The one bit of good news is that psychotherapy works online. Mindspace has been offering virtual sessions for many years. But in the last week, we managed to transition our entire clinic operations online. While the virtual therapy session takes some getting used to—for clients and therapists alike—the results have been positive. Clients are grateful that they continue to have access to services. Sarah, one client said “I still had a real connection with my therapist, still able to make progress on issues that I have been working on for a while, and reduction in anxiety from what’s going on today.” Therapists also report that they are having positive experiences despite the remoteness. Jessica said “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the connection I’m making with my clients despite the distance.” Julien even found some clinical advantages to virtual sessions: “I also find that there are advantages to meeting clients in their natural environment.”
The research on virtual psychotherapy supports these experiences. A 2012 review paper by Backhaus et al. concluded that virtual therapy is “feasible, has been used in a variety of therapeutic formats and with diverse populations, is generally associated with good user satisfaction, and is found to have similar clinical outcomes to traditional face-to-face psychotherapy.” Surprisingly, according to Simpson and Reid (2014), meeting a therapist online does not seem to compromise the quality of the client-therapist relationship, which is an important ingredient in successful therapy. So good quality mental health care is available online.
This mental health crisis is affecting organizations as well, as they rely on the sustained performance of their people to adapt to sudden, tectonic shifts in the business landscape. Virtual psychotherapy may be an essential ingredient to maintain employees health and functioning at work. Many organizations try to support employee well-being by offering extensive health insurance benefits. In this post-COVID world of social isolation, the primary headwind to employee wellness are feelings of anxiety and disconnectedness that arise from suddenly being thrust into working from home in an uncertain world. Psychotherapy is typically covered under these policies, but often not sought out. Alayacare, a Montreal-based health tech company contributing to COVID-19 solutions, is encouraging employees to make use of these benefits. CEO Adrian Schauer says “we are aware that some of our people are having difficulty coping with the current circumstances, which is totally understandable. We feel like working with an organization like Mindspace to give our people access to licensed mental health professionals just makes sense.”
The insurance companies providing mental health coverage are just as motivated to facilitate services. For one, like many of us, they are often looking for ways to make meaningful contributions to their communities in this crisis. They also fundamentally want their customers to get good value for their policies, or else organizations won’t renew their policies. For example, SunLife’s group benefits webpage indicates: “We want to ensure plan members continue to receive the health care they need. Now, we’ll cover virtual services for appointments where they do not need direct physical therapies.”