CHC in the Press: In the Time of the Coronavirus, Zoom and Skype Are the New Therapist’s Office
With local youth and families sheltering at home, counseling sessions and support groups that used to take place face-to-face in school wellness centers, clinics and private offices across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have gone completely virtual.
Seeing the writing on the wall several weeks ago, local youth mental health organizations started preparing for the transition to telehealth services and say it went smoothly, for the most part.
For many nonprofits, demand for their services — and attendance — is higher than usual while young people are out of school and experiencing increased anxiety, isolation and family stressors.
“It might be easy for the community to put mental health on the back burner right now with so many pressing, competing needs,” said Ramsey Khasho, chief clinical officer of Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto. “We want to make sure while people are physically isolating, they’re not socially and emotionally isolating.”
Children’s Health Council (CHC) is offering its full range of services online, from individual therapy to support groups for parents of children with learning disabilities and anxiety to free, 30-minute consultations for potential clients. Even the nonprofit’s 12-week intensive outpatient program for teenagers struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts has moved online — not a population that remote support would usually be appropriate for, but “given the fact this is a unique situation, telehealth services are better than no services,” Khasho said. (CHC is accepting new patients for this program right now, and is conducting intakes for a middle school family skills group starting May 19.)
Mental health services are considered “essential” under Santa Clara County’s stay-at-home order, so in the event a teen is actively suicidal and needs to be assessed by a clinician in person at Children’s Health Council, the nonprofit can do that, he said.
Working remotely with potentially suicidal youth poses its own set of challenges. Service providers are requesting these clients, when in a session, disclose their location and have two emergency phone numbers available.
Research has shown that telehealth counseling can be as effective as in-person therapy, Khasho said, and what clinicians are observing among youth and families during an unprecedented disruption of daily life makes continuing mental health support all the more necessary.
Excerpted from “In the Time of the Coronavirus, Zoom and Skype Are the New Therapist’s Office” in Palo Alto Weekly. Read the full article.