When Will We Meet (in Person) Again?
With the Safer at Home order no longer in place in Wisconsin and many businesses re-opening, you may be wondering when we will be able to meet in person again. I have certainly been thinking about (and feeling into) this a lot since the pandemic began! The information I'm sharing here is not meant to be a substitute for the conversations we will all be having about when we will meet in person again, but I thought you might find it useful to hear what I am taking into account.
I have been closely following the accumulating scientific understanding of the virus, and paying close attention to the opinions of public health experts where the data do not yet exist. I am also considering a number of practicalities, including the size of my offices, the nature of shared spaces in the buildings (reception areas, restrooms, etc) relative to best practices for physical distancing, my capacity to insure these spaces are sanitized properly, ventilation, the amount of time I would need to spend at the office in order to space out sessions appropriately, and how therapy would be affected by wearing masks, as is currently recommended. Finally, but most importantly, I am considering the relative risks, to my clients and family members, of continuing to conduct telehealth sessions versus meeting in person.
My current conclusion, after considering all of these factors, is that I will NOT be offering in-office sessions any time soon. And that's as specific as I can be, for now.
I understand the ambiguity about the timeline may be frustrating. Some of you have been expressing a wish to return to office visits for weeks, so I imagine this news may be disappointing, maybe even confusing, as you see things gradually starting to look "normal" in our communities. (If so, let's talk about it at our next session!) Others of you have expressed your concern about the risks of meeting in person, so perhaps you feel reassured by my take on the issue.
It's undeniable that meeting via screens is not the same as meeting in person, and some aspects of the therapeutic connection just can't be replicated via telehealth. That said, the overwhelming majority of my clients have expressed satisfaction with telehealth sessions, and I myself have been surprised at how well the process has translated. Your preferences matter to me, AND there is much more to consider; this pandemic is giving us many opportunities to practice acceptance of "what is."
If the idea of sticking with telehealth sessions indefinitely doesn't feel right for you, let's talk about it. I want you to have the most supportive experience possible, so let's discuss options.
WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
If you use insurance to pay for sessions, you may be wondering how long telehealth sessions will be covered by your plan. This is difficult to answer, because every insurance payer has its own policies. Some already allowed reimbursement of telehealth services prior to the COVID-19 crisis, while others made temporary allowances for telehealth shortly after the pandemic started. These temporary changes expire at different times, and may be extended; some changes have been or may later be made permanent, as is being advocated by the American Psychological Association and other health advocacy groups. I am tracking all of this as closely as I can, and I encourage you to stay abreast of any notices your insurance company provides. That said, it is possible that some changes will be made with little notice. We will do our best to navigate that together.
Ultimately, the value I place on safety (yours and mine) and my ethical duty to uphold that value takes precedence over my need to be paid by insurance companies. We can negotiate out of pocket fees (or look at referral options, if you wish) if your insurance company stops paying for telehealth sessions and I am not yet ready to return to the office. Please bring this up when we meet next if you have any questions or requests.