During this difficult time, people needing help for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, panic and conditions including OCD can find themselves unable to access a qualified therapist.
The Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists, has launched a service, Priory Connect online therapy, allowing people to connect online to an expert therapist from the Priory for 1:1 cognitive behavioural therapy via video.
It means patients don’t have to leave home, and sessions are available in the day, evening and weekends, and if a person is self-isolating. People can choose a therapist from an extended UK network of clinical experts, all regulated.
“Research suggests that tele-therapy is at least as effective as in-person therapy and will allow you to get support while following any social distancing guidelines or quarantine restrictions,” said Joseph McEvoy, director of innovation at the Priory Group.
“We know some people are really struggling because of these unprecedented circumstances, but we hope this service will enable them to access the support they need. It may feel strange to begin with, to ‘see’ a therapist in your house, but as the conversation progresses, we believe people are likely to feel comfortable with this and find that it suits them.”
The paid-for service is covered in many cases by a person’s medical insurance.
It’s also easy to use: patients simply download a free app, create an account and fill in their details. Using the code ‘prioryconnect’ when registering, they can then book an appointment for a day, evening or weekend session. Those with medical insurance will need to insert a code from their insurers.
To protect patients and staff, Priory hospitals and Wellbeing Centres are not currently offering face-to-face therapy on an out-patient or day-patient basis. So assessments and therapy can be accessed remotely via the Priory Connect video service and through Skype.
However, inpatient services are still available across Priory’s nationwide network of private healthcare hospitals.
Priory has the largest network of independent mental health hospitals and clinics in the UK.
It has issued some tips to those using tele-therapy for the first time, or just trying therapy for the first time. These include:
Finding a quiet space
If you’re accessing online therapy from home, try and find a quiet space and time that works best for you and your circumstances – this could be in the evenings and at weekends.
You could also consider getting outside for your sessions. If you have somewhere to go that means you’ll still have some peace and quiet, such as a garden, while also following social distancing guidelines, then this may also be a good option for you.
Another thing you can do to block out any background noise is to wear headphones during your sessions. Also, make sure you mute or hide any notifications that may pop up on your phone or tablet or whichever device you’re using for the online therapy, so you’re not distracted.
Treat online therapy like a real face-to-face session
Speaking to a therapist online can feel strange, at least at first. However, by treating your online therapy sessions like physical face-to-face appointments, this can help you to adjust quicker. Don’t hold back during your online sessions – make sure you’re getting things off your chest in the same way you would during a face-to-face session. By allowing yourself to become fully immersed in the session, this can help you to forget any initial strangeness you may feel, and really get the most out of your appointment. Online therapy is also a good way to benefit from some human contact when you’re self-isolating or following social distancing guidelines. This can help you stay connected to the outside world which, in itself, can boost your mood and wellbeing. After all, humans are social beings, so really try to make the most out of this.
It’s completely understandable if you need some time to adjust to the concept of online therapy but remember, your therapist is there to help and guide you during this time and has your best interests at heart.
Use your time online constructively
By committing to only spending time online for helpful reasons such as accessing therapy, doing online exercise, or keeping in touch with loved ones and only one or two news updates a day, from reputable channels, you’ll be able to safeguard your wellbeing during such a difficult time.
Priory’s online therapy service is available for people over the age of 18 years, who need support with their mental health challenges. For further information, and to discuss needs, people can call 0800 188 4195.
There are also a number of helplines that people can access if you're concerned about yourself or a loved one. These helplines and support groups can offer expert advice