The Evolving Needs of Behavioral Health: Incorporating Telehealth to Meet Clients’ Needs during COVID-19.

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Anyone who has practiced in the behavioral health field for any extended period of time can attest to the fact that it is a field that is always changing. As the practical needs of our clients and communities change, so must our methods of treatment and delivery. During the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that therapy remain readily available for those who need it. That’s why incorporating telehealth into therapy is so vital.

As with most changes, the idea of telehealth might feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable for both therapists and clients.  The idea of reaching out for support, potentially allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, or experiencing any level of intimacy between peers can feel unnatural and sterile through the filter of a computer screen.

However, if we explore some of the ways that therapy benefits us, we can more easily see how teletherapy can help to deliver quality service while improving access to therapy and counseling.

Isolation vs. Universality

The concept of universality is a fundamental concept in any therapy.  Some would say it is part of the human condition to believe that “I am unique.”  That if I allow my shield to drop and allow another person genuine access to “me” that I’d surely experience rejection.  I remember a client challenging his peers, “If you knew me, how I know me, you couldn’t possibly like me.”

Group therapy is an ideal setting to challenge this false belief.  It is a setting where clients can not only understand cognitively that everyone works through feelings of fear, doubt and inadequacy but also where they can realize genuine acceptance from peers who have similar fears and doubts.

Receiving Feedback

Therapy is a setting where clients can get real-time feedback about how others perceive them.  They can gain new insight about their strengths and vulnerabilities that may have previously been hidden.  Clients have an opportunity to evaluate their methods of forming attachments and possibly practice new ways of connecting with others.  This is referred to a “social microcosm” where clients can experiment with new behaviors.

Helping Myself Through Helping Others

There is a popular quote that says, “If you want to learn something, teach it.” There are different variations of this quote but it essentially points out the limitations of simply learning through listening or reading material.  There is a similar saying in recovery culture that claims, “You have to give it away to keep it.” This concept emphasizes the importance of human connection and the necessity in finding meaning in something outside of oneself.  There are few settings where a person has a better opportunity to practice this concept than in group therapy.

Freedom and Responsibility

One of the fundamental goals in any therapy is congruence.  “Am I living the way that I want to live?” Or, “Is my thinking and behavior consistent with the values that I believe will allow me to live my most fulfilling life?”  Many people spend an enormous amount of time and resources escaping freedom through blaming the economy, family, the government or anything else they can find to remove responsibility for creating the life they want to live.  Group therapy gives a unique opportunity to gain self-awareness and discover new ways that they can take more control over their life and begin to create the most fulfilling life possible.

Incorporating Telehealth Into Therapy

The quick adoption of telehealth was a direct response to an immediate need in our communities.  While it initially might not feel like a proper substitution for a close interaction with a therapist or peers in a group setting, we believe this is a new opportunity to engage a population that otherwise might have never had access to the gift of therapy.  If we are able to focus on our goals in therapy and maintain the stubborn belief that “treatment works,” we can be confident that teletherapy will eventually become as familiar and as effective as our more traditional approaches.

If you’re in search of counseling for substance abuse or addiction, Rehab After Work is currently accepting new patients and providing services via telehealth. Contact our admissions team to set up an appointment with one of our therapists.