Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Some readers might think this is too soon, but I feel compelled to describe some changes I have made due to the pandemic that I am grateful for and will be continuing even after it's over.
There is a restaurant near us that I went to during a lull in new cases that was handing out bags of popcorn at the host station rather than letting people scoop it for themselves. It occurred to me that before the pandemic, popcorn was getting scooped by at least one, and probably more filthy hands before it was going into mouths. I'm not a huge fan of popcorn, but I open the bathroom door in my office building to exit the bathroom. The bathroom door is also probably touched by filthy hands. In the days when we thought COVID was transmitted easily and readily through touching surfaces, I started using a paper towel to touch doorknobs and bathroom door handles. I am definitely going to continue using a paper towel to exit the bathroom and think about the other filthy surfaces I am touching.
After one of my children developed a breathing issue a couple of years ago, I researched how to reduce breathing distress. I found that active air filtration and humidification (especially during the winter) can dramatically reduce particulates and other airborne particles that cause breathing distress and sickness. Come to find out, air filtration is a way to reduce the risk of COVID transmission. Cold and flu viruses can also be reduced through air filtration. A local school near us budgeted an upgrade to their HVAC system for the sake of reducing the school population's exposure to colds and flu, and COVID gave them a good reason to fast-track the upgrade. I, too, upgraded the air purifier in my office, for under $100, to one that filters all the air five times an hour through a HEPA filter. Even after this pandemic is over, I will be doing my part to reduce airborne illness risk through air filtration, especially for my family and clients.
I started using telehealth, and specifically encrypted videoconferencing, to provide therapy about 10 years ago. I was living in San Francisco, and traffic was a huge problem. People drove an hour or more to see me for 50 minutes and then an hour or more back home. Telehealth made sense as well for busy people who wanted to meet with me on their lunch break. When the pandemic hit, it was a simple thing for me to be 100% remote, even from a home office. In that time, I have upgraded equipment and developed protocol to help meet my clients' needs and the demands of the pandemic (and my own mental health). Just this morning, I came in from walking the dog, and my wife was hanging up the phone. She said she just finished a routine checkup for my child with the pediatrician. That was an appointment that, a year ago, we would have had to fit into our schedule by changing my work schedule, packing up the reluctant and anxious child, driving to the office, and sitting in a waiting room. You know the drill. The whole thing was done in the time it took me to walk the dog. The health and mental health industries, traditionally reluctant to accept change, have been forced to adopt telehealth, and I think our society is better for it. I hope patients and clients continue to ask for telehealth services, even when they can attend in person because it benefits them somehow. I will continue to offer and develop telehealth options to help my clients achieve good mental health.