Therapy Chaos in the Mental Health Industry Due to COVID-19

Based+on+data+from+the+World+Economic+Forum%2C+this+graph+shows+the+impact+the+pandemic+has+on+the+depression+level+of+adults.++

Caleigh Meyer

Based on data from the World Economic Forum, this graph shows the impact the pandemic has on the depression level of adults.

Caleigh Meyer, Reporter

     Back in March when Covid-19 first reared its ugly head towards the United States, many patients undergoing mental health therapy were cut short due to the outbreak. 

     “There have been more mental health cases and drug cases since the beginning of Covid now more so than ever,” Lisa Guy, Drug and Alcohol Therapist at New Directions Healthcare, in Erie, Pa., explains on the pandemic. 

     Mental health is a serious thing to be dealt with because not getting proper treatment could leave someone distraught or even in life-threatening situations. “It hit hard. There were a lot of relapses (when someone goes back to a certain behaviour or action after not doing it for a long period of time). There was a lot of overdoses, a lot of deaths in the past 7 months since COVID started,” commented Guy.

     Guy states the leading causes of death in her line of mental health due to Covid-19 were suicides and overdoses. Mental health is defined as a person’s mental condition and their emotional well being, and mental health issues could be anything described as depression, anxiety, and/or personality disorders. At New Directions Healthcare, they help clients with drug and alcohol addictions and their general mental health.

      At the beginning of Covid, there was a lot of uncertainty.  Everyone was scared for their loved ones and themselves, causing more problems with people struggling with mental health issues already. 

     As Covid continued to rage, it was difficult for the normal process of therapy to continue. Guy explains that, at her clinic, most patients were switched to TeleHealth which allows clients to get therapy over the phone or on a video call. Yet, some clients that were in more of a critical need for face-to-face therapy were allowed to go into office if they wore a mask and were socially distant for sessions lasting only 16 minutes. TeleHealth in substitution for face-to-face therapy was difficult for most clients and counselors for many reasons. 

     “You get too much background noise and distractions with being on the phone. In a sense, being on the phone is good because you can see how the family interacts sometimes. You can see who’s a positive support and who’s not, and you get to not really know their family or whoever’s around them, but you can see a glimpse of what their day looks like,” explained Guy.

     Although TeleHealth seemed like a good substitute, there were many issues along with just the distractions. Guy describes her biggest inconvenience with therapy at the time was not being able to get a hold of her clients when they did TeleHealth.

      Now that the spread of Covid-19 is not very bad in Erie, therapy sessions have gone back to their normal ways, in a sense. Today, therapy is “half and half,” with some clients preferring to stay on the phone and some clients back in the office. “We can see clients in the office now as long as we social distance and wear our masks,” Guy explains. Clients are now permitted to stay as long as an hour if they follow the New Directions company guidelines.

     “Right now we are letting people decide what they want to do until October 1,” Guy stated. “On October 1, the insurance companies are drawing back TeleHealth. Now that there’s been kind of a decline in Covid we’re encouraging more people to come into the office.” 

     Starting October 1, most insurance companies are cutting TeleHealth unless their therapist puts in an exemption for them to continue it. An exemption could be anything from them having Covid or having a fear of it. 

     On mental health therapy as a whole, Guy says, “There is still help available. Don’t be afraid to seek treatment because it’s not about taking medication. It’s about processing your traumas and your personal issues to grow emotionally and build boundaries.”