The pandemic changed everything and nothing more than how we access services. From the unprecedented demand for delivered grocery shopping to the switch to hybrid or fully remote working, life looks very different from how it did just a few years ago.
One of the fundamental changes wrought by Covid-19 was the shift to accessing doctors and medical services remotely. Even as the restrictions of the pandemic ease and fade, virtual and telephone appointments are likely here to stay – in no small part because of the convenience they offer for patients and medical staff alike.
How patients can take advantage of therapeutic services has made a similar seismic shift. We explore below how counseling and therapy are now more accessible than ever in the post-pandemic world.
The Continuing Effect on Mental Health
The strain, stress, and suffering caused by the pandemic and lockdowns caused a country-wide (if not global) mental health crisis, and the effects of this are likely to be seen for years to come. During the pandemic, huge spikes were seen in the numbers of adults and children seeking help for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Things getting back to normal, too, caused enormous problems for many. Swathes of the population had to grow accustomed to, for example, being in crowded spaces or the workplace again, after nearly two years spent at home under strict restrictions.
These things – health fears, worries about finances, the stress of home working and homeschooling, and the ambiance of general uncertainty – created a perfect storm that put mental health in the collective spotlight.
New Ways to Access Therapy
Just as the pandemic meant that most doctors’ appointments were held in a virtual setting, so, too, did therapeutic services begin to offer online therapy and telephone sessions as standard.
As well as being necessary at the time, these appointments were often more convenient for the service user and could even make seeking therapy easier for those who needed it. People suffering from mental health issues that made it, for example, difficult to leave the house or those who were also experiencing mobility problems were suddenly able to access services from the comfort of their own homes.
Even post-Covid, these virtual and telephone sessions continue to be vital for many patients, including those whose work schedules may make attending in-person appointments during normal office hours difficult. These new types of appointments have effectively removed a barrier to patient care, helping to ensure that even the most vulnerable – or least likely to seek help – can access the services they need more easily.
What to Bear in Mind
However, there are a few things to keep in mind for those considering booking online therapy. Firstly, virtual therapy isn’t suitable for those suffering from a serious psychiatric illness; similarly, there is likely to be a lack of crisis response.
If you have health insurance, it’s also important to check that the therapy provider will accept this before committing.
Ultimately, individual preference will play a key part in deciding the type of therapy that will be most suitable – taking some time to research your options and thinking carefully about the service that will be of the most benefit is important.
Research has concluded that online therapy can be effectively used to treat a range of mental health disorders – as well as anxiety and depression; even individuals with substance abuse problems were found to greatly benefit from virtual sessions.
While the vast majority of therapists are once more offering in-person appointments, most also augment these sessions with online or telephone meetings. Video check-ins can be a useful tool to connect with service users on the road to recovery, chat about progress and offer support when necessary.
The range of means by which therapy can now be accessed will undoubtedly play a key role in the nation’s gradual recovery from the mental health fallout of the pandemic.
The Future of Mental Health Services
An unexpected silver lining of the pandemic was how it brought physical and mental wellness to the fore, both in people’s personal lives and on a country-wide scale. While pre-pandemic, there was a lingering stigma around mental health issues, and mental health services were widely seen as a ‘satellite’ of general medical care. Now, there has been a dramatic sea change.
A survey conducted in 2021 revealed that post-pandemic, 82% of Americans believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, while around 33% of respondents stated that the pandemic had made them more resilient, boosted their empathy, and improved their positive coping skills.
Mental health, and the services that surround it, will no doubt continue to remain in the spotlight. The pandemic prompted many people to foster a new concern for holistic wellness and to take the steps needed to protect the health of their minds and bodies. The huge uptake of, for example, veganism, meditation, mindfulness practices, and cleaner eating is a testament that people are more aware than ever before of a need to live well. And this continuing drive is sure to be reflected in the types of therapy available and the innovation of new ways to access it.