Many professionals who are treating clients with mental health or addiction issues have been utilizing telehealth appointments to remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Closures, social restrictions, and lockdowns have been causing limited face-to-face contact with clients; however, we can still serve them during this time. The uncertainty of the pandemic has made the need for accessible mental health services crucial, especially for relapse prevention. Fortunately, technology is available to help us maintain our professional status while treating clients.

Helping Clients Feel Comfortable with the Changes

Building a comfortable and healthy environment is crucial for being able to counsel our clients. Not everyone may feel comfortable using new technology like Zoom or video chatting, especially if they enjoyed the peace and security of our offices. They may not have as much privacy at home and struggle to focus during appointments. Some things that we can do to help them have successful and meaningful appointments include:

Be Open to the Technology That Our Clients Feel Comfortable Using

Some of our clients may not have access to the technology for video chatting; be sure that they are flexible about contacting you. We might need to teach our clients to use technology. Send your clients information and instructions before your first scheduled telehealth appointment, so they are prepared and ready!

Consider Your Client’s Perspective and Their Home Environment

Our clients may have a lot going on at home, especially now that everyone has different restrictions. They may have children and other loved ones home much more often and struggle with privacy. Some clients may have seen our offices as a refuge from the chaos in their homes. We may need to encourage them to go out for a walk during appointments or sit in their cars for more privacy. We might need to look at this as an opportunity to teach them about self-care. Clients may struggle with taking time for themselves when they’re at home. Taking time for a session can be a great start to building this skill. Make Sure That You Understand the Necessary Technology As Well We should be sure to learn about how to use apps like Zoom or FaceTime. We can practice with friends or other professionals to ensure we have things set up properly before our appointments. Keep Some of The Positives in Mind While Using Telehealth for Sessions Note any changes in attendance. You may find clients are keeping their appointments better now, even though they struggled to get to your office in the past. Some clients might feel more comfortable and secure in their home environments than in our offices. Check-in with your clients about how they feel regarding the change in format. Be sure to notice any changes; you might consider offering these virtual sessions post-pandemic if clients prefer them.

Learn About Additional Apps for Support

Keep in mind that many of our clients seek support from their communities. Clients involved in 12-step groups, SMART Recovery, or other programs might not be aware of alternatives to these vital support systems in their lives. As professionals, we can explore some of the many apps available to clients and members of the recovery community. Many programs—like SMART Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)—offer online support groups and other tools to help maintain sobriety. During our sessions, we may want to help our clients connect with these support services. We could even explore these apps on our own to see if they might be helpful for our clients.

Remember the Importance of Whole-Health in Recovery

During this crisis, our clients may not have access to every aspect of life that contributes to their health and well-being. They might miss going to work or seeing friends and family. They might not be keeping up with their physical health needs, which can contribute to their recovery. When we do not see our clients face-to-face, we may not be getting a full picture of their overall health. Seeing clients face-to-face gives us a chance to notice subtle things—like hygiene and appearance—that could indicate they are neglecting self-care needs. Be sure to do wellness checks to assess these things. We might need to ask questions about their routines and health that would usually be obvious during in-person sessions. Our clients may need some time to adjust to the changes in appointments due to telehealth. By exploring and learning about apps ahead of time, we can connect our clients to resources for more support. As long as we keep their comfort and security in mind, we can help them maintain their sobriety and health as we all navigate treatment during the pandemic. Many treatment professionals, counselors, and other support systems have adapted to using telehealth appointments for treatment during the pandemic. We can maintain our professional status to treat clients with the technology that is available. We might need to help our clients understand how to use technology. We can also explore apps or other resources that may supplement our services. Though there may be some challenges with this approach, some clients may feel more comfortable reaching us via telehealth. We can check-in with our clients about how they feel regarding the change of sessions. We may need to teach our clients about treating our sessions as part of their “self-care” if they struggle to maintain boundaries at home. If you have clients struggling with their addiction and feel they could benefit from sober living services, Safety Net Recovery can help. Located in Atlanta, we help men learn the skills they need for successful sober living. Call us today at (770) 432-9774.

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