Adapting mental health services to the COVID-19 pandemic: reflections from professionals in four countries
Couns. Psychol. Q.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the lives of a majority of the world’s population. People have been encouraged to implement social distancing behaviors enforced by governments, and have experienced loss of employment or changes to their usual working environment. In the mental health sector, psychologists and psychiatrists have been forced to alter the standard care of patients without compromising safety. This article documents the experiences of the authors–mental health professionals in four countries, Canada, Russia, Australia and Japan–at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers recommendations on how clinical, training, and research practices may need to be adjusted to deal with lockdown situations. Clinicians adapted their usual best practices by learning new skills and updating their knowledge base. Mental health clinicians noticed that the pandemic led to symptomatic changes in some of their patients. Most clinicians moved towards providing telemental health services, such as conducting assessments and treatments remotely. Those who continued seeing patients in person employed personal protective equipment with various impacts on the clinician–patient relationship. The dilemmas of mass quarantines need to be carefully examined, as their effects on numerous health and psychosocial variables appear to be far-reaching.