The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and long-lasting effect on mental health with alarmingly elevated numbers of cases for anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and increased substance abuse. While teletherapy has proven to be beneficial in complying with its ease and compliance with health guidelines, many therapists are considering when to resume in-person therapy and how to address particular questions related to the vaccine. To provide support in response to the ongoing pandemic, AAMFT has compiled a list of resources and an FAQ for marriage and family therapists. View the webpage for this resource, which is part of our full COVID-19 resource page.
When can I begin to see my clients in-person?
Therapists are to exercise their professional judgment in considering reopening their practices. The decision to resume in-person therapy is unique to each therapist's situation. As you begin to consider reopening your practice, please review and update your policies under the most current CDC and state guidelines. The therapist is free to set their own standards on when to resume in-person therapy versus teletherapy.
Can I begin to see my clients without a mask?
Under the current CDC guidelines for face-to-face interactions, fully immunized individuals can meet with other immunized individuals indoors without facemasks or social distancing. Accordingly, facemasks and social distancing is not required for vaccinated therapist and vaccinated clients.
Therapists should still implement procedures for in-person therapy sessions with clients who are not vaccinated at this time. This may include but is not limited to facemasks and social distancing. In all cases, only the clients should enter the premises for in-person therapy.
Please see the current CDC guidelines for face-to-face interactions for fully vaccinated individuals.
Can I see clients who refuse a vaccine?
There is still legal and ethical uncertainty with this question. First, it is important to address the reason for refusing the vaccine. There may be personal, religious, or medical conditions for refusing the vaccine. At this time, there is no legal guidance as to whether this would violate the Americans with Disability Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Federal) or similar state religious exemptions. It is important to listen to your client’s reasons for refusing the vaccine. You may continue teletherapy with unvaccinated individuals if you feel uncomfortable resuming in-person therapy.
May I ask a client if they have been vaccinated?
Yes, a marriage and family therapist may ask a client if they have been vaccinated. A therapist should ask the client in a matter of fact and non-judgmental tone. An accusatory tone will likely result in a defensive answer. An organic and natural conversation will lead to more openness of the client on vaccination plans if the client is not already vaccinated. In most circumstances, therapists should trust their clients to answer honestly on their vaccination status. A therapist may assume that evasive or indirect answers means that a client is not vaccinated and should therefore plan accordingly.
How do I address vaccine hesitancy with my client?
Vaccine hesitancy is an outcome behavior influenced by a multitude of factors. Identifying the barriers and reasons for vaccine hesitancy is necessary to improve the vaccination rates of a given population. Misinformation is commonly spread throughout the internet despite documented empirical evidence. Such misinformation includes but is not limited to: lack of documented and empirical testing, changes to one’s DNA, severe and fatal side effects from the vaccine, and the insertion of microchips into the vaccine.
It is important to remember that every person has a right to question healthcare advice and to voice their own concerns. The essential goal for the therapist is to then identify the core cause for concerns. Listen actively to the client’s question and remember to provide non-judgmental answers. It is important to review answers to common questions for vaccine hesitancy such as: Will this hurt me? How bad are the side effects? Will this even be worth it for me since I am young?
Please remember to answer and address any concerns by the client truthfully and with candor.
Please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing your questions to [email protected]. Resources provided by the Health and Human Services Administration are provided here as well.