Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
Barry Davis,Divorce Mediator
Practical Tips to Keep Your Therapy Practice Resilient During COVID-19
Individuals as well as our communities overall desperately need the support therapists provide more than ever! Yet I’ve heard from so many therapists that are struggling to keep their practices reasonably full and maintain a decent income. Either their clients aren’t comfortable with telehealth, they’re worried about paying for therapy due to job insecurity or they simply don’t have the privacy at home to have sessions. Which is why it’s so crucial that therapists customize how they support their clients and find ways to meet clients where they are RIGHT NOW. Below are practical tips and ideas to help therapists adapt both the way they support their current clients as well as how they attract new clients:
1. Videoconferencing and Abbreviated Sessions
One of the most tangible ways we can be flexible is in how we see our clients. This includes not only doing videoconferencing and telehealth, but also thinking about whether we need to provide our clients with the option of shorter, more focused sessions. For example, clients that are working at home or have children home from school may not have the privacy to carve out an hour, but could still truly benefit from a concentrated, highly-focused 30-minute session given all the additional stressors in their life.
2. Relevant Techniques and Tools
Another way that we can support our clients is to equip them with practical, applicable techniques and tools they can use to deal with what they’re going through right now. Whether it’s stress management tools, healthy ways to interact with their spouse and children, specific mindfulness/breathing exercises or anything else that helps them deal with what they’re going through more constructively, clients under stress are looking for tangible, concrete tools they can use today, tomorrow & throughout the remainder of this crisis.
3. Being a Good Host
One of the things I keep hearing repeatedly is that clients aren’t comfortable with telehealth. I think it's incumbent on us as professionals to find ways to help our clients feel comfortable with these new ways of communicating by normalizing them and even pointing out the positives of being able to the meet in the comfort of our own homes. For example, we can check in with our clients at the beginning of the session to make sure that they’re comfortable, that the audio and video connections are good and let them know that it’s not a problem if they need to get up to go to the bathroom, get a drink or anything else that might happen during a session. For example, if they need a minute or two to get the kids started on a new activity, normalize this for them by telling them you’re totally fine with this.
I’ve also heard of situations where clients, including couples, do their sessions just outside their house in their car while an older sibling or grandparent takes care of the kids. By normalizing this new way of communicating as well as being a good host, there’s a good chance the clients will start to relax and feel comfortable with this new approach.
4. Reaching out to Previous Clients
There is no doubt that much of society is experiencing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and stress. Based on this, clients who have previously terminated may need to re-engage the services of their therapists to work through issues that are coming up based on COVID-19. If therapists proactively reach out to clients who have terminated over the last couple of years, they can help support these clients through difficult times while also filling some of the gaps in their calendar left by recent cancellations.
5. Flexibility & Adaptability = Resilience
The overarching key is to be as flexible as possible and find ways to meet your clients where they are right now. Everyone is struggling to adapt to the new normal which puts an incredible amount of stress on people who are used to certainty and routine—which is the vast majority of people. If therapists can meet clients where they are at, both literally and figuratively, they will not only be successful in supporting their clients through these difficult times but will also be able to keep their practice not only open, but vibrant.
My divorce mediation practice is living proof of this—over the last two weeks I’ve only had one out of 14 sessions cancel—the remainder of them have been successfully completed using either videoconferencing or telephone and I have a normal amount of sessions scheduled for the upcoming week as well.
I want to acknowledge that several of the above ideas are ones that I have gleaned from my therapist colleagues as we’ve been discussing how to adapt our practices to best meet the needs of our clients—we can all learn from each other as we are all in this together! As a divorce mediator, the subject matter I work on with my clients is very different than therapy, but we all share the need to meet our clients where they are at during these challenging times.
Barry Davis, Divorce Mediator, Founder of Davis Mediation, has been helping clients get through the divorce process in the most amicable, affordable manner possible for 16 years. His passion is keeping children out of the middle of divorce so they can grow up healthy. As a divorce mediator, Barry holds Masters Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Conflict Management and has served on the Torrance Family Court and Second Appellate District mediation panels. For more information and resources, visit www.DavisMediation.com or Davis Divorce Mediation’s YouTube Channel.
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California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
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