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A remote thank-you, mental health professionals

May is Mental Health Month. While it has always seemed odd to me to designate a day or month to what we know needs attention every day, this year, I'd like to recognize the efforts of those professionals and clients operating in a new medium due to COVID-19.

Whether you are a client, or relative, friend, or colleague of someone who suffers from mental health issues, you have seen how the profession, much like the field of education, has pivoted to provide services online, a practice some may not have been ready to engage in just yet.

Of course, there are many organizations who have been offering virtual therapy since before COVID-19. Many of these are aggregators--like dating sites where you can submit your personal information and get matched with a hopefully suitable therapist.

Then there are some boutique groups that are more selective and have a limited and more regular staff of therapists and prescribing RNs who see people virtually.

The challenge, of course, has been for those who were not pre-disposed to and/or not prepared for this medium of engagement but who have risen to the situation so as to continue to serve existing clients and new ones as well.

For the individual practitioners who have not previously practiced tele-medicine, there are the technical factors of the medium as well as adjustments to technique are required as the relationship moves online. It may be one thing with established clients, but what about new ones? How long does it take to get a good read?

Adjustments for the single practitioner are one thing, but consider what is required of more complex environments.

For treatment centers offering a full catalog of therapeutic and enrichment programs, making the shift from in-person sessions to online involves so much more than adapting to the mechanics of Zoom or some other teleconference service. It's more about ensuring the integrity of HIPPA under these circumstances, assuring clients of the importance of that connection, maintaining the feel of the room, as so many have expressed the need for in the business context of this medium.

This is a huge shift, and for such treatment centers, one that requires not only skilled mental health professionals but also talented administrators making sure communications are handled appropriately and everyone feels the same, or at least an analogous sense of belonging in this revised mode of operating.

So, kudos to those people looking after our mental health during this crisis, and shifting their paradigm to do so. And to your clients for making this shift to continue the challenging work toward improved health.

Thank you, too, to the behavioral health workers on the front lines working directly with patients in hospitals and in-patient facilities. We know the added danger to your health that you face every day because you cannot do this work remotely. Stay safe.

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As of January 2024, Rewriting Paradigms is back and I'm writing about today's  issues, those that most test us and our humanity.

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