Telehealth and the New Look of Therapy Services

Telehealth and the New Look of Therapy Services

As we continue to adapt to a new normal forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic, our number one priority is the health and well-being of the individuals we serve. Many of those individuals thrive with a steady routine and the support of behavioral therapists, recreation therapists and music therapists among many others. At New Hope, these therapy services generally take place in-person and rely on the individual’s ability to connect with the therapist. One of the biggest challenges for New Hope and other services providers like it has been pivoting these services to be provided virtually. Despite the obvious health and safety benefits, the transition to telehealth services raised several concerns about its effectiveness for the vulnerable population that we serve.

Can telehealth therapy services create the same positive outcomes for those we serve? For the majority of the individuals who participate, the answer is yes.

Most of New Hope’s Behavior Consultants have seen similar positive results from their sessions with some basic modifications. Specifically, many of the individuals we serve have difficulty maintaining focus for long periods of time without physical cues and a distraction-free environment. Many of them have found telehealth services successful in shorter than usual sessions held more frequently. For example, rather than meeting with a therapist once a week for several hours, our clients are finding telehealth to be more effective by meeting virtually or over the phone several times a week for 30 minute sessions. There are certainly some barriers to this method of therapy being completely successful, but for the majority of the individuals we serve, telehealth services have been extremely effective as we have responded to the COVID-19 situation.

For music and recreation therapy, telehealth has brought many of the same challenges and benefits as it has for behavioral therapy. However, the lack of in-person contact limits the way these therapies work. In a typical music therapy session, a client might play a number of instruments provided by New Hope or their therapist. For recreation therapy, they may ride a bike or learn how to bead a bracelet. These activities are all limited now to whatever items a client has available to them at home and whatever new skills a therapist is able to demonstrate or teach over video. Because of these limitations, telehealth is not necessarily the best long-term solution for music and recreation therapy. For now, however, it is a great way to stay connected to the individuals we serve and to offer them a small piece of their usual routine.

All of our therapists are missing out on the normal, face-to-face interaction that they are used to, and are worried about the individuals they work with and their mental health. While many of their clients are keeping in good spirits, they are feeling lonely and bored. We work so hard to make sure that the individuals we serve are able to be an integral part of our community, so this time of social distancing and, in some cases, isolation is proving to be especially difficult on them. Telehealth services have allowed our therapists to connect in creative and unique ways to promote the well-being of those we serve, but we are all looking forward to finding a way to be together again as soon as it’s safe to do so.

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