Tele-mental health services, the new normal at BCS?

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I always wanted to build our BCS Counseling Group to incorporate Telehealth. But the onset of the pandemic led to a rapid uptake and escalation in use of virtual care.

Who knew that from March 2020, Telehealth was going to be our only form of providing psychotherapy to our clients, luckily we were set up to do it from day one, and my great team stepped up and helped inform, educate and connect our clients.

Since day 1 of Covid-19, I have been on the front lines. As an essential worker, I had to turn up day after day to keep things running, manage my team, emergencies and deal with unforeseen crises, and there have been a lot.

I manage a team of over 150 therapists, my door is always open if they need me, they have shared stories of overwhelming anxiety, depression, stress for the future, loss of loved ones. Weddings being cancelled, graduations and holiday gatherings cancelled. Or just the little things, like the inability to visit a loved one or hug a friend. These are the things that makes us feel human, make us feel loved and needed.

I have been asked on many occasions ‘are you getting burned out from all this?’
my answer: “yes of course”
It is a very traumatic and trying time, but at the end of the day, I am blessed to do what I love, I’m in a position to help people, so this is what I do.

On a lighter note, our clients and therapists have had to create spaces for privacy for the Live Video Sessions. Some are using bathrooms, cars, bedrooms, even closets. Wherever you can get comfortable with your device and an internet connection, that’s the new norm for the therapist’s couch.

We all needed to find a little humor in this difficult time, and although we’re all in this together, no two stories are the same. One of my clients showed up at session looking quite different to our ‘normal’ sessions. When I questioned her if she was okay, she started laughing. “I am not wearing makeup and I do not feel like fixing my hair! I feel free.’ We laughed. Another client was crying and sad because her father was COVID positive, then I hear a loud flushing noise… it was the toilet flushing! The new norm!

When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, a lot of things will go back to the way there were ‘before’. We will stop wearing masks, we’ll pack into restaurants and we’ll hug family and friends at the drop of a hat! But I believe Telehealth is here to stay. I expect to see continued expansion in telehealth services. It’s proven to be a very effective way to provide care, especially for those who can’t easily get to their provider’s office. We can increase the hours we can connect with our clients, as Therapists and clients no longer need to factor in a commute or ‘office hours’.

Clients are finding a newfound freedom; flexibility and convenience, and Therapist who may live in more rural or remote areas, can now build their client base on secure and easy to use platforms.

I am committed to helping as many clients and team members as possible through this pandemic, and if I have to work 7 days a week (which I do), I am happy to do it. My mission has always been to give back to a community that has given me so much love over the years. Mental health is essential to an individual’s well-being, and is fundamental to a healthy, balanced life, which is essential during these difficult times.

Nicoletta Pallotta, MD, LCSW
CEO & Founder


 

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