We are living in an unprecedented time during this global pandemic with social distancing and stay at home orders. Counseling is just one of the many areas that people have had to adapt during stay-at-home orders. Genesis and many other domestic violence agencies are offering Telehealth services at this time to survivors. If you have feelings of anxiety or worry about transitioning to this type of therapy, you are not alone!
Common Feelings about the Telehealth Transition
Feeling worried or anxious about transitioning to Telehealth is completely normal! First, recognize that you did not get a say in this change. You likely did not ask for this change and may feel frustrated or upset if it feels like your services have been halted or changed. One of the most difficult parts of the current situation surrounding COVID-19 is the loss of control that we are all experiencing. As counselors, we recognize that for survivors of domestic violence, the current social distancing and stay at home orders may be increasing feelings of powerlessness, lack of voice, and lack of choice that you were already feeling due to the abuse you have or are experiencing from your partner. There is also the unknown of when you will see your counselor face-to-face again, or you may be beginning services with a new counselor you’ve never met and may have mixed feelings about what this will be like. The counselors at Genesis are empathetic to the ways in which the weight of these unknowns can impact our clients.
What to Expect
Telehealth is relatively new for the counselors at Genesis. We have spent a great deal of time training and preparing to bring this service to the community but ultimately it is still a new feature that we are getting used to. You and your counselor will be getting used to this type of service delivery together. Expect that before beginning Telehealth services, your counselor will call you to ask if you prefer video or phone calls. We recognize how important it is to give our clients a voice in regards to the type of treatment they are wanting to receive. You get to decide what is most comfortable for you and your situation. For your first session, you can expect that part of the time will be spent covering consent to Telehealth and safety concerns. Your counselor will talk to you about what to do if there are technology problems. Technology problems can be so frustrating, but we will develop a plan with you for if the video stops working or we get disconnected. Your counselor will also cover important safety and privacy concerns and how to make sure confidentiality is still kept and what to do if your kids or partner were to walk in. We’ll cover more on safety considerations below.
At the beginning, Telehealth will also look like reconnecting. Since this is a new way of doing therapy, it is important to spend time building the therapeutic relationship virtually before getting back to the hard work you may have already been doing during in-person sessions. Although you’re not together in person, your visual connection and relationship with your therapist can be very beneficial in a time of social distancing. Your therapist may focus on talking about what resources you have and what you need to feel comfortable doing Telehealth. With a little patience and flexibility, we are confident Telehealth can be just as healing and beneficial as in-person services.
Victims of domestic violence who are trapped with abusers don’t have the luxury of feeling safe at home. You are the expert on your life and you know your situation best. It may not be safe for you to engage in Telehealth services at this time if your abusive partner is also home or could walk in or listen in on your sessions. Only you can know if it will be safe for you to continue counseling services during this time. Our counselors can help you brainstorm ways to increase your safety during Telehealth calls by implementing safeguards such as creating passwords, using headphones, having calls when your partner is gone, or having calls in a parking lot when you run out to the store. If Telehealth is not a safe option for you at this time, Genesis is still here for you. You can always call our 24-hour hotline at 214.946.4357 (HELP) if you are seeking support with safety planning or overwhelming emotions.
In addition, you can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.723, or visit The Hotline, which features information on safety planning and domestic violence education. The Hotline also includes a chat feature if phone calls simply are not safe.
Written by Noelle Cloward, LMSW, women’s and children’s therapist at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.