When Nicole Glover moved her mental health practice to virtual sessions due to COVID-19, she initially got some pushback from patients. The professional counselor had been using video conferencing for some meetings and group sessions she and her team couldn’t do face to face. But like other counselors, she mostly met her patients in her office.
“So when we shifted to virtual counseling, some were saying, ‘I’m uncomfortable with this,’ or ‘I don’t want you to see what’s in my background,’” says the New Jersey–based practitioner. “Once they knew how to work out things on the BlueJeans platform, we got heightened behavior, with some saying, ‘I’m sitting in the dark and I don’t want to turn on the lights.’”
That went on for the first 30 days, according to Glover.
Losing the ability to connect with patients in person was also hard for her at the start. She had always worked with clients directly in her private practice at Restoring PEACES, LLC and as a clinical supervisor to a women’s program at a medical institution, enabling her to observe them personally.
But with BlueJeans Meetings in place — and some early planning — Glover and her team quickly adjusted to their new setup and started getting patients on board.
“As soon as the government said we were going on lockdown, I decided BlueJeans was the way to go for my private practice. So, I enhanced my account, got extra rooms for my therapists, and we just hit the ground running.”
It also helped that BlueJeans was already compliant with the United States’ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Counselors like Glover must run their virtual therapy using a platform or app that meets the government’s medical privacy rule.
“Choosing to step up our use of BlueJeans was a no-brainer then,” she says. “We were already familiar with the platform and were really happy with its ease of access.”
Embracing Virtual Therapy
Once patients warmed up to their new setup, the response was great, according to Glover. She found virtual sessions to be just as effective as therapy delivered in person.
“When everybody realized that I wasn’t judging anything about their background, that I couldn’t care less if they showed up in their T-shirt or hoodie or pajamas, that I care more about their health, they opened up a lot more,” she says.
Glover also saw firsthand what went on in her patients’ home, compared to just relying on what they told her in face-to-face sessions. “They are comfortable in their own environments, and I think that has helped me to be a better therapist, to provide better treatment to my patients.”
Attendance greatly improved a month after Glover shifted to virtual counseling — hardly anyone has been calling to cancel their appointment since then.
“Nobody misses their 8 am appointment on Saturdays, so I don’t get that extra hour to myself anymore,” she says.
Addressing Patients’ Needs
For Glover’s team, the ability to split its trauma and dialectical behavior therapy groups into different breakout rooms has made managing sessions effortless. It has allowed the team to run multiple group sessions at the same time while ensuring it meets everyone’s needs. This has become more important as the sizes of these groups grow.
To engage patients during sessions, Meeting Chat is the team’s go-to feature. Therapists use it to share videos, article links, and instructions for activities such as mindfulness exercises.
“I think having the ease of organizing group sessions and keeping track of all these BlueJeans rooms and the number of participants has made our work with clients a lot better,” says Glover. “And the way we can easily schedule meetings and email invitations, lock a call, and do so many other things on the platform — it has made our job a lot easier.”
Thanks in part to the ease of setting up and running sessions, Glover has expanded Restoring PEACES’ services beyond the nearby community. The practice nearly doubled its number of clients from 35 to 62 in the first two months of providing virtual therapy. Now, it has more than 100 patients, enabling Glover to hire another therapist.
Importantly for Glover, virtual therapy using BlueJeans has let her continue to serve her community at a time when more people need mental health support.
“I’m just so happy to be a part of local businesses that are doing things for people in my community.”
With the success of its virtual counseling, will Restoring PEACES return to a face-to-face practice when the pandemic ends? Or will it do both?
For Glover, there’s no going back to delivering therapy in person. For now, she plans to remain fully virtual in her private practice.
“I don’t have a medical component to my practice, so there won’t be a need for any patient to come in face to face,” she says.
“I really feel virtual can be the way for therapy moving forward, that we can provide the comfort of therapy in people’s relaxed environments, if they have them,” she adds. “If they have tumultuous environments, then we can see that firsthand and find focused solutions.”
And to deliver these solutions, Glover plans to continue using the BlueJeans platform.
“I’m not interested in looking elsewhere. I really value the ease of using and joining BlueJeans Meetings, and I’ve recommended it to other people who might benefit from it.”