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Coronavirus and Clinical Service Delivery Considerations for Psychologists & Counsellors

Dr. Joti Samra

March 9, 2020

Workplace

As we consider preparing for a coronavirus outbreak in North America, we not only have to consider our own personal safety, but take the safety of our clients into account as well. For psychologists and counsellors, it’s important to think about how the coronavirus may impact what our practice looks like, as well as the impact on the anxiety levels of our clients. 

American Psychological Association has put forward some direction that can help us think about how to prepare our practices for the possibility of an outbreak. 

So, what can we do to protect ourselves, our practice and our clients?

How to protect your clients and your practice

  1. Promote Hygiene. Consider increasing cleanliness and hygiene protocols in workspaces. This includes reminding and encouraging employees and clients to engage in regular hand washing (consider placing signs in common areas and bathrooms), ensuring hand sanitizer is available and increasing the frequency of disinfecting surfaces. 
  2. Prepare Your Practice. As professionals who are passionate about helping others, it can be easy to focus on what is necessary to protect the health and wellness of our clients, but it is equally important to think about protecting ourselves. This doesn’t just mean our physical health, though we will talk about that later – this also applies to our business. Take the time to consider your finances and whether or not you are prepared for the possible impacts of a coronavirus outbreak. For example, will you be okay if there is a decrease in business or you get sick yourself? Are you able to waive cancellation fees for last-minute cancellations due to illness?
  3. Virtual Counselling. Is it possible for you to accommodate virtual (online, via video) counselling services? Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych & Associates offers virtual counselling services via secure video conferencing – read more about what virtual counselling is on our blog, as well as the potential benefits of virtual counselling to clients. If you already offer these services, start talking to your clients about being able to access these services if they are unable to travel to an appointment in the case of illness or an outbreak. 
  4. Prepare a Client Communication Plan. Determine how your office is going to run in the case of an outbreak – including important policies such as last-minute closings and cancellations. Communicate these plans to all clients, in conjunction with addressing how communication will take place in the case of an outbreak. 
  5. Help Manage Anxiety. Coronavirus continues to dominate the media and people’s thoughts and many are anxious about a potential outbreak in their area and their personal safety. It’s normal to be anxious and that actually helps us to prepare in these situations – but, it’s also important to maintain anxiety to a manageable level that is realistically matched to actual risk. Read our article on how to manage the fear associated with coronavirus. Some of us may also be in a unique position to help manage anxiety in the broader community. Consider sharing our blog post on the tips for managing anxiety around coronavirus with your friends and family, and start a conversation about preparation without panic. 
  6. Manage Your Own Health. It’s easy for many of us in the mental health helping professions to focus on the people we are supporting, and forget about taking care of ourselves. Maintaining our own physical health, as well as the health of our families, is important in continuing to be able to support those around us. So, don’t forget to prioritize your own self-care. 

Final Thoughts

If you work in the helping profession, it’s important to start thinking about how you can not only prepare yourself and your family, but how you can prepare your work environment and clients. Some of us are in a unique position to provide support to those who are anxious and talk more widely about preparation without panic. Given the unique and novel aspects of the coronavirus, and the increasing impacts we are seeing on overall worry and anxiety, we’ve created a series of blog posts and explainer videos which we encourage you to watch and widely share.

 

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