Recent events have affected all aspects of our lives. Psychological services did not miss significant changes. Many public outpatient clinics have limited their activities or switched to phone visits. Some specialists are unavailable and visits are postponed. We can give up many things, such as a visit to a beautician, hairdresser, or shopping, but psychotherapy can often not be waited on, especially in such a difficult and exhausting period caused by huge uncertainty. So how do you safely seek psychological help during a pandemic? What changes have occurred in the way therapeutic services are provided? What to do when we need to talk to someone?
Sudden discontinuation of psychotherapy can be very adverse and is not recommended. Especially during the global crisis. Additional stress, uncertainty, and unstable financial situations are not without influence on our psyche. For people who are struggling every day with concerns about their and their loved ones’ health, anxiety, or panic attacks, this can be particularly difficult. But not only for them.
According to the researchers, daily routine helps, for example, patients with bipolar disorder. The current situation, which requires a social distance, has deprived many people of this routine. Interrupting therapy without a joint decision by the psychotherapist and the patient may be unfavorable for people struggling with various types of disorders. That is why it is extremely important to maintain continuity of meetings with the psychotherapist.
The current crisis has of course far-reaching economic consequences. Many people have lost or may lose their jobs at any time. As studies show, the recession may affect the mental state of addicts and trigger a return to addiction. It is even more difficult because it is impossible to conduct stationary meetings of anonymous support groups for those suffering from addiction. Fortunately, many of them took the online form. After all, psychological help may now be even more needed for those struggling with addiction.
The situation in which we find ourselves is also reflected in the situation in Polish homes. Unfortunately, in many countries that have restricted the movement of citizens, an alarming increase in domestic violence has been observed. Additional stress, the need for family members to be still together, and the difficult financial situation of many people are just some of the reasons for this situation.
People who experience domestic violence will need extra help during this time. If they were undergoing psychotherapy before the outbreak, they should not stop because they will need more psychological support than before.
The provision of psychotherapeutic services has probably changed for a long time. We don’t know what the situation will look like in a few weeks or months. Specialists offer various types of more or less optimistic scenarios, but they agree that precautions will be necessary even when the number of infections decreases significantly and people return to work.
Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain the continuity of therapy and adapt to changes, instead of planning to return to stationary sessions with the psychologist “once the pandemic is over”. The solution can be various types of online support groups and – above all – online therapy.
It may seem that in the case of online therapy nothing has changed despite all the restrictions that have been introduced in connection with the spreading virus. Online help psychotherapists are still working, and because their remote services are free of risk, they are not subject to any new restrictions. Also, in the case of cognitive-behavioral therapy, the form of an online session is in many cases as effective as face-to-face meetings with a psychotherapist. This applies in particular to problems such as anxiety, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, and disorders such as depression, addiction, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, or ADHD. Therefore, switching to online therapy in no case is tantamount to a deterioration in the quality of the session.
After all, changes in patients’ living conditions can be an obstacle to continuing psychotherapy. One of the problems that hinder online therapy may be that all household members are at home all the time. This can make unrestricted conversation with a psychotherapist impossible.
The recipe for this problem may be using headphones during a conversation, which will allow a bit more privacy. If, after all, this is not enough, because we want, for example, to talk about the situation in the family, you can talk while sitting in the car or on the bench. As a last resort, you can also temporarily change the therapy format to text and write messages on the messenger.
During a pandemic, we face problems that we have never encountered before. This can make us feel overwhelmed and helpless. We receive news from everywhere about new cases and deaths, as well as dramatic stories from Poland and other countries. We face uncertainty about the future and concerns about the health of loved ones and our own.
For many of us, this is a new situation that causes a lot of stress. This can cause sleep problems, anxiety, trouble focusing on work or study. Also, in the face of the need to practice social distance, we often have limited contact with family and friends. Many couples are now stuck in a relationship, which can be an additional difficulty.
On the other hand, household members are forced to stay together all the time and this can be a source of conflict. All this means that we do not always feel understood or have someone to talk to and organize thoughts or fears that are swirling in our heads. If we feel that we cannot cope with them, talking to a psychotherapist can help us a lot. Already a one-time consultation can bring us relief and make us look at our fears from a distance, which will help us to control them.
The time we are forced to spend at home can be usefully used for self-development and work on your pessimism, low self-esteem, or anger. A cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist will help us identify adverse thinking processes and replace them with positive ones.
Along with the announcement of the pandemic, new challenges, fears, problems, and questions also arose. Various aspects of our lives have changed significantly, which made us feel lost. We are not alone. Many people, including therapists themselves, have similar problems. This makes it easier to share tips and experiences.
Support groups are a way to exchange interesting information, experiences, and tips on how to deal not only with problems that arose during the pandemic. These can be forums, Facebook groups, and other communities – for example, dedicated servers on Discord messenger.
Various online workshops and live events with psychologists are also organized. During live meetings online, you can ask questions that bother us, which the psychologist will try to answer. You can learn relaxation techniques and even get tips on how to get rid of negative thinking and catastrophic scenarios from our heads.
All these options are worth checking and will help us during this difficult period. Remember to talk about your fears as much as possible – with family, friends, or a specialist. It will allow you to gain some distance and realize that you are not alone. Take care!