Virtual therapy can help us process this pandemic

Licensed therapist Cristie Ritz-King MS, LPC shares how helpful virtual therapy can be during this time, and how easy it can be to get started.

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Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, our daily lives have changed on a massive scale. From changing work and school situations to concerns over our loved ones, many of us are experiencing feelings of uncertainty, displacement, or grief. No matter what your situation is, a global pandemic is a heavy burden to process.

Luckily there are resources available that can help us navigate the mental health effects that coronavirus can bring. As the circumstances we’re in have created more need for mental health support, many licensed therapists have quickly turned their traditionally in-person practices into virtual counseling sessions. To understand how easy it can be to engage in virtual therapy, we talked with licensed therapist Cristie Ritz-King MS, LPC.


Getting started

For those who were seeing a counselor before COVID-19, you may have already switched over to virtual sessions with a therapist you’re familiar with.  However, if you haven’t yet, Cristie notes that it is very accessible, and many of her existing clients who were hesitant have actually ended up enjoying the virtual experience just as much, if not more, than traditional visits because of the flexibility.

“The pros of virtual therapy are access and flexibility. My clients can log in from any device they choose from any room in their house, and in a way, that can be even more comforting to them to be in their own surroundings.”

Therapists are using a number of video-based tools to engage with their clients. Cristie herself uses a HIPAA-compliant video platform that is linked to her patient portal in a calendar invite, so logging on and joining the session is as easy as joining a conference call.

If you are new to counseling and are looking for a licensed therapist to start seeing virtually, you’re not alone. Cristie herself has seen a slight uptick in new clients, and has some pointers for newcomers.

  1. Start small. Don’t be held back by the belief that you’ll have to recount your whole family history when what you’re looking for now is some relief from the current situation. “What we have to understand is that we’re looking at an acute care situation. You’re not necessarily signing on for the next 3 years of therapy, and a good counselor will understand that.”
  2. Seek local.  It may also be helpful in your search to find someone nearby. That way, when social distancing rules have relaxed, you’ll have the option of going to sessions in person. And despite the relationship beginning in virtual space, there are also insurance-related laws that often restrict licensed therapists from practicing beyond certain regions, like state lines.
  3. Be resourceful. To find someone in your area and insurance network, Cristie recommends starting with Psychology Today, an online database of licensed mental health professionals. You can also often look within your particular insurance network by searching through your provider’s website.


Stay grounded

Out of all the invaluable advice Cristie shared, perhaps none is more timely and important than the following: “during this time it’s important to purposely look for light and hope, tune into yourself and know when it’s time to stop consuming news, and give yourself grace to do the best you can with what we’re going through.”

Learn about Verizon’s response to COVID-19.

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