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Mental Health Therapy in Masks

Wearing a Mask During Therapy: Clinicians Share Their Insights and Experience

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Posted Under: Insights

Clinically Reviewed by: Amanda Fialk, PhD, LCSW, LICSW

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“What is it really like to offer mental health treatment therapy in a mask?”

This is the very question we asked our team after a few weeks of starting to see our clients back on-site and in-person three days a week as part of our Phase 2 Reentry Plan.

While we all know that non-verbal cues and microexpressions play an important role in psychology and in therapy, social distancing and wearing a mask is part of our new normal.

Here is what our team had to say:

It was an adjustment, but you adapt pretty quickly

There was most definitely an adjustment period, but most team members and clients adapted quickly to wearing masks during therapy and have been viewing it as a necessary part of being able to be together, safely, in-person.

As with most tasks these days – it’s getting used to a new normal!  At first, it was a different experience not being able to communicate with some facial expressions – but much more can be communicated with eyes than I initially realized.  I find that wearing a mask does not interfere with connection during sessions – if anything it provides new space to be authentically connected to each other.  We are all wearing masks in sessions in order to keep each other safe.”Dorm Clinician

It’s been pretty good since we are all going through it together. It teaches adaptability.” Dorm Clinician

It’s been so nice to have some face-to-face contact in delivering services that the mask, for me, feels like a small price to pay.Dorm Clinician

 “I was apprehensive that it would be difficult not to see everyone’s full faces, but I got used to it pretty quickly, especially with clients I already know and with whom I have experience interpreting their tone of voice and body posture along with their facial expressions.  I am glad to be back in the same room with clients so that we’re experiencing the same environment, and we can all use the full range of nonverbal communication skills that are more difficult to sense over Zoom.  At the same time, it’s super-helpful to have a combination of video and in-person, especially for new clients, so I can get a sense of the relationship between facial expressions below the eyes and other ways of expressing mood and emotions.” Dorm Clinician

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“Once in a while, it might make sense to do just a phone call, since our lives have migrated so much to screen right now. I’ve really enjoyed starting a session with video chat to briefly see each other and then going to the phone.”Dorm Clinician

Introducing Some Fun Is Important!

Many of our team members (and clients!) have found ways to keep the experience fun and playful (i.e. personalization; trying our new colors or styles).

“We’re all learning our personal preferences!  I encourage people to try different masks styles and find the parts of the masks that they find most comfortable – ear loops vs straps, cotton vs. paper, filter vs no filter – there are actually tons of adjustments we can make to help find our fit.” – Dorm Clinician

Try out different types of masks! Get creative! Add your personality into your masks.” Dorm Clinician

Wearing a Mask During Therapy Can Become Part Of The Therapeutic Process

When done right, wearing a mask during therapy can successfully become an extension of the therapeutic process.

It encourages clients to find new ways of expressing themselves, naming and being descriptive about their emotions and feelings; a powerful emotional literacy skill that will benefit them today and in life”. – Amanda Fialk, PhD, LCSW, LICSW

 “Acknowledging the mask and engaging with clients about their experience wearing the mask overall makes [therapeutic] sessions more genuine.” Dorm Clinician

“Validating a client’s experience with the change is important. It’s a great opportunity to work on overcoming a challenge together — just like in life, we never know what hurdles we’ll have to face. Gaining the confidence that these challenges can be overcome is important. This is also a good opportunity to practice flexibility, open-mindedness, and to challenge perfectionism.”Dorm Clinician

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