The American Psychological Association has said that the isolation and limited social contact that comes with quarantine can negatively affect mental health and worsen the effects of pre-existing mental health conditions in vulnerable populations. Some counselors and therapists in Auburn are making sure that their patients are still able to get the mental health care they need.
Counseling and psychological service organizations in the Auburn-Opelika area are taking steps to work through the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus and maintain normal operations for current and prospective clients.
For most of these organizations, this involves a transition to offering tele-health services, referring to the provision of health-related services through telecommunication systems like telephone and video calls.
This transition has been successful for these organizations and clients alike despite the inability to continue in-person counseling services.
Because of technology, organizations still have the ability to offer most services, and clients continue to have access to these services.
Online sessions have been a major adjustment, with organizations now offering services via telephone calls through video platforms like Zoom.
According to the assistant director for outreach and mental health initiatives, Dustin Johnson, any student enrolled at Auburn University has 24/7 access to a phone consultation with a representative from Auburn University Student Counseling and Psychological Services.
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SCPS has developed various ways to offer services, including a week of tele-fun activities.
Some ideas include self-care activities like Color My Mondays, where students can access mindfulness coloring pages and learn the best tips for mindful living, and dance parties on Fridays, which are hosted through Zoom meetings online, Johnson said.
COVID-19 discussion groups are also available for anyone to join to address questions and concerns.
Other counseling and psychological service organizations said they're experiencing a successful online transition.
According to Ashley Jordan, a licensed and independent clinical social worker at Perspective Counseling in Auburn, approximately 90% of clients have chosen to continue treatment at the practice during this time.
“The majority of clients have not missed a beat,” Jordan said.
Only virtual services are being offered to all clients at Perspective Counseling at this time.
The online transition, however, has not been without its challenges.
Student Counseling and Psychological Services has had to address that staff members only have licensing to provide services to students living in Alabama, so students located in other states can't receive treatment, Johnson said.
However, out-of-state students can still participate in a one-time consultation with a SCPS clinician, who can help the student connect to service providers in his or her hometown, Johnson said.
Throughout the pandemic, many clients have been facing issues with their insurance over what gets covered. Prior to the outbreak, many insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield did not cover tele-health services like tele-therapy, Jordan said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield and some other companies have since altered their coverage options to include tele-health services for their clients.
But many professionals agreed that technology has allowed them to adapt well during the pandemic, and it has been a crucial part of their patients lives as everyone grapples with a shut down world.
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