April 2, 2020
For those having difficulty coping during these uncertain times, it could be helpful to know that numerous psychotherapists and other mental health professionals have made the switch to delivering online services.
If you pursue these services, make sure your provider is using:
Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA),
Personal Information and Protection Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and
Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) compliant technology.
The best way to determine this is to ask the provider outright what tool they are using, then look it up yourself. The tools which are HIPAA, PIPEDA & PHIPA compliant proudly display this (usually located in their marketing and pricing information). Technology for delivering online services which meet this criteria that I am aware of include (but are not limited to): Zoom, VSee, Doxy & Simple Practice.
Here are some tips that I find helpful when considering the prospect of pursuing mental health services:
1) Making first contact is often the most vulnerable feeling
A lot of people acknowledge that they recognised they needed support long before they sought it out. This is common. Asking for mental health assistance makes people feel vulnerable. Mental health professionals get it and respect that you've taken the first step toward helping yourself. We are honoured that you have chosen us to travel with you on your journey to wellness. Our job is to support you respectfully until we have worked ourselves out of a job (i.e., help you to get to a point where you decide you no longer need us).
2) Rapport is crucial
Yes, it is important to ensure that a person has the right credentials to provide the service but that doesn't guarantee that you're going to find them helpful for you and your purposes.
It doesn't matter so much how many degrees or credentials a person has if you just don't jive with them. If you get the sense that you're not connecting or that they're not "getting it", it is alright to keep looking until you find someone who you trust and feel comfortable with.
3) Finding the right fit can be tricky
There are search tools which can help. If you are located in the Province of Ontario, the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, Ontario College of Social Workers & Social Service Workers and the College of Psychologists of Ontario all offer online search tools to find practitioners in your area. Regulated health professions in Canada tend to have this feature on their websites. A good search strategy to find the relevant registration bodies in your area can be to enter the search term "Health profession you are seeking and province in which you are located".
Another tool to locate a service provider in your area could be www.psychologytoday.com or www.theravive.com. Both of these tools contain listings which can be searched by postal code/zip code to find practitioners serving your area.
4) Know what you're covered for
If you have health benefits through your employer, verify which regulated health professionals are qualified to provide the services in order to access coverage. Some health benefits packages specify particular professions which will be covered. It is your responsibility to ensure that the health professional you are seeking to work with will be covered by your health benefits.
5) It is ok to not be ok
This situation is new territory for the majority of us. We're going to have good days and not so good days. That's ok. Be kind to yourself. If you wouldn't treat someone you love the way you're treating yourself or if you wouldn't hold someone you love to the standards you're holding yourself to, it might be time to re-evaluate how you are treating yourself. You deserve good things. Treat yourself with compassion.
6) Turn Off the TV & Go Outside
As long as you're complying with what policy-makers are ordering for your jurisdiction, it is ok to go outside.
Be cognisant of the impact that the barrage of news is having on your mood. If you're finding that you're more negative than usual, keep track of how much negativity you are being exposed to in the form of conversations, social media and news that you're accessing. These all have major influences on our outlooks and moods.
Remember that bad news is marketable and therefore, profitable, because it is the exception, not the rule.
We don't hear the good news as regularly because it is more commonplace. Reports on the millions of people who experienced good health today won't make the news because it isn't shocking and therefore, there is little profit to be had telling people about it. COVID-19 is serious but it isn't the only thing happening in the world. There are good things happening in the world.
First and foremost, comply with the orders the officials in your area are making. Where allowed, go outside, enjoy the sun, listen to the birds, feel the breeze on your face, feel the warmth of the sun radiating on you. If it is raining, go outside and stomp in a puddle the way you did when you were a kid. Experiment with how big a splash you can make. It is refreshing. TV, social media and all that jazz will still be there when you go back inside.
All the best to you and your loved ones at this time.
is a registered psychotherapist (RP) and board certified behaviour analyst (BCBA), with a virtual (i.e., online) practice in Ontario, Canada.