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Is Virtual Counseling: “The New Normal”?

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2020 was a frightening year. Covid-19 seemingly came out of nowhere and forced us to reconsider life as we know it. The pandemic’s uncertainty revealed how fragile our lifestyles are and presented the challenge of rethinking literally everything to be conducted in a “safer” way – “The New Normal.” Therapy is essential to those who need it, so the mental health field was forced to adapt by offering innovative online therapy service via licensed therapist on phone calls or video appointments. 

Mental health doesn’t take a break; mental health symptoms only become worse when faced with uncertainty. This article will help navigate and shed light on “the new normal” of mental health services options. 

Social Distancing

Everything that wasn’t “essential” was put on hold while we learned more, but we seemed to lose focus on aspects of life that were only “essential to some.” Mental health services aren’t “essential” to the public the same way grocery shopping is, but it is essential for the people who are struggling with mental health conditions because their lives are on the line.

While most of the public were rethinking their shopping habits, work situations, which stylish mask they would wear out, or making banana bread, anxiety and uncertainty from the pandemic fueled drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicide, domestic violence, and more. The need for mental health care and teen counseling is more important now than ever, but what is the right way to approach it?

As we follow guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in-person therapy by mental health professional was put on hold, and counselors became online therapists in real time. Medical providers determined what portion of their programs could be offered on online therapy platforms; licensed mental health professionals would move forward and adapt as needed. 

virtual counseling

There are pros and cons to virtual counseling, but it’s a matter of perspective. 

Virtual Addiction Counseling

Traditional therapy and the in-person session was no longer an option. There is a wide range of questions about how to handle online therapy programs, particularly with addiction treatment programs, that require an in person appointment.

Treatment options that remain in-person:

  • Detoxification, 
  • Residential Treatment (Inpatient) 
  • Drug Testing

For now, there is no workaround for the evidence-based benefits of some treatment options being in person. However, there may be some new guidelines to follow when you have to conduct a portion of your addiction treatment in person, such as: 

  • Getting your temperature taken and logged 
  • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Testing for covid before being admitted or if you exhibit symptoms.

For the most part, virtual therapy remains a viable option for mental health treatment. The following levels of care can be conducted primarily on video chat (except for drug testing).

  • Intensive outpatient 
  • Outpatient programs 
  • Aftercare (Group Therapy, etc.)

Virtual therapy has many positive aspects. All you need is an internet connection or a phone number, and you have access to virtual substance abuse treatment that can fit your schedule. Online counseling sessions will ease any anxiety about having to be in public while still providing the benefits of evidence-based talk therapy. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been demonstrated to be as effective for online therapy platforms as it is in person.

virtual counseling

Navigating the Negatives

To a licensed mental health professional, your mental health issues will always remain a priority. For now, online counseling through video chat and audio messaging is the reality we live in. This is the best option to keep the professional counselors, patients, and clients as safe as possible while the situation unfolds further. While there are some positive aspects to distance counseling, there are naturally some negatives that come with it. Here’s some guidance through the negative that will ease your hesitancy.

No Internet Access or Device with Camera Capabilities

Understanding that technology with video conferencing is a luxury that some people may not be able to access. It’s important to know that social programs in place will provide a mobile device activated with service for situations like this. You do not need video conferencing to take advantage of online therapy platforms and simply being able to make a phone call will give you access to online therapists.

Privacy Concerns

We understand that privacy is an important aspect of therapy. Even though the services are virtual, the confidentiality agreement between a licensed counselor and client/doctor and patient remains the same. However, we recommend ensuring your privacy from whatever location you are participating from. 

Don’t participate in video counseling therapy from a room of the house where people involved may hear you through the walls. You may even want to be aware of open doors and windows, so passing neighbors don’t hear your personal business. A good practice is to conduct phone therapy from inside a vehicle to ensure your privacy. Suppose you are trying to take advantage of video conferencing. In that case, many coffee shops, fast food restaurants, or public structures (such as libraries) offer free internet access extending to the parking lots.

Preference of Talking Face to Face

There is no substitution for having drop-in counseling session with a therapist in person and being able to look them in the eye, especially if the discussion is serious in nature. Most professional counselors agree with this sentiment. It’s important to keep in mind that this is all only temporary, and as the situation eases up, so will the restrictions. Eventually, the option of talking face to face will return. Still, it’s important to utilize the online platform available now to bridge the gap between the return of in-person therapy. 

Advancements for treatments, immunity, and vaccinations occur every day. As we work towards a healthy and safe environment for everyone, we will start to see a world that resembles what once felt normal. After all the smoke clears, we may even be better off than we were when this all began, as we will be equipped with new knowledge, safety measures, and options that will simplify the process of getting help for panic disorders, anger management, and family conflicts.

Pacific Sands Recovery Center still offers residential inpatient and detox services in-person and has options for virtual addiction counseling sessions. Call us for free chat sessions and audio messaging with a licensed therapist, and we will be happy to discuss some of the safety measures in place and help get you set up on a track towards a healthier life. 

Please schedule a one-on-one appointment with our licensed professionals through a simple sign-up process. Our professional counselors will guide you through the virtual visits and medication management, while also taking care of your pocket cost.

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