We are living in unprecedented times as COVID-19 spreads faster than our UK government expected. Many of us are scared and anxious as we see our lives and the lives of loved ones drastically altered by this unseen enemy. This is why psychotherapy during COVID-19 is important. Even before the pandemic, levels of anxiety and depression were high so it is important to seek help in managing and maintaining your mental health at this time.
At the start of the pandemic, I introduced a covid-19 crisis policy and I keep it regularly updated.
Online psychotherapy as we move back into lockdown or Tier 4 upwards
I have many years’ experience of working online or by phone and this can be as effective as in person. I am working online during Tier 4 restrictions in Staffordshire as of 4th January 2021 – with the exception of Tier 4’s ‘reasonable excuse’. Therefore anyone who is extremely vulnerable I will still see in person in my covid-secure therapy room.
With online psychotherapy options during COVID-19 all you need is a computer or device linked to the internet and you simply open a link in your browser to begin the session. With Skype you need an account (it is free though) and with Zoom you just need a web browser. Your computer or device will need a video cam/camera and microphone. If we are doing sessions by phone, WhatsApp is the best option as it is encrypted. Please ensure that you have the following for online working:
- A decent internet connection
- A private space in your home/working area where you will not be disturbed
- Your device at face/chest level (ie propped up on a table with you sat down, or other variations)
- Also consider the routine that you have around the preparation for your online sessions
Moving back to in person psychotherapy when we move back into Tier 3 or lower
I will offer sessions in person again once the restrictions ease to at least Tier 3 levels. I will encourage everyone to work online (or by telephone) where feasible, but will consider in person working on a case by case basis. I work in an office unit and am following (in fact, exceeding) all the current government guidelines for office working. I am only working in person with non-symptomatic clients, who have not been exposed to anyone showing symptoms and are not in a high-risk group. Obviously, I will only do this if I am currently not showing symptoms. In my personal life I have modified my own behaviours to minimise risk to myself and others, and I am following government guidelines for the local tier of risk. I am following government guidelines for in person psychotherapy during COVID-19. This policy outlines my current COVID19 working procedures, which may change if we move into different tiers. Also, if local risk factors increase significantly, sessions may need to move online.
My policy for in person psychotherapy during COVID-19
I have sought best practice advice from my professional indemnity insurers, Howdens, and my professional registration body, the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), on working safely from my office space during the crisis. I have also conducted a risk assessment for in person psychotherapy during COVID-19.
As a result, for in person working, I am taking the following measures.
I have arranged my ground-floor therapy room so that:
- There is a 3 metre distance between us when we are sitting
- There is a protective clear 2m x 2m barrier screen between us
- The client sits by a slightly open window for ventilation (so ensure you bring a jumper or scarf, for although I have the heating on, there may be a draft). There is a heater next to you if you need to adjust the temperature.
- My room has handwash and PPE (Type IIR fluid resistant surgical masks) face masks and nitrile powder/latex free gloves) available
- The centre in which I work has handwashing stations and clear social distance signage and policies visible
- You are able to use the cloakroom/toilets (2 of them) as long as you maintain 2m social distance guidelines and only one person in the toilets at a time
- I allow at least 30mins between clients to ensure I have time to clean down and disinfect the room and access points
NHS Track and Trace
- I will keep a record of your name and contact details for the NHS Test and Trace service for 21 days and provide this data to NHS Test and Trace if requested (after this time this record will be destroyed)
- Alternatively, you can ‘check in’ by scanning my NHS QR Code
Sue Tupling and clients agree to the following general procedures:
- The client will ensure they are aware of the known risk factors of age or pre-existing health conditions, prior to agreeing to in person work
- Wash hands as per recommendations before we begin
- On entering the main door through reception, you will use the handwash station to disinfect your hands (immediately in front of you as you enter). If this is empty, you will use the one available in my room
- Wear PPE face covering on entering and leaving my therapy room and gloves if desired. You may remove them during the session, once we are seated and at a good distance
- When wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or covering, as you could contaminate them with your hands
- Continue to wash your hands regularly
- I will wipe down surfaces including door handles before/after each client with antibacterial spray
- Keep at least a 2m distance at all times
- Cough or sneeze into sleeve or tissue
- If showing symptoms cancel session with 24 hours’ notice if possible
- Use online working as a non-contact option: phone, Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/2128175815) or Skype (sue.tupling)
- Clean our mobile devices before starting a session
- Clients will bring their own water/drink and tissues
- Avoid contact or touching (shaking hands, hug)
Stay safe and make sure you invest in your mental health at this difficult time.
Here is a link to the government’s guidelines on working safely from office spaces during COVID-19.
Read more on my blog about how psychotherapy during COVID-19.