Counseling Services Leverage Technology During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Mon, April 19, 2021

Counseling Services Leverage Technology During the COVID-19 Pandemic


People are becoming more stressed and anxious due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noted Menna A. Farouk of Reuters, a multinational media company. The pandemic forces businesses across the globe to leverage technology to assist vulnerable individuals in coping with mental health issues.

For example, in Egypt, online therapy social enterprise Shezlong has conducted 150,000 free sessions to help individuals cope with anxiety, depression, or even from “pseudo coronavirus.” The latter refers to those who are convinced they have COVID-19 when in fact, they don’t.

In Britain, a team of qualified therapists launched a volunteering scheme called Help Hub, in which they offer free 20-minute Skype, FaceTime, or phone calls to vulnerable people who need mental health support. In the US, online therapy platform Talkspace is offering a free month of therapy to 1,000 healthcare workers who are curbing the outbreak.  



Public Psychological States and Its Related factors During the COVID-19 Outbreak In Some Regions In China (March 2020)

Yenan Wang and Colleagues of academic journal portal Taylor & Francis Online distributed a total of 605 psychological state questionnaires to the general population through online questionnaires from February 6 to 9, 2020. However, they only received 600 valid questionnaires.

The researchers used the Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS) and the Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS) and of the results gathered from the SAS questionnaire, 93.67% were non-anxious, 5.67% were anxious, and 0.67% were moderately anxious. None of the respondents were severely anxious. In terms of physiological responses, the SAS results indicated that 7.33% of individuals felt weak and tired easily, 4.5% often had to urinate, and 3.83% of them suffered from head, neck, and back pain.

As for behavioral responses, 2.17% thought they might go crazy. As for the description of positive statements, 71.83% had no problems falling asleep and slept well through the night.  70.17% found it easy to breathe, 66% felt calm and at ease, and 64.67% of often had dry and warm hands and feet.

With regard to the results of the SDS questionnaire, 82.83% were non-depressed, 14.33% were mildly depressed, 2.5% were moderately depressed, and 0.33% were severely depressed. In terms of physiological responses, 12.17% had poor sleep, 6.67% felt tired for no reason, and 6.5% were constipated. With regard to emotional responses, 5.33% said they felt unhappy and depressed.

As for behavioral responses, 6.67% of respondents were more likely to be angry and excited. In the description of positive statements, 83.83% were hopeful for the future, 82.67% said their minds were as clear as usual, and 80% showed interest in the things they were interested in. Further, 75.83% thought life had been interesting, 75.17% thought they were useful, and 72.5% thought it is not difficult to do things.

The researchers concluded that anxiety and depression are common psychological issues in any disaster, which can hinder “rational medical and mental health interventions.” The public psychological state is something we should be concerned about, providing the public with appropriate mental support, the authors wrote.



Counseling Services Resort to Telehealth to Provide Services to Patients

Shezlong’s services are conducted via video conference, offering coping techniques to help patients deal with bad news. 3% or 8.2 million of Egyptians suffer from anxiety and mood disorders, as said by the 2018 Egyptian health ministry. Techniques include cognitive therapy which teaches individuals how to manage stress and anxiety, as well as relaxation techniques like deep breathing and positive self-talk, stated Mohamed el-Shami, a therapist working for Shezlong.

Shezlong founder Ahmed Abu ElHaz informed the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “With negative news coming from media outlets about coronavirus, people are getting more stressed and panicked and more and more people will need psychological support.”

At Connections Family Counseling in Quincy, Illinois, therapist Mark Vander Ley noted, "With Telehealth, we have access to a HIPA compliant, secure, audio video program," quoted Kara Biernat of WGEM, a radio station in Quincy. 

Clients and therapists will log into the program and conduct a session, akin to its face-to-face counterpart. Due to the pandemic and stay at home order, Vander Ley argued that this tool is important as changes in a person’s routine can affect their mental health. He added, “I'm talking to a lot of my clients about finding a rhythm of life because I think we're all in such a unique situation.”

He said the service is a powerful tool considering that people are in their homes, which may be more comfortable having a session in an office. This enables them to access and talk about their feelings in a similar manner as therapists would in an office setting.  The Connections Family Counseling is attending to some appointments in the office for patients who are unable to use telehealth. Therapists like Vander Ley are practicing social distancing.



Finding A Therapist or Social Support During the Pandemic

There are free resources such as the Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based centers that provide care like mental health and substance use services, said Kastalia Medrana of Vox, a news and opinion website. The centers are authorized to provide telehealth services even if you never been a patient before. However, they prioritize patients who live within their service areas.

You can also call the national crisis text line to connect with a crisis counselor for free. It is handled by volunteer social workers and clinicians who reply within minutes. They are also available 24/7. If you have an appointment, try to see if you can find a private space to conduct it. If there are other people at home, ask them not to disturb you during that time. You can also request them to play something in their headphones or go for a walk outside for increased privacy. Treat these video sessions with the same respect as you would in traditional sessions.

If you are recovering from substance use, you can try to find support groups or meetings online. For example, Online Intergroup is a site where you can find a directory of meetings occurring over Zoom, including regular call-in numbers. There are also meetings that are held via discussion boards or Skype.   

The pandemic ushers a new norm as more people turn to technology for their social and mental health needs. You can take advantage of free options or online groups to keep yourself sane during the COVID-19 outbreak.