There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to help further break down the stigma built around mental health. For years, mental health care such as counseling or therapy has been considered borderline taboo; something only people struggling from severe mental illness required, and nothing the general public should be concerned with. More and more Americans are themselves discovering how far from the truth that thinking is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depression and loneliness during quarantine, fear and anxiety from the health crisis, mourning the loss of a job or a loved one, or even simply changed routine and having more time for self-reflection; these are only a few of the reasons nearly half of the American population is turning towards and embracing habitual self-care in the form of therapy and counseling today.
The only roadblock on the pathway to help and healing? Offices are closed. Cue: teletherapy. An already up and coming option in the mental health sector with apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp, virtual counseling was suddenly the sole option for caregivers and seekers alike when social distancing became the name of the game. One of the top remote therapy platforms, Talkspace, reported a 65 percent increase in clients from February to April of last year. Though one analysis from 2014 was able to predict that the telehealth sector would grow leaps and bounds with no pandemic in sight, Coronavirus-related anxiety has reportedly ranked as these new clients’ top concern. So, it seems as though the pandemic expedited the inevitable: teletherapy is looking to be more than just a passing fad.
Virtual counseling offers benefits like:
- Folks in areas with little to no access to brick-and-mortar practices can now have weekly sessions from the comfort of their own home.
- Some teletherapy monthly subscriptions are significantly cheaper than traditional in-office visits, particularly for those without insurance. That being said, a continually growing number of health plans have extended their coverage to virtual care in response to The Affordable Care Act accelerating telehealth parity.
- What commute time? A fifty-minute session is truly a fifty-minute session when you’re traveling from the couch to your bedroom. This also leads to comfortability, which can be key to opening up. Goodbye awkward waiting rooms!
- Between traveling, moving, and other life changes and events, there’s not much keeping a client away from their phone and therefore, their therapist. Plus, many virtual care services offer options beyond video calling, like texting or live chatting throughout the day.
- Since there are no physical restrictions to possibly interfere with the client-patient relationship, it is able to truly blossom over time through consistency and bonding.
- During a health crisis, safety is top of mind for anyone, therapists and clients alike. The ability to isolate and remain socially distant whenever possible is crucial during this time.
As the telehealth sector rapidly grows with no end in sight, and patients continue to embrace therapy in their lives, mental health professionals are also being impacted in this new normal we’re all living through. Therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists have to delicately balance their own self care with their influx of new patients’ as they too are coping through the pandemic. Physical exercise with minimal and/or affordable equipment like yoga, or getting outside for a walk, or practicing breath and meditation techniques are a few top suggestions on the list of practices therapists are not only prescribing during the pandemic, but taking to heart themselves.
This influx of new clients, though perhaps overwhelming for the profession, of course has its benefits. With demand at a growing high, now is a great time for anybody with a keen interest in mental health care to pursue their passion as a career option. Despite budget cuts and mass shutdowns in the mental health field at the beginning of the pandemic, virtual counseling has prevailed- and the career itself is not the only thing moving to the virtual world. Even following pursuing higher education towards a blossoming field can be done from the safety and comfort of one’s home. There are plenty of counseling degrees online prospective therapists can pursue, whether they seek a Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, or even other Licenses to practice, there is a plethora of quality online schooling options to meet their needs in an impactful way.
With the stigma around mental health care gradually dissolving as the world continues to cope with these challenging times, it is heartening to know there are safe and accessible outlets and opportunities for caregivers and seekers alike. Self-care is of the utmost importance as we forge into the unknown together, whether that means sipping home brewed coffee on your couch and pouring your heart out to your therapist, practicing yoga and breath meditation in your bedroom, or pursuing a higher education to fulfill a passion and make a difference in peoples’ lives. There’s no time like the present to take a moment for yourself.