Now that Virginia is in Phase 2 of reopening, we are testing the waters for in-person group therapy sessions. There was a debate among the clinical team as to which scenario would beat out the other in popularity: an intimate group in which you can’t see anyone’s face or a distanced group that is not masked.
In the battle between face masks and computer screens there are certainly pros and cons for each position. In person you gain a level of closeness and intimacy that is not the same on a telehealth platform. Face masks must be required in-person which is uncomfortable and blocks facial expressions, but you gain the richness of body language. Group on the computer provides a level of safety and comfort in which you don’t have to confront any fears about potentially exposing yourself to COVID19.
The only way to find out which service would prevail was to select a group of seasoned clients to meet in-person for group. We turned to our Aftercare group whose membership consists of individuals who have a bit more sobriety under their belt and have been in our long-term continuum of care for a considerable amount of time. Of our aftercare clients we knew that not all would feel safe or be appropriate for an in-person group (high-risk individuals or individuals who work in high-risk careers), so we offered both options.
We sent our protocols out to those clients that chose to join us at our facility for Aftercare. As soon as a client walks in the building they must be wearing a mask that remains on until they exit. Their temperature is immediately taken and they are asked to fill out a screening questionnaire to rule out any exposure concerns. The client is asked to provide a urine screen and then wash their hands thoroughly. Luckily, our new facility provides plenty of space for the group to practice appropriate social distancing.
And the verdict is?
Face masks for the win! It turns out that the discomfort, and possible awkwardness in the beginning, of wearing a face mask for group is still highly preferred over attending group on the computer. These BTG veterans expressed how hard it would have been to only have telehealth as an option in early recovery. They also shared that the face mask is doable for the hour and a half Aftercare group, but it would be a real struggle for a full eight hour day.
With this feedback we are working on opening up more in-person groups. The focus here would be to provide another option for our clients who have been living at home and attending virtually. Those clients that have weathered this storm in our sober living house have had community around them. We will continue a blend of Telehealth and live sessions as we move forward with safety as the number one priority for both clients and staff. We cannot wait to get back to our full-service program once it is safe to do so!
What would be your preference? Face mask or computer screen? If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, please reach out to us today.