For many, the government's decision to revert back into lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has presented a lot of questions – one major one being, 'Is face to face therapy still allowed during lockdown?'.
Given that a large number of people currently see a therapist or counsellor for a multitude of important reasons – from dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety to OCD, or coping with a loss – journeying for the services of a therapist can be classed as essential travel (and therefore acceptable within the guidelines).
Currently, the guidelines also state that in-person sessions are able to take place under an exemption for retail businesses who are "providing services relating to mental health".
However, that doesn't necessarily mean all therapists will still be offering face-to-face meetings – many who can switch to working remotely may likely do so. Since the start of pandemic it has become increasingly common for virtual therapy sessions to be offered, either over the phone, a live chat or Zoom.
Therapists and counsellors continuing to operate as 'normal' will still also need to make changes to their environment and ensure it is COVID-19 compliant (they may ask clients to use hand sanitiser before entering their office, for instance, or to wear a protective mask in certain areas of the building).
In its guidance for psychotherapists, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) states: "There is scope for face to face counselling to take place, under the exemptions for retail businesses ‘providing services relating to mental health’. However, workplaces and spaces should follow COVID-secure guidelines."
It adds that support groups of up to fifteen people are also still allowed where it is "reasonably necessary for members of the group to be physically present".
With regards to Wales and Northern Ireland in particular (who have different lockdown measures in place to England and Scotland), it says, "Working face to face appears possible under the guidance, if businesses and individuals implement the necessary precautions."
If you're looking for help with a mental health issue, book an appointment with your GP or a seek out a support service (Mind, a leading mental health charity, can help direct you to a local one) or reach out to a trained professional – the BACP has a therapist directory available on its website.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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