Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
LMFT, NMP, CGP
Deciding How When If You Want
to Return to In-Person Sessions
My friends and I have been talking about what it might be like to return to seeing clients in person. We have been discussing this topic throughout the pandemic and there are so many factors to consider. Each of us has our own preferences and there is no one-size-fits-all decision; I am aware of the fact that many therapists have continued to see their clients in person. I am hoping this brief article may help you to explore your choices.
Let’s start with space. Do you have enough room in your home to comfortably work from home? If you don’t have a dedicated office, can you create a separate workspace by moving some furniture or buying a desk that you can slide in an out of your living room? One of my friends uses a decorative screen to divide her space and protect her privacy.
I don’t have a separate office area at home, so I prefer to leave the house and work virtually from an office. My preference might change based on how things unfold with the virus. If you do plan to continue working from home, I recommend you look closely at all your equipment and make sure you have a proper desk, good size monitor, ergonomic chair and comfortable keyboard setup. I will talk more about ergonomics in next month’s article.
The next question to consider is your own health. Do you have any chronic health issues? Are you caring for an elderly parent or family member? I answered yes to both of those questions and had a long conversation about how to see clients in-person with my doctor. I came up with more logistical concerns after speaking with her.
I am also concerned about how to help my clients feel safe in returning to my office, should I decide to see them in person. I’m a group therapist and do not have space for eight people to sit six feet apart for my women’s group. One of my groups is a hybrid, meaning people can choose to attend in person or online and the third group is completely online. The hybrid group would work fine in-person. I can certainly sit six feet apart from my individual clients, but I am not sure if either one of us will feel comfortable sitting indoors together. Then there is the issue of masks, will they still be necessary?
My women’s group members have mentioned how in the past they enjoyed their time together in the waiting room, before I came out to fetch them for group. I doubt my clients will feel comfortable sitting in a room with strangers. They could text me when they arrive, and I could respond when I am ready for them to come in.
There is also the issue of liability. According to my liability carrier, it is possible for a client to pursue legal action if they believe they contracted COVID-19 in my office. AAMFT suggests creating a specific informed consent document to use if you decide to return to seeing clients in-person, here is the link — https://www.aamft.org/Events/Coronavirus-Reopening-Guidelines.aspx,.
Many therapists are considering a blended approach of a few days in the office and a few days at home. Some therapists have decided to work online permanently. I have been seeing clients online since before the pandemic and I think it is highly effective, but I like seeing people in person and so a blended approach sounds good to me.
I know we may have a while to wait before we need to make these decisions, but I’ve found great relief in talking about this issue with my colleagues. I would love to hear what you think, and I hope you will reach out to me on social media or via email.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, she is a Brainspotting Specialist who specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
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