As with many health practitioners in these times of safer-at-home orders, we are constantly asked whether we are still offering mental health services. The answer is definite: “Yes! We are here for you.” We at the Trauma Counseling Center of Los Angeles (TCCLA) are continuing to provide expert trauma therapy and counseling safely through telehealth for individuals, and our services even extend to group therapy sessions and have expanded throughout California.
In early March when COVID-19 social distancing rules for businesses went into effect, TCCLA immediately transitioned to telehealth services almost without skipping a beat. Our ability to rapidly transition was less about any special mastery of technology and more about our team philosophy. Our standard of care has always prioritized patient care and safety above all by creating an environment in which our patients can heal and develop a greater resilience for future life events. As a team, we emphasize proactive and preventative approaches. It is a priority for us to not only support mental health and healing for our patients, but to take into consideration all aspects of your health as we provide treatment.
Our goal from the beginning—long before anyone envisioned a pandemic of this magnitude—has been to continuously develop a neuroscience-based, trauma-informed, and resiliency-focused practice that is driven by real data and committed professionals. We speak plainly about the brain to our patients, revealing the workings of that 3-pound ball of mystery inside of our skulls, and empowering people to heal themselves. It may sound counterintuitive coming from a clinical psychologist with a master’s degree in business administration, but my team’s ultimate goal is “putting ourselves out of business” with our patients.
All of this means that from day one, our clients are given educational and practical tools that put the power of self-healing in their hands to start their journey toward resilience and thriving. So when the safer-at-home order kicked in, our patients were already empowered at home with effective tools to manage their stress and anxiety, and when they were greeted by their trauma team member when everything moved online, they were able to pick up right from where they were on their healing journey.
“How does that work?”
The next question we often get is how do we accomplish this online? To explain that, I need to go into a little detail on how things work in normal times with our team.
In our practice we strive to instill “neurofluency” in our patients, teaching you about the neuroscience behind what is happening in your brain in a gentle, compassionate manner that is relatable and accessible. This education is intended to move you into understanding, empathizing with, and having compassion for the way your past and personal narrative informs what is happening in your life. We introduce you to the concept of neuroplasticity—that the brain is highly malleable and capable of change—which is the foundation of the power of self-healing that all of us have in our hands. And we teach you how to intentionally take advantage of the opportunities in neuroplasticity to make those positive changes.
So, that means our patients are on a journey toward healing the past and building the future. Some are farther along than others. We are already “out of business” with many of them, but they are still on their own journeys, continuing to heal themselves and build further resilience. For those who are still working with our team members, things are a little different in these times, but our principles remain, guiding them in their journey. The biggest differences are that there is a screen between us, and there is a lot more going on out there in the world that may increase their anxiety.
“Telemental Health” and Building Resilience
The concept of receiving care remotely, especially mental health care, may seem new to most of us, but it has been around long before cell phones or personal computers. The Veterans Health Administration—formerly know as the Veterans Administration when I worked within it early in my career—has been doing what they call telemental health in one form or another since 1968. Back then, their telehealth visits were conducted using closed-circuit television. The VHA, by the nature of its patient population, treats a great number of psychological trauma patients, and is considered a pioneer in using telehealth in this arena (Gerber, Elisseou, Sager, & Keith, 2020).
Today our technological options are much greater in telehealth, including not only face-to-face connection platforms like Zoom, but also wearables that track vital signs, and remote electroencephalography equipment, like we use in our at-home neurofeedback programs to train the brain. The technology and practices around trauma-informed telehealth care are likely to continue to improve the care we provide our patients because of their wide acceptance and use given our current situation.
In a study just released in July, authored by five VHA mental health and primary care practitioners, concluded that, “Trauma-informed virtual care has the potential to ensure and even expand continuity of medical care by fostering safe and collaborative interactions between patients and the health care team” Gerber, Elisseou, Sager, & Keith, 2020).
“So, when are you going to open back up?”
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we are naturally receiving inquiries regarding plans for re-opening.
The full answer has a lot of parts, but the simple answer for us is that safety is paramount in that decision. In compliance with the 4-phase plan for re-opening in Los Angeles County, and monitoring news about the transmission of the virus, our team continues to actively evaluate options for creating the best environment in which our patients feel safe and comfortable. Telehealth is a part of all four phases of the plan. While we are looking forward to being back in the office with you, our primary goal is to promote health. We will continue to assess data and follow L.A. County Health officials, CDC, and WHO recommendations in developing our re-opening plan. Currently, the in-office therapeutic environment—with its length of time in an enclosed room and length of time talking, along with other factors—does not provide the safe environment we need to provide.
As L.A. Country clarifies additional details and approves businesses safety to resume operations, we will send out additional information with safety measures outlining how our offices will safely open with global health in mind. For now, we are honored to continue to serve you in the manner that promotes health and safety during this complex time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given our teams at TCCLA and Dr. Kate Truitt & Associates the opportunity to now be in service of all of California through telehealth as we support and heal together. In addition to our telehealth individual and group therapy sessions, take a look at our new community connection, and our groups and programs.
The world has changed, but your healing journey continues. We look forward to healing with you!
Gerber, M. R., Elisseou, S., Sager, Z. S., & Keith, J. A. (2020). Trauma-Informed Telehealth in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond. Federal practitioner: for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS, 37(7), 302–308.
Health Anxiety and COVID with Dr. Kate Truitt
As fears about the Coronavirus continue to rise our minds and bodies are being exposed to a different type of pandemic – stress and anxiety. This video explores a specific type of fear called Health, or Medical, Anxiety and how this type of anxiety is becoming more common place as the experience of the Coronavirus (aka Covid-19) unfolds. Self-Havening is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and increasing resilience.
Self-Havening Guided Meditation to Address Anxiety Around Physical Symptoms
Did you know that our Amygdala has a tiny nucleus in it—the Central Nucleus—that remembers the physiological aspects of trauma? Our Amygdala is so smart that is actually encodes anticipated experiences and, thus, anticipated physical experiences are also remembered. Just as a panic attack frequently feels like a heart attack, today a cough or even feeling “warm” can quickly evolve into a panic of “I have COVID!” Please know, this is your brain simply being a brain. These fear stories are biologically designed to keep us safe even though they often feel quite the opposite. This guided meditation brings together the Self-Havening touch, which creates the electrochemical opposite of a fear state in our brain, and guided work to decrease anxiety and increase relaxation and calm. Fear creates inflammation and self-agency creates resilience. Let’s lean into resilience and empower our brain to have the strength to navigate these uncertain waters.