As society now enters the second year since the pandemic began, many people reflect on changes that occurred. Everyone can point to adapting to commonalities we shared, such as social distancing. For many in the licensed therapist community, COVID-19 meant closing their offices to in-person appointments. They began to treat their clients via telehealth appointments.
Nervous clients and unfamiliar territory made it challenging for many therapists to shift from their regular office to a home office. With the advent of vaccines and more open social policies, change is afoot again. Many therapists find themselves now faced with the decision of when to reopen their offices.
Consider the Comfort Level of Your Clients
Many clients are understandably nervous about returning to in-person sessions. A year spent hiding out in their homes may make it difficult for them to return to office visits. Clients who experience anxiety disorders or social anxiety may feel an elevated level of fear about changing back.
Talk to them about what feels comfortable for them. A dialogue reminding them that they had adapted to telehealth appointments can help them become more confident about returning to office visits. Many clients may experience trepidation about getting back out in the world. Let them know that acclimating to this within the safety of visits with a trusted therapist can be a great jumping-off point.
Take Stock of Your Own Needs as You Plan for the Future
Every therapist wants to run their practice with the safety and comfort level of their clients in mind. They must also be aware of their own needs. Transitioning to telehealth appointments challenged many therapists. They felt burdened with assuaging the pandemic-related fears of many clients, all while learning to deal with their own concerns.
As therapists begin to swing back to a more normalized way of treating clients, they must ensure they factor in their own needs. Therapists can ask themselves questions, such as:
- Am I comfortable treating clients in person now?
- Have I established an enhanced cleaning system for my office?
- Have I prepared my family for my return to the office?
- Do I have a plan for addressing fears clients may have about changing back to being treated in person?
- Am I willing to continue telehealth-only appointments with clients who insist on them?
- Will doing both in-person and telehealth appointments work for my schedule?
- Should I require proof of vaccination from the coronavirus from my clients and office staff?
Adopting a Hybrid Treatment Option Means Advance Planning
Many therapists are considering utilizing a hybrid approach to treatment. This option entails seeing some clients in person and others via telehealth. Some clients may want to use a combination of the two.
Straddling the line between continuing with telehealth appointments while also returning to office-based appointments may feel challenging. As difficult as it proved to be for many to adapt to working from home, it became comfortable and began to feel normal. Now treatment professionals must factor in that a return to how things were may feel unfamiliar at first.
Those therapists who plan to offer clients either option may take some time to get used to the hybrid plan. Telehealth appointments were often more casual in terms of dress codes. You may want to consider how you envision your wardrobe at the office versus at home. Clients who became accustomed to showing up via Zoom in their pajamas or workout clothes might be unsure of your preferences for how they dress in person.
Keep in mind that you are the architect for how you rebuild your daily practice. If you found clients enjoyed seeing your dog on camera from your home, you might sometimes consider bringing them to the office. You may find that you want to slowly reacclimate clients to a more formal approach, which is also a viable option.
Offering In-Person Appointments Only May Be the Right Choice
Once you reach a comfort level at seeing clients in your office, the question becomes whether or not to establish this as the sole option. While many therapists may find the hybrid plan works for them, not all of them will. Many treatment professionals have home lives that do not lend themselves well to telehealth appointments.
Spouses, children, or roommates may be present in the home. Despite everyone’s best efforts to remain quiet and unobtrusive, no plan unfolds as foolproof. Many therapists enjoy having two separate lives: their professional ones in their office and their home lives.
Some therapists carry a heavy caseload of clients who benefit from getting out of their homes. Part of their healing process may include the value of being out in the world. Talking face-to-face with their therapists can be part of their ability to achieve progress. For these therapists, an in-person only practice may present the best option.
As the world enters the second year of the pandemic, the widespread application of coronavirus vaccines means how you treat clients is up for review. Treatment professionals who had switched to telehealth appointments only are asking themselves how best to adapt to the reopening of society. Things to consider as you formulate a new plan for your practice include incorporating both your needs and those of your clients. Therapists are weighing whether or not to return to in-person appointments only or adopt a hybrid option. Sustain Recovery understands the value of long-term, in-person treatment for adolescents. Our programs offer many types of therapy and continued schooling for our clients. We offer treatment for both substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. Our location in sunny California may be just the place for your young client to find the lasting help they need. Call us now at (949) 407-9052 for more information.