By Dr. Tracy Masiello
These are stressful times, and many are worried about their health, employment or finances. Social distancing and spending long periods of time away from family and friends has made many feel sad and unsettled. Talking with a mental health professional can help lower stress, raise positive feelings and give people the tools they need for dealing with the hardships they face. It can also help with challenges like depression, anger outbursts, family conflict, parenting struggles, improving relationships, personal growth and more.
However, with the need to stay at home, it’s hard to just pop on over to the local therapist’s office to get the help needed. Fortunately, telehealth therapy is available, where one talks in live time with a therapist in a private, secure videocall, much like using Facetime or Skype. There are also options to talk with the therapist by phone and text. Since research shows that telehealth therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, including for children and teens, it’s a great option to get the support you need while staying at home.
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Five important things to know:
• Telehealth therapy is used with all ages. Starting at about age 3, tele-play therapy is used to help children process feelings, including fears and worries, as well as improve behavior concerns. It works just like play therapy in the office, using art, puppets, sensory play and other play therapy materials. The therapist will provide a play therapy take-home kit or send parents a list of things to have on hand. Parents can choose to be involved in some of the play therapy activities to help their child feel supported and connected during these stressful times. For teens and adults, telehealth therapy sessions are much like sessions in person, and the therapist will provide any needed materials before the session.
• Telehealth therapy is being covered by health insurances during the COVID-19 pandemic in the same way that in-person sessions are covered. Some insurers are even waiving co-pays to encourage use of mental health coverage, because so many people have elevated feelings of stress and uncertainty right now. For those without health insurance, some therapists offer reduced fees or no fee telehealth services for those needing them.
• Telehealth can be used for couples or families who want to work on their relationship but are in different locations. With the ability to have everyone in the telehealth session from wherever they are, there’s no need to wait until everyone can get together in a therapist’s office. Online therapy can also help build connection and keep relationships strong when people are physically apart.
• You can join your session from a desktop or laptop computer, iPad or smartphone. All you need is a private place where you feel comfortable talking. The convenience can’t be beat; you can talk from your couch, car or anywhere else. Teens especially like the virtual session, since they can hang out in their room or anywhere else they want, while they talk with their therapist.
• You might think it’s harder to open up to someone in video chat than in the therapist’s office, or worry your therapist will see if your house is messy, or will see that you’re in your worn-out but comfy sweatpants, but the reality is that most people find they quickly get comfortable with the format, can share easily with the therapist, and that the therapist doesn’t care about anything but the focus of the therapy session.
People are social by nature, and in this stay-at-home climate of social isolation, online therapy offers a way for people to get connection, understanding and tools to cope in a time when they might feel uncomfortable, worried or afraid. Across our nation, people are engaging in telehealth therapy to help them effectively deal with the emotional and mental discomforts of the pandemic. Telehealth therapy is a wonderful solution for helping people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances navigate through this uncertain and unusual time.
You can learn more about telehealth therapy, and if it is right for you or your loved ones, by visiting the telehealth information page on the Reaching Resolution website (www.reachingresolution.net/teletherapy) or by calling 980-999-4787. Be sure to visit the COVID-19 resource page (www.reachingresolution.net/covid19), a wealth of helpful tips and tools for children through adults, including stories to explain the coronavirus to young children, family activities to do at home and ways to manage stress, anxiety and more.
Dr. Tracy Masiello is a psychologist and licensed clinical mental health counselor. She founded Reaching Resolution PLLC, a private group practice of mental health professionals in Matthews. For over 25 years, she has provided therapy services for young children through adults, and she is a nationally certified Parent-Child Interaction Therapist. She has received several federal research grants to study effective interventions, and her studies have been published in professional journals, books and reviews. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the Association for Play Therapy.
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