One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is avoiding upsetting situations, people or memories. The desire to avoid is likely even greater during the coronavirus pandemic. Current public health guidance—quarantine, physical distance, limited time with other people—is necessary to control the spread of COVID-19.
But avoidance can actually maintain PTSD symptoms or make them worse. So, if avoidance or other PTSD symptoms begin to increase during the pandemic, it’s important to get help or continue treatment.
Telemental Health and Effective PTSD Treatments
The good news is that effective PTSD treatment is still available. Using telemental health, you can video call with a provider instead of going to their office. It works just like a Facetime or Zoom call you might have with friends or coworkers. You get the same treatments and professional service as a face-to-face appointment.
The biggest difference from an in-person session is that you’ll have to set up your own safe and private therapy environment at home. It’s important that you feel free and open to talk about your trauma, without any distractions. Setting up a good therapy environment in your home can be tricky depending on your situation.
Therapy in Your Home: Common Challenges and Suggestions
Our clinicians have suggestions for dealing with some of the common challenges you may be facing:
1. Challenge: Lack of privacy
Suggestions: Get creative when finding a quiet space
- Consider a basement, garage/shed or your car
- Use a room with a lock if you’re concerned about being interrupted
- Play white noise videos on a computer or tablet placed by the door so you won’t be overheard
- Reserve a room at a local library, Veteran Service Organization or other VA location, or another business or partner organization
2. Challenge: Distractions in your environment
Suggestions: Remove as many distractions from the room as possible
- Keep your pets out of the room
- Mute your phone and turn off the TV
- Don’t eat, smoke or do any activities you wouldn’t do at your therapist’s office
3. Challenge: Caring for children
Suggestions: Arrange childcare like you would if you had to go to the VA or a therapist’s office for care
- Ask a family member or friend to care for your children during your session
- Hire childcare – some childcare businesses are providing services virtually if age appropriate
4. Challenge: Protecting private information
Suggestions: VA only uses secure platforms for TMH, but you should work with your provider on how to store your private information between sessions
- Place paperwork in a locked cabinet or drawer, or work with your provider to find another secure storage place.
- Always sign out of your email or My HealtheVet account after communicating with your provider or sending private information.
- If using a treatment companion mobile app, like CPT Coach or PE Coach, be sure to password protect your phone.
5. Challenge: Technology
Suggestions: Your therapist will ask you for an alternate phone number or contact information to reach you in case of a crisis, or to reach you if you lose video connection during a session.
- If you don’t have the proper equipment for telemental health, the VA may be able to help.
- If you’ve reviewed these tips and are still having issues setting up a useful therapy environment, talk to your provider.
- They can help you brainstorm additional solutions for your specific situation.
What About Treatment?
What if you’re not ready to try therapy? Or you can’t fit therapy into your life right now? The National Center for PTSD has resources you can use on your own when you have time. These resources are also helpful if you’re in treatment but want extra support between sessions.
- Use mobile apps, like PTSD Coach and Mindfulness Coach, to manage PTSD symptoms.
- Hear other Veterans and family members share their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment at AboutFace.
- Learn about and compare effective treatment options using the PTSD Treatment Decision Aid.