Currently, I am working with all of my clients over the telephone. This is because the risk of COVID virus and associated respiratory conditions in New Mexico continues to be uncertain.
On March 23, 2020, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a public health emergency order requiring the closure of all non-essential businesses. On behalf of the Grisham administration, Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel issued the order requiring New Mexicans to shelter in place, undertaking “only those outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety, or welfare.”
This order was designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our state. “The only way for us to stop the spread of this virus is for New Mexicans to stop interacting with each other,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. “Only by distancing from one another, by remaining home except for essential or emergency travel, can we limit the spread of this virus to the point that it does not overwhelm New Mexico.” The governor’s emergency health order was aligned with major epidemiological recommendations from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control.
With the future impact of the COVID-19 virus and its variants still uncertain over two years later, I believe that it is important that we continue to support the governor’s strategic approach. Our safety may be at stake. Unfortunately, this requires temporarily curtailing face-to-face meetings in my psychotherapy practice.
At the same time, I recognize the importance of the availability of continued psychotherapeutic treatment. The stress of the pandemic raises anxiety for all of us. It imposes limitations on our economic welfare and our social mobility. The heightened risk of anxiety and depression can be a threat to our mental health and our immune system function. “During this crisis,” notes Joel Miller, the Executive Director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, “[counselors] are on the frontlines providing critically important treatments and services to vulnerable Americans.”
In order to comply with the governor’s emergency health orders and to provide psychotherapeutic support for my clients during the COVID-19 crisis, I am conducting counseling sessions on the telephone. This approach has been suggested by one of the New Mexico state boards under which I hold a license to practice.
"During this extraordinary situation as New Mexico addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Mexico Board of Psychologist Examiners . . . supports licensed practitioners’ use of alternative means to provide expanded care options . . . . The delivery of health care via telehealth is recognized and encouraged as a safe, practical and necessary practice in New Mexico . . . . Therefore, the use of electronic means – internet, email, texting, telephone – to access and provide responsible care to any patient in New Mexico during the COVID-19 Emergency as declared by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is encouraged."
I have established an unlisted phone line for telehealth sessions. On the phone, we can conduct our work much as we might in a face-to-face session. Because services are delivered on a private phone line, our conversation is as confidential as a typical office visit. Payments for services can be mailed to the following address:
Sam Shaffer, Ph.D.
PO Box 22597
Santa Fe, NM 87502-2597
I know that this way of working is a departure from the usual routine, but I have found that telephone sessions can be very supportive and effective. Let us hope that the pandemic necessitating this adjustment comes to an end for all of us across the globe before too long.