Tyger Latham Psy.D.
How Therapists Can Take COVID-19 Seriously
How therapists can begin protecting their patients.
Posted March 17, 2020 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
It’s been years since I’ve written a blog post for Psychology Today, but I’ve decided to resurrect this blog to communicate with as many of you as I can about the current public health crisis. To remain silent and continue to hide in our consulting rooms (using hand-sanitizer in between sessions) is irresponsible and places our patients’ health in jeopardy.
I admit, until this weekend, I was dismissive of those medical experts warning us about the threat of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) and its exponential transmission. But then it dawned on me—I’m a psychologist, not an epidemiologist, and what I don’t know about the subject of disease control could fill volumes. So, over the last 48 hours, I have been educating myself about the coronavirus, and although I still feel woefully ill-equipped to comprehend it, what is clear to me is we need to be modeling social responsibility for our patients and colleagues.
It is no longer acceptable to be in denial about this health crisis, as our patients are looking to us for information and guidance during these uncertain times. It is with that in mind that I implore all of you to immediately suspend your in-person work and make alternative arrangements with your patients to provide therapeutic services and continuity of care.
Below is the email I sent to my patients earlier this week. Feel free to appropriate any or all of it as you communicate with your own patients.
Take care, and please be safe—you and your patients’ health depend on it.
Dear [Insert Patient’s Name]:
I wanted to follow-up on the email I sent to you last week. I have continued to monitor the public health crisis known as COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), and in light of recent research being reported out of Asia, Europe, and now the United States, I am advising, as a precaution, we suspend meeting in person for the foreseeable future so as to minimize the spread of the virus.
This decision has not been made lightly, and I appreciate how it could be disruptive to our work together. However, as I noted in my previous email, I continue to be available to you during this time of increased anxiety and uncertainty—something with which we are all grappling. Assuming you are open to the idea, I propose we continue working together either by phone or video-conferencing. Please let me know if this is of interest to you, and we can discuss your specific needs and those options available.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remains the most accurate and up-to-date resource regarding coronavirus in the United States.
I, too, will be continuing to monitor the situation but encourage you to reach out to me should you have any questions about our work together.