As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, we've been practicing mass social distancing for only a couple of weeks. Doesn't it feel much longer than that? It may be partly explained by the oddball effect due to the disruption of our normal daily activities. As we settle into new temporary routines, time will feel less slowed down.
Our practice income will likely take a financial hit this year. However, we'll have plenty of opportunities to earn more money in the future, provided that we take care of our health and do our part to help prevent virus spread.
In the meantime, It's important to feel professionally engaged and productive. Here are a few ways to do so. Most of them are unpaid, but they do help others and will maintain your visibility in your community. Then, when social distancing orders are lifted and business eventually resumes, your name will be more likely to come to mind when people need mental health services.
Sign up with an Employee Assistance Program.
If you are in network with insurance, contact the insurers for information on how to become an EAP provider with them. You can also contact businesses and organizations in your state and ask them whether they offer EAP services, and if so, request the vendors' contact information.
Companies may currently be offering EAP counseling remotely via videoconference, which means that you can work with employees who don't live nearby. The pay is typically lower than what you'd earn from therapy, but if you have time to spare, the cash flow will come in handy.
Offer stress management training via webinar
While most workers are staying home, others go out every day, risking infection: hospital staff, law enforcement officers, retail and warehouse employees, and news reporters, just to name a few. These people have been trained in how to minimize their risk of virus infection, but many of them also feel stressed and highly anxious, both on the job and at home.
Consider offering a webinar (or series of webinars) to help workers manage their stress and anxiety, get better sleep, etc. Include question and answer segments. Not only is Q&A more interactive, but it also addresses issues that are relevant and important to the audience.
It would be a great investment of your time to offer such services at no cost. You will benefit from the satisfaction of sharing your expertise with people who appreciate it, and it may also open the door to paid training in the future.
Write for your target audience
Your expertise in helping people cope is needed more than ever. Write brief articles and post them on your website or blog. Here are a couple of examples:
- Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco: Tips For Caring For Your Mental Health During a Pandemic
- Dr. Gail Post: Brave New Compassionate World
If you don't want to start writing from scratch, you can copy/paste content from government agencies, such as CDC and NIMH. Articles from these sources are in the public domain, and are therefore free of copyright restrictions.
The best way to use this public domain content is to write it in your own style and for your own target audience - the types of people you want to help professionally in your practice.
Thus, for example, if you work with couples, write about issues that they may be facing during this period of social distancing, using relevant material from government sources, along with your own ideas and examples that resonate with your audience. Similarly, if you specialize in treating people with medical illness, write about their challenges and suggestions for coping, using a combination of pre-written public domain material and your own point of view.
Connect with your target audience through video or audio
Here are 3 examples of videos aimed at helping people cope during the pandemic. They are presented in different styles, but each has its unique appeal. For example, in the first one, the NHS doctor is just speaking into the camera with no props, but she comes across as warm and sincere.
- Dr. Radha Modgil: How to deal with self isolation
- Kati Morton, LMFT: Dealing with coronavirus anxiety
- Emma McAdam, LFMT: Coronavirus Anxiety and Your Ancient Brain: 10 Skills to Manage Anxiety when the News is Scary
Your video will reflect your style. It need not be as long as the above examples. You can say a lot in 3 minutes or less, and your video will more likely be viewed in its entirety.
In many ways, audio is easier to create than video. You can do a podcast of multiple episodes with a mental health focus on the pandemic, which is different from the physical health focus of podcasts by news organizations.
In your podcast you can present tips, as in the videos above, but in audio format. Or you might consider interviewing people in your community - somewhat like a news reporter - asking them to describe some of their challenges or things they are doing to cope during the pandemic. As part of the conversation, you can explain the social or psychological dynamics behind the coping skills.
For the latter, you should get written permission from interviewees to record their voice, and also their written approval of the final recording. For ethical reasons, you should not interview current or past clients.
Start an email list and invite people to sign up.
Use your email list to send messages with general content that relates to what your subscribers might need to help cope during the pandemic - stress management tips, inspirational quotes, affirmations, and the like.
For sending out messages, consider using a service like Mailchimp, rather than your personal email. Mailchimp offers a free mailing list for up to 2,000 subscribers. They can sign up through an online form, or you can add people manually. You can personalize the messages with each subscriber's name, and the automation features enable you to pre-load messages to be sent on specific dates or at specific intervals.
Keep the messages brief, and send them out on a regular basis - once or twice per week.
When the pandemic is eventually under control, you can continue to build your email list and send out helpful information related to your areas of professional interest and expertise.
Curate MH advice and other content for your audience
There is already plenty of information out there on coping with the coronavirus from a mental health standpoint. Thus, if you are not inclined to write or create videos or podcasts, you can do your audience a huge favor by hand-picking the best resources for their needs. In this way, you will build your platform as a knowledgeable, trusted expert.
Start a resource page on your website or blog, organizing links into categories. You can also stream some of the helpful youtube videos and podcasts through your site, so that your web visitors don't have to click back and forth.
Use your social media accounts to post individual links to the resources and to your website page where you have aggregated them.
All the above activities, plus others that you can think of, will keep you mentally sharp and professionally visible while helping your community. As business and commerce resumes, you will be well positioned to notice new opportunities for your mental health practice.