For many, the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 have caused life to either slow down considerably or come to a grinding halt. Since the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic several countries, including the world’s biggest economies, have issued varying orders for inhabitants to limit or stop interaction altogether to help curb the spread of the disease.
For those who are quarantined or are forced to spend most of their time in their homes, psychologists have reported an increase in the risk of developing or worsening mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
“Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite fear, anxiety and erratic behaviors,” Kelly Vincent, a licensed clinical psychologist, told Forbes. “When fear takes control, both our nervous system and emotional part of our brain go into overdrive. This response can lead to impulsiveness, panic and feeling out of control emotionally,” she explained. “If a person has a preexisting mental illness or history with anxiety and depression, it can often worsen and intensify during times such as these.”
Increased stress and anxiety may cause adverse effects on a person’s physical health as well. “[It] may trigger negative physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, insomnia, digestive issues, weakness and fatigue,” Janine Kreft, another licensed psychologist, told Forbes.
For those who were seeking mental health services before the COVID-19 pandemic or for those who are thinking about getting help, telepsychology — therapy administered online, on the phone, or through texts — is one of the most popular alternatives to physically meeting with mental health professionals. These methods are usually less expensive and can offer a layer of anonymity for patients. Furthermore, this method offers the social distancing that is critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this, the American Psychological Association offers several points to think about before pursuing telepsychology services.
It is important to ensure that the person or people who are administering mental health services are licensed professionals qualified to provide therapy. If a doctor is not licensed in an area or at all, they are not legally authorized to give mental health or other medical services. A search of a doctor’s name in CertificationMatters.org or through the DocInc.org search on the federal or state medical board’s website can give you this information. It’s important to ensure that the doctor is licensed in the state that you live due to varying qualifications throughout the country.
Due to the delivery of telepsychology, confidentiality is also to be considered. The precarious privacy offered by the internet may be concerning for some who are seeking help through websites and apps. To help ensure confidentiality, ensure that the website or app being used is provided by a healthcare professional and is HIPPA-compliant. Patients should be asked to verify both their identity and the identity of their healthcare provider.
Payment should also be considered in telepsychology services. Insurance can be applied for many mental health services, but it is recommended that each prospective or current patient ensures that the requested telepsychology services are covered by their insurance to help minimize costs.
It clearly is possible to get mental health services despite quarantine and social distancing orders by the government. However, as with all medical services, research is required to determine if non-traditional methods of psychology are a right fit for anyone seeking professional help. The American Psychology Association website offers a list of online therapies for various mental health conditions.
Telepsychology services are not recommended for life-threatening conditions. If you or a loved one experiences a medical emergency, call 911.