I remember the exact moment I decided it was time to temporarily halt face-to-face visits when the COVID-19 crisis became a reality.
I was sitting in my kitchen, looking at my decimated schedule on my computer, as understandably, client after client cancelled. I pushed the laptop away, and rubbed my temples. What would I do? How could I keep helping people? What would I need to be, need to do, to keep being available to my families? Because it was clear from what my families were saying, that they too desperately wanted to continue but, like we all were (and still are, as I’m writing this only a few short weeks after I made the call), they were afraid of the virus.
Then it hit me. I stopped rubbing my temples. There was an answer. Teletherapy, here I come!
The Big Pivot to Teletherapy
I wasn’t alone. My entire profession, along with PTs, OTs, mental health counselors, MDs, FNPs, you name it – we all did what I like to call The Big Pivot. We moved, and moved fast, from face-to-face, to audio/video only. Call it what you will (will we decide on a term?) – telehealth, telemedicine, telepractice, teletherapy – telewhatever, we were/are doing it!
I learned in the space of less than a week (it felt like 5 minutes), how to do via video/audio what I had been happily doing in homes and clinic offices for almost 20 years. I launched a videoplatform, downloaded interactive materials, bought new apps and website subscriptions, and bought a mic and headphones. I surrounded myself with my most interesting toys and books, stole my son’s collection of fun hats and glasses, and went from your friendly office and home-based speech language pathologist to everyone’s personal Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, or Steve from Blue’s Clues (pick your era).
Focus – Look Right Here!
And you know what I found? In spite of all the newness, and the flaws in technology (we all landed on these platforms at the same time, glitches are expected), I’m pretty good at it! There is something about it that helps with focus. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but having just me to focus on, with whatever I bring to the table, I mean screen, helps my clients focus on me and the task at hand. It’s not for everyone – some kids have a harder time, and some families find it off-putting. But there is a fair number of folks that feel it’s just as good as the real thing. And for some, even better.
An Argument for Online Health Services
There is a real argument for this method of service delivery. Telehealth can happen regardless of road conditions or weather. It can happen if you can’t get away because you have other children in the home and can’t leave them alone. It can happen even if you don’t have gas money. It can happen even if your child struggles with car rides or new spaces or changes in routines or transitions. It is there all the time – in your living room, kitchen, bedroom, even front porch!
We live in an extraordinary time. 10 years, even 5 years ago, I am not sure this would have been possible. And while COVID-19 has absolutely displaced and disrupted all of our lives, I am one to look for silver linings. And for me, telepractice is a bright streak of silver around these dark clouds. It has opened up a way of thinking, a way of doing, a way of helping, that I never knew would be possible. And for that, I am grateful.
Will I go back to face-to-face after the crisis is over? Sure. Will I keep teletherapy as an option? Absolutely! It’s too good a gem to let go of.
Onward! See you online!