During this time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, many people are turning to online mental health care to get the therapy or med management that they need. For some, this means transferring their current mindcare to online, which all MindPath providers are now able to do. For others, it means seeking out care for the first time to help them cope with the unprecedented change and stress of this pandemic. We know that change can be difficult and for some people, accessing online mental health care may feel unappealing because it is new and unknown. In this article we want to address common concerns and answer frequent questions about online mental health care—how it works and why it’s useful.
We spoke with MindPath provider Kelly Crenshaw, NP-C, who has been offering mental health care online for the last four years. Ms. Crenshaw spoke with us about her experience and answered our questions.
Which kinds of mental health care can you receive online?
The two most common kinds of mental health care that people receive online are therapy and medication management. For the most part you can do everything online that you could do in person. There are some exceptions, such as drug tests or more specialized services, but in general, most mental health care easily translates to the online platform.
What concerns do you hear from patients about switching to online care?
People are concerned about not being able to use the technology. But online care, also called telehealth, is much easier to access than most people think. Many are surprised by how easy it is; they’re relieved when they’re done, and they’ve gotten the care that they need.
There’s always going to be a chance that a connection won’t work right away, but it’s important to know that no one is going to leave you hanging. For example, providers can call people on the phone in the event, though unlikely, that a connection is interrupted. In my practice, there hasn’t been a single patient who switched from in office to telehealth who wasn’t able to connect to the online platform. The technology isn’t hard at all and your provider will give you instructions and can help talk you through how to use it. The platform that we use is called MEND, and it is really good. I’ve tried others in the past that aren’t as good, but I recommend MEND.
There is a learning curve for both providers and patients, but it’s not scary and is a lot easier than many people think. It takes some time to learn on the front end, but then once you get set-up you can settle into a new routine pretty quickly. Remember that we’re going to figure out everything together. If you and your provider don’t get connected, then they will call and you all will figure it out. We’re all in this together. No one is going to leave you behind or forget about you. Lots of people have a really positive experience with online care and want to keep doing it even later, after they could switch back to in-office appointments.
What other concerns do you hear?
People think they will miss something without being face-to-face. While it is true that accessing care online is different than being in person, it’s important to remember that patients also gain things by being able to access care from their homes. For example, it’s significant for a lot of pet owners that they can have their pet companions with them during online sessions. Also, for many people, their home spaces are more comfortable than office environments. And while the experience is different, the level of care received is the same. The providers who offer care online are equally as engaged and committed.
What about confidentiality? Do you have advice for people who are concerned about being overheard during a session?
The online mental health care that we offer at MindPath is HIPAA compliant, which means that your privacy is protected the same as it would be during care received in person. For people who are worried about finding a private space in which to connect, especially during this time where everyone is home, people do things like use headphones, go outside or sit in their cars. Most patients are able to find a confidential space where they feel they can talk freely. As a provider, I am sensitive to the times when someone can’t speak freely. If, for example, you can’t find a space away from your partner or housemate, but want to discuss something related to that person then your provider can help you work through those limitations.
Some people who take medication are worried about being able to get their prescriptions during this pandemic. Do you have recommendations?
Yes, for starters, you can talk to your insurance company to see if you can get an early authorization for a waiver so that you can get a 90-day supply of your prescription. Or you can sign up for a mail order so that you receive your medication via the mail. Some pharmacies deliver as well. Many pharmacies have drive-thru options and many grocery stories have pharmacies so you can minimize the number of places where you need to go and can pick up your prescription while getting your groceries. If you’re concerned about maintaining a dependable supply of your medication during this time you can also talk to your psychiatrist. Remember that online psychiatry care is helpful anytime, because often those appointments are shorter and so it’s helpful to be able to cut out the transportation time to and from the appointment. But, especially during this pandemic, it’s important to continue connecting with your psychiatrist to avoid interruptions in your medication which can cause side effects or other difficulties.
Anything else you want to address?
Both providers and clients enjoy being able to be in their own homes in general and now, during the pandemic, it’s more helpful than ever before. In the past online care was useful for people who couldn’t miss work and only had a lunch break, because it allowed them to cut out the transportation time. Also, it’s always been helpful for patients in remote areas, patients with agoraphobia and older patients or folks who aren’t that mobile. Now it’s helpful for everyone.
Change can be difficult. A lot of us don’t want to change and online mental health care is new and different for many of us. It can be helpful to acknowledge this and know that it’s normal to feel reluctant about changing to new ways of doing things. Keep in mind, though, that it’s vital that we all maintain and seek out mental health care during this challenging time. So, while it’s important to acknowledge the difficulty of switching to a new system, it’s also important not to let that stop you and your loved ones from seeking mental health care, which is needed now more than ever before.
Your care is our top priority. With Mindpath Health Online Care, you can access our medical and therapy providers from your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet all from your home. We offer 2 convenient options for appointment—Request an appointment based on your schedule or connect with an on-call specialist in our Virtual Waiting Room within the hour for urgent needs (available Monday – Friday from 8:30am to 5pm). More info at mindpathcare.com/telehealth.
About Kelly Crenshaw, NP-C
Kelly Crenshaw’s main objective is for patients to be the best they can be, living a freer, more content life. She wants to decrease the burden of symptoms and empower patients to recover; Kelly is most passionate about working to reduce the stigma around receiving mindcare and to help people overcome that stigma to seek the help they need. As a provider, she gives compassionate, holistic care and collaborates with her patients, encouraging them to be involved in decisions about their treatment. More at mindpathcare.com/staff/kelly-crenshaw-np-c.