Telehealth use increasing during COVID-19 outbreak

NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - Last week WBAY reported how mental health professionals are finding ways to still help people during the coronavirus outbreak. One therapy practice in Neenah felt it needed to close temporarily to protect staff and clients, and is now working exclusively through telehealth.

“We've actually been set up for telehealth since the beginning, since the opening of our business, so I'm very fortunate that I was set up and ready to go,” said Lisa Anderson, owner of A Healing Place, which provides counseling.

Anderson closed her therapy practice in Neenah out of concern for the health of her staff and clients, switching exclusively to telepsych sessions.

But Anderson says not all of their clients are on board with virtual therapy.

"It just makes some people nervous, or they're worried they won't be able to have privacy within their own homes,” said Anderson. “We have some suggestions on how to have privacy. You can go into your car, you can walk by a lake and talk to us. As long as you have a good internet connection we can have that session together."

A Healing Place has a telepsych tab right on its website, which can be accessed on a computer or smartphone. A person can then select their therapist, put in their name, and get sent to a "waiting room" page where the therapist can then begin the video call.

It may not be quite the same as face to face, but in a time when social distancing is a necessity Anderson believes telehealth works very well
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"They're seeing my face, I can see everything that they're doing, I'm still able to read their body language and see if they're tensing up or if they're not doing okay,” said Anderson. “They can talk to me directly face to face."

She says it's especially important right now to look after your mental health.

"We're becoming more isolated and so that can increase anxiety, it can increase depression symptoms. And also just being with your family 24/7 can be frustrating, and learning how to manage that frustration,” said Anderson.

Anderson is far from the only one providing services virtually, and she hopes people look into their options. She added that recently many health insurance companies have started covering telehealth therapy sessions and that people should check with their providers.

"This is the time to really take care of yourself and your health,” said Anderson.

In the meantime, Anderson advises people who are struggling in isolation to stick to a routine.

"Keep yourself structured. So, have a schedule,” said Anderson. “Still get up in time to do your work like you normally would do. Keep yourself structured just like you would do every day of the week and that will make you feel less disconnected."

She also says walking outside, while keeping a safe distance from others, can be a good way to feel less isolated.

Most importantly, she’d like people feeling stressed by the situation to remember it’s not permanent.

"This is temporary. We will get through it," said Anderson.

A Healing Place is accepting new clients. CLICK HERE to visit its website.

Other mental health professionals are also accepting new clients and offer telehealth services. Some of those therapy practices were featured in WBAY’s previous reporting which can be found HERE.