With collective anxiety circulating at an all-time high thanks to COVID-19, many of us need our therapist’s support more than ever. But given the circumstances, it’s not as simple as just showing up to your weekly appointment and talking through your fears (or in our case, complaining about each and every member of our family). Many therapists have temporarily closed their in-person practices to comply with social-distancing guidelines, leaving clients feeling apprehensive about what the future holds. With that in mind, we asked three mental health professionals for their thoughts on how therapy will change in the age of coronavirus. Here’s what they had to say.
1. We’re going to see a shift to phone and online therapy
Like many jobs, in-person therapy sessions have been replaced with phone calls and video chats. “Most psychiatrists and mental health providers are rapidly converting to video visits,” explains John Torous, M.D., director of the digital psychiatry division in the department of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “The Department of Health and Human Services relaxed the rules for the next 60 days on what platforms are permissible to offer telehealth through. There are usually certain privacy and security requirements, but right now using even FaceTime or Skype is OK.” Good to know.
2. You might have to pay out of pocket for sessions
Bad news, guys: Some insurance plans (it varies by state and provider) don’t cover telehealth appointments or may require your therapist to be on a list of approved telehealth providers. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily shifted their rules around telehealth visits to ensure more parity in billing,” says Dr. Torous. “Usually, private insurance companies follow the lead set by CMS, but in this case the shift is temporary, so it’s hard to know what they will do.”
3. Some therapists will offer discounted sessions
If you are going to have to pay out of pocket for your appointments, your therapist might be able to help. “I know some of my colleagues are offering discounted sessions to help alleviate the financial stress people are experiencing,” explains Molly Giorgio, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in West Hartford, Connecticut.
4. We’re going to have to get used to ‘going to therapy’ in our homes
The experience of going to therapy will no longer mean traveling to your therapist’s office. Instead, people will have to find a private space at home where they feel comfortable talking or video chatting…and this can be tricky when you want to vent about your kids and husband, but they’re right in the next room. “Sometimes, sitting in a parked car is a good option for privacy and quiet,” suggests Dr. Torous. And while it might feel strange at first, there could be unforeseen benefits to the shift, says licensed professional counselor Satya Doyle Byock, founder of Quarterlife. “People are integrating their therapeutic relationship into their own lives and homes in a way that isn’t possible when visiting the therapist’s office.”
5. Therapy websites and apps are about to get more popular
Dr. Torous predicts there will be an increase in ads for therapy apps in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in using one, he recommends checking out the American Psychiatric Association’s App Evaluation Model to determine which program is right for you. They can be a great alternative for folks whose therapists aren’t able to move to a teletherapy model of care, adds Giorgio.