From doctors and nurses to emergency medical technicians and first responders, health workers are the true heroes in the fight against COVID-19. Working around the clock ever since the first wave of the pandemic took the UK by storm in March, most health workers have dealt with huge levels of pressure that ultimately took a toll on their physical and emotional wellbeing. According to recent HSE data, work-related stress, depression, and anxiety have peaked among NHS workers, who are now at risk of developing burnout and even PTSD. If being a doctor or nurse was stressful before, COVID-19 has pushed the public health system to the limit, causing additional problems such as lack of sufficient PPE, overtime, having to make difficult choices, and dealing with difficult family members.
Young health professionals seem to be the most affected; according to a YouGov poll, 71% of young workers have reported that their mental health has deteriorated. The UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research has already expressed their concerns that health workers do not receive enough support when dealing with the mental challenges of the pandemic. At present, doctors and nurses can access various online resources to better manage stress and prevent burnout, and they are encouraged to seek professional therapy services for long-term results.
However, even if health workers understand the importance of finding mental health support, going to therapy can still feel like a challenge, and addressing these obstacles is essential if we want to help them overcome this stressful period.
Finding a therapist who understands the challenges faced by health workers
Like other doctors, psychotherapists can specialise in different areas. And, as a health worker, going to someone who hasn’t had doctor patients before can feel a bit awkward: does that person understand the challenges you face on a daily basis and can they really recommend a solution that works for you? Fortunately, finding a specialist is much easier now than it was in the past because you can use the Internet to filter mental health providers and choose one that has worked with doctors before.
Keep in mind that finding the best therapist is a deeply personal process, and you might have to change therapists several times until you find the right one. That’s perfectly normal, and it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. Just because your friend recommended a counsellor who helped them go through their divorce, that doesn’t guarantee they will be right for you. For best results, you can start your search by looking specifically for therapists who have had clients in the medical field.
Lack of time and distance concerns
Traditionally, therapy takes place in an office, which can be all the way across town. Doctors were known for having extremely busy jobs even before the pandemic, but now, even that extra hour per week can be too much. Since the pandemic started, most doctors have had to work overtime, at the weekends, and weren’t able to go on paid leave, so finding time to go to therapy can be almost impossible – especially when family duties also come into play.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem: online therapy. Although it became more popular when therapist offices had to close down in spring because of the lockdown, many people continued going to online therapy sessions because it was more comfortable. Apart from the fact that you’re in the comfort of your home, which might encourage you to open up more, you no longer need to worry about wasting an hour in traffic or finding a parking spot. All you need is one hour alone, and a device with a good Internet connection.
Keep in mind that the role of therapy isn’t to depend on it. It’s to develop healthy coping habits and a positive outlook so that you can build mental resilience and cope with all the challenges by yourself.
Privacy and stigma
Although mental health doesn’t get as much stigma as it got in the past, and people are much more open about going to therapy, to some, it still doesn’t come easy. And that can prevent them from seeking the help they need.
If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, you don’t have to go through it alone. Feeling under pressure and experiencing anxiety, depression, and burnout doesn’t mean you are weak. It is a normal reaction, and it can be treated just like any other health concern. And if it’s the public perception that’s keeping you from reaching out, online therapy can again be a great solution. If you can make room for one hour in your schedule, no one will know you are talking to a therapist and having the session in the comfort of your home can also help you overcome the initial awkwardness that often comes with therapy. Needless to say, the sessions are completely private, and your therapist will respect your confidentiality.
One hour a week can feel like too little
The average person goes to therapy for one hour per week. But those 60 minutes might not feel enough, especially during the first sessions, when you’re getting familiar with your therapist and them with you. For the average person, it takes about 15 minutes to get into “therapy mode” and feel comfortable discussing their concerns.
It takes time to tell if therapy is working, and you should be patient. At first, you might not feel that the therapist understands you, and you might feel tempted to give up after a few sessions. The majority of clients say they feel better after three months, even longer when dealing with more severe cases of anxiety and depression, so don’t quit right away. No two clients are the same, and you shouldn’t worry about fitting the template. Besides, if you are getting results from therapy, but feel that one hour a week isn’t enough compared to the level of stress you are exposed to, you can always ask your therapist to extend the sessions or meet several times per week.