IN AN EFFORT TO FIGHT the spread of COVID-19 this spring, California recommended all residents stay at home. Accordingly, many health providers opted to temporarily close their doors. For Don Xavier D., a 36-year-old living in Garden Grove, California, it meant a change to his weekly therapy sessions: His provider immediately started offering telehealth appointments, in lieu of in-person sessions.
But Don Xavier was hesitant to try therapy over a video call. “My major concern was that I wasn’t going to receive the same quality of care that I would receive in person,” he says. Despite reservations, however, Don Xavier found that his personal connection with his counselor hadn’t changed, even though they were chatting over video calls. “The video has excellent quality, and my counselor has been just as attentive as ever,” he says.
Before their first telehealth session together, Don Xavier’s counselor encouraged him to download the digital platform used by the office; the platform sends e-mail reminders for upcoming appointments and offers a scheduling feature that makes finding a time to connect simple for both parties. For appointments, Don Xavier uses another secure site to chat with his therapist; it also provides a virtual “waiting room” for patients, before a therapist starts the meeting.
Shifting my counseling to telehealth has been the best decision ever.
“I didn't have to learn any complicated software,” Don Xavier says. Using a webcam, he chats with his therapist on his computer. Or, he can use his smartphone for the appointment. “Smartphones are great because of their high-quality cameras,” says Don Xavier. To maintain an uninterrupted call, he says, “a stable WiFi connection is also essential."
The New Normal
Although the pandemic prompted the change, Don Xavier is now content to stick with teletherapy. “Shifting my counseling to telehealth has been the best decision ever,” he says, adding that he appreciates how much time he saves with telehealth appointments. “I realized one of the most inhibitive parts of receiving help was the physical action of getting in a car and driving to my therapist, who is 20 minutes away with traffic,” he says. “After I overcame my initial resistance, I learned to love that my day didn’t have an extra hour of commuting time to get to and from my session.”
With telehealth, he says, therapy couldn’t be more convenient. “I pretty much just clock out of work, settle my thoughts for 30 minutes, then jump into my counseling session,” Don Xavier says. He plans to continue using telemedicine for weekly therapy, mixed in with occasional office visits. “I’ll always prefer the experience of meeting in person, but with times as they are, the trade-offs are actually in favor of telehealth,” he says. “The convenience of telehealth—being able to turn on my phone, connect to wifi, and have a session—has been so important to helping me say sane and safe during these really weird and difficult times,” he says.
Interested in telehealth? Here’s a quick guide to how to it works.