By now, many psychologists have transitioned their services to telepsychology (i.e. live synchronous video delivery) in response to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. We have learned to navigate the adventures of telework, have made adjustments to forms and billing practices, have become intimately familiar with our video platform(s) of choice and have established new ways of connecting with our patients. We are fortunate to work in a profession where our services can continue via available technologies despite the crisis around us. This transition to telehealth practice may be time-limited for some, while for others, this may actually be the start of a new way of working. Either way, the fact is that we have all be challenged by the pandemic, and, we have adapted. The irony, however, is that technology did not evolve because of COVID, people evolved because of COVID.
Did you learn about telepsychology during grad school? When was the last time you ordered a book on telehealth or went out of your way to seek out a training on telemental health? How frequently do you review comparison data of telehealth versus in-person treatment outcomes? Up until March 2020, did you perhaps hold beliefs that video delivery was foreign, unorthodox and/or simply not as good as in-person care? Chances are that you were one of many psychologists who did not receive much telehealth training or experience prior to COVID, and this unfamiliarity may have resulted in a negative perception of telehealth in some way. Well, that makes sense. Let’s face it, staying in one’s professional comfort zone typically increases a person’s sense of safety and decreases perceived risk. But . . . might there be a downside to this?
While telehealth may not be for everyone, over the last two months I have heard from countless colleagues how “pleasantly surprised” they have been with telepsychology delivery, and, how receptive their patients have been, too. Would these same individuals have tried video care if it weren’t for current events? Maybe. But when? And why did it take a pandemic for so many of us to flex our willingness muscles? Like it or not, our field will continue to evolve, and I can’t help but wonder how willing we are to evolve with it.
Whether you continue to deliver telehealth services beyond the pandemic or not, I invite you to reflect on this time. Commend yourself on stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning an entirely new treatment environment in order to continue serving patients in need. Recognize that the unknown is not necessarily bad, and that different is not necessarily worse. Remember what we routinely ask of our own patients with regard to willingness, flexibility, acceptance and change and consider these tenants in your own professional choices. When the storm has passed, what will the world look like and how might you have changed?