quarantine. We can do this! Together from afar.

Client experience:

It’s their new weekly routine. Escape to the car, away from the cooped-up kids. Log on to their client portal and talk about their relationship for an hour. Change of scenery, change of voice, change of conversation. They can express their pent-up frustrations in the safety of mediation—staying accountable to each other and their therapist. Also helps them not chop up their teenagers.

How does teletherapy work?

Fundamentally there’s no difference between teletherapy and in-person sessions. The essentials are the same: guided self-discovery, mindfulness, and strategic critical thinking. Beyond that, each has its benefits and its challenges. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to argue in favor of using both through a regular course of therapy.

But in the time of COVID, teletherapy is our only safe option.

Licensed therapists use an online therapy platform like Simple Practice to make sure teletherapy sessions are HIPAA compliant and confidential. Apps like Skype or FaceTime aren’t as secure and don’t conform to licensing guidelines.

Once you’re online in the system, your teletherapy session will be the same duration as usual—but without the commute. Conversation may start with feelings and concerns about pandemic and quarantine, and how you’ve passed the days with what activities. Maybe about your family and how they’re reacting, your social support and work situation, and so forth.

It’s what we’re all talking about. Let’s discuss how it’s impacting you and your mental health.

Benefits of teletherapy

In stressful and scary times, it’s important to keep practicing communication and empathy—including with yourself. Anxiety is part of our national daily experience in this living nightmare. Now more than ever, it’s important to stay focused on goals and self-discovery. Just think: if you can maintain progress through pandemic and global shutdown, there’s not much you can’t do.

Teletherapy can help. Part of a positive mental health routine. Plus think about it this way: no drive home means unrestricted processing—for example, crying while driving (via personal experience) is not a safe situation. Who hasn’t had to pull over on the road home after a particularly puncturing session?

There’s a lot to be said for online therapy in the comfort of home. You can wrap up in your favorite blanket, nurse your favorite coffee mug, kick back in your favorite recliner—or even sit out by the river if your data plan is strong.

Client experience:

She hesitated and couldn’t go on. It was too painful. Then her cat jumped onto her lap and sniffed at her tears and rubbed his head under her chin. She smiled and scratched his ears as he settled in. She took a deep breath, looked up at the camera, and started talking.

What you lose in human contact you can gain from cozy surroundings. Imagine breakfast in bed followed by an empowering teletherapy session that propels you through a successful day of projects and micro successes.

Think about it...you don’t even have to wear pants (but please do).

Disadvantages of Teletherapy

There are some downsides of teletherapy in general. It may seem less formal and harder to take seriously—but your therapist will still be in a locked office, still fully focused on you and your goals. It’s still your time to use as you choose. Some clients stay in pajamas—others dress as if for work. You set your own intention for each teletherapy session.

Distraction is the deepest pitfall of teletherapy. Kids, partners, pets, chores, doorbells—these things happen at home. They generally don’t in a therapist’s office. Bad internet also doesn’t affect in-person therapy.

Some couples counseling with teletherapy find themselves confronting too soon what was brought up in session much sooner than normal—before they’ve had a chance to process (as they normally would on the drive home). If that’s the case, agree ahead of time to spend 20 minutes alone, before reconvening to discuss further.

Whatever you do to get through this hellish new normal—don’t let cabin fever do you in. Build positive routines and keep up the communication. Journal your frustrations and stoke your empathy. Remember: we’re all in this together.

Got a question about how teletherapy works?

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© 2020 by Valerie McDonnell

Wordwork by Quillpower