Written by: Keelan Quin, PhD - Co-Chair, Communication and Technology Committee | Bailey C. Bryant, PhD
Using Survey Results to Inform Decisions- Dr. Keelan Quinn
Since March of 2020, the United States has been completely turned upside down with the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. A state of emergency was issued and quarantines were put in place. Social gatherings were canceled and many common household items were sold out and became unavailable. Unsurprisingly, our field of psychology was also deeply impacted as so many of us were expected to work remotely from home using telepsychology. As quarantines began lifting this month, many of us began questioning what we should do in our practices. Should we return to in-person sessions or continue telepsychology? If we do return, how do we remain safe?
Dr. Bailey Bryant, a psychologist in the Cincinnati area, came up with the idea of using an online survey to help her make some of these difficult decisions. She distributed this survey to an online community of clinicians, of which 60 were able to respond. As of May 15, 2020, the majority of clinicians who responded continued seeing clients through telepsychology only. For those who decided not to return to in-person sessions, they indicated they would re-evaluate that choice in a few weeks. Almost all who were returning to the office were making changes to their practices in some way whether in day-to-day practice or in the physical space. There was no consensus regarding the clinicians’ confidence in their decision of whether or not to return to the office. “It is super confusing at best” and “This is SUPER stressful” were two quotes included in survey results to describe this decision-making process. You can see all results as well as many powerful quotes provided by clinicians here.
The use of surveys in the field of psychology is nothing new. For decades, they have provided valuable information for research and evaluations everywhere from universities and hospitals to agencies and private practices. Another way to use surveys in psychology is for clinicians to gather information for decision-making purposes. Below illustrates a detailed account of how Dr. Bailey did just that.
When Are Therapists Returning to the Office? The Results Are In - Dr. Bailey Bryant
I’m a psychologist, a therapist, a practice owner, and a highly confused individual. The past two months were quite the emotional roller coaster as I transitioned my group practice to telehealth overnight. In early March I struggled to make the decision to shift to telehealth due to analysis paralysis and so I did what all healthy adults do- I turned to Facebook (tongue in cheek). I put up a Facebook poll in the Cincinnati Area Therapist Network group and quickly saw the emerging trend of therapists making the call to go to telehealth only. The poll and the comments tipped the scales and gave me the data, support, and confidence to make the shift. Once I decided to transition to telehealth only, and after I brushed up on my telehealth ethics and sent out my consent forms, I breathed a sigh of relief. The next few days were a bit challenging but then I settled in and I have been in front of a computer screen ever since.
Flash forward to today and I find myself again stuck in analysis paralysis. As restrictions are lifting, people are emerging from the shadows and therapists are starting to come out from behind their computer screens. Now I feel more confused than ever. We are allowed to leave our homes and patron businesses, but should we? We can meet with clients in person, but is that safe? How do I proceed in opening my doors to clients? Is it any safer now than it was in March? How do I clean the office? Do I take clients’ temperatures? There is a never-ending thread to pull and my anxious brain is having a heyday finding all the loose strings.
I took the liberty to create another survey asking therapists in the Cincinnati area about their plans for returning to in-person sessions and the precautions they intend to implement. This survey was somewhat more sophisticated than my initial poll and I was shocked when 60 mental health therapists responded. When I viewed the results of my first Facebook poll in early March I felt that I had data to support a decision; I did not have the same experience with this most recent survey as results were divided and there was no consensus. If you review my results here, you will see that the philosophies on our responsibilities as practitioners to prioritize safety also varied widely.
Reactions- Dr. Keelan Quinn
After reviewing the results of Dr. Bryant’s survey, I felt a sense of relief that I am not alone when I ask the question “What do we do?” Like many others (I hope), I am interrogating every professional contact I see with “What are you are doing to stay safe?,” “What do your clients think?,” “Can we get in trouble for returning to the office?,” or “Are people really suing over a public health crisis?” These are scary times, but knowing what others are doing provides reassurance and helps calm my anxiety. I feel better learning from others and hearing examples of what they are doing. Seeing there were are no certainties or perfect answers among the survey results was initially disappointing, but then oddly validating.
Reading the quotes within the survey results was especially powerful. Some discuss interesting ways to meet client needs, while others focus on how some are taking precautions during this COVID-era. Many of the quotes repeated the same worries that cycle through my head using my exact words- Will I lose clients?, Will I have to stop working?, What if I unknowingly contract COVID and pass it along to others?, or Am I being careless by working in the office with those who cannot do telehealth? For someone who always has a plan A, B, and sometimes C, the uncertainty of the world today has been difficult to acknowledge and adjust to. This experience with COVID has been a great life lesson that continues to teach me that I cannot control everything. In the past couple months, I have become more patient, accepting, and, above all else, flexible. Before, I would not have been able to handle the unknown, but with this experience, it is getting a bit easier each and every day. This survey provided me a sense of validation and connection. Knowing I am not alone and that there are no right or wrong answers now was especially comforting.
What I do know as a certainty is that my clients still need services. They are experiencing just as much stress and confusion as we clinicians do, and I refuse to abandon those who have come to depend on their appointments. I am more than happy to focus on what I can control and that is how I provide clinical services. The only thing we can do is think through the options, make an informed decision based on our beliefs and clinical judgment, document, and proceed.
Dr. Bryant has created another survey focusing on how clinicians are making the decision of whether or not to return to in-person services. I imagine the results to that survey will be just as informative and helpful in calming my nerves as the last and I look forward to seeing what comes up. Go here to TAKE THE SURVEY.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and it is intended to assist other clinicians in the practice of psychology. It is not intended for legal, ethical, or medical advice.
Dr. Bailey Bryant is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the Cincinnati area. She the owner of Hello Mental Health and Good Therapy LLC as well as the founder of Health Match 360.