By Dr. Stacia’ Alexander
The sudden call to think extremely out of the norm took nearly the entire population of the world out of their comfort zone. Many took the stance of a sincere awareness but some were so distanced from it that there was little change in pattern. They checked in occasionally via the common news cycle and casually mentioned it during the water cooler talk. When another person commented on how much more serious this monster was to the very commonalities of our lives, they were dismissed as being an extremist.
Now that the United States is fully immersed into this crisis state-of-life, the full impact of the COVID19 has crossed the minds of millions. Even the most casual of conversations has at least one person who is warning the others to take it seriously. And while the news cycles are focusing on simply protecting and sustaining life, there are also millions of people quarantined who are suffering silently trying to cooperate just to stay alive. Through this cooperation, the very strings which hold them together are slowly being severed without anyone realizing how long the after effect of this trauma will last.
People who were struggling with depression pre-COVID19 or now battling with depression to maintain composure in the home. The anxiety levels that were creating waves from people who were already overthinking every aspect of their lives, now has a big bad monster to fold into every layer of their anxiety that is shattering their learned coping skills. There are so many variables of mental health that are juggled each and every day by millions and all of this is further magnified by the constantly changing unknowns we are harnessed with daily.
The reality is, many need and will need for years following, mental health treatment to overcome the threats and dangers experienced during the first quarter of 2020. A year that promised so much for so many. A new decade touting hopes of financial security, achieved goals, hearty relationships, and monumental gains. A year that showed us in a span of less than 90 days that we can control very little outside of our response to experiences. That response is what dictates how people move through challenging and critical times. Positive responses are full of optimism and hope with an understanding that challenges are but a bar to jump over even if it is incrementally raised to challenge us.
Other people have negative responses which cast a shadow even when every effort is made to forge ahead and not fall short. And just like there are three sides to every story: person one, person two, and the truth, so it is with perspectives on experiences. Some people will have a combination of positive and negative responses to situations over the cycle of the experience. The call to action of mental health professionals all over the world is being sorely highlighted even though they are ready to answer the call of duty. And the most amazing aspect of their willingness to answer this call, is the safety at which they can provide the services.
Virtual counseling has been on a steady rise for the last five years but actually started in the late 80’s. And here we are, not even 90 days into 2020, and the data streams are bursting at the seams because nearly every sector of business is operating virtually; entire school systems, media (journalists are broadcasting from their homes), banking, and even mental health services. And clinicians all over the world are working diligently to help people adjust to talking about their most intimate thoughts and feelings via a video camera to a person they may or may not have met before COVID19 set into the fabric of the psyches of millions.
There are three factors to consider when scheduling counseling services; Convenience, Accessibility, and Professionalism. It is likely, after the stay in place is lifted, thousands of more people will remain in the virtual counseling realm once they realize how accessible, convenient, and professional it is. The convenience factor is a given without any detailed explanation. Being able to go into a private room and talk with your counselor with little effort is one of the most favorable aspects of virtual counseling.
The primary factor to consider is that the room is private. While it is not required that you have a perfect space for the session, it does need to be private. The next factor to consider is accessibility. You can get on most virtual platforms for counseling via your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. If you can video communicate with friends, family, and coworkers via facetime, messenger, duo or other video platforms, you can log into a secure platform with a licensed counselor to participate in a counseling session.
The final factor is to ensure you are scheduled with a licensed clinician. Just as with other industries, there are people who will work without the proper training. There are those in the counseling field who love to help people yet they do not have the formal training and formal oversight to conduct professional counseling and therapy sessions. Do your research and ask questions to ensure you are working with a licensed or provisionally licensed (in training) clinician. There are daily mental health challenges even without the presence of such a formidable virus that people encounter.
Embrace the resources available to you through tele mental health counseling just as you have embraced it in other industries. More people are shopping online. More people are purchasing their groceries online. More people are using delivery services. More people are using drive through banking. More people are watching concerts online. More, more, more. Professional counseling is more available to you now, as well. Embrace and watch how much of a positive.
Dr. Stacia’ Alexander, LPC-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Counseling Supervisor and Clinic Director.