The Central Wyoming Counseling Center offers a variety of services to Wyoming residents, including Outpatient Behavioral Health, Intensive Outpatient Treatment, Addiction Treatment, and more.
One of CWCC’s newest innovations is that of their Telehealth Services.
CWCC offers treatment and support services via a secure virtual environment. Their telehealth counseling option allows clients to receive or continue group-based and/or individual treatment without the need for an in-person visit.
“It’s new to us,” said Deb Phinney, the Director of Telehealth Services with CWCC. “In the last few months, we’ve been doing telehealth video-to-video through a secured platform. I have one therapist who is doing about three days a week of telehealth conferences. And what it’s doing is, it’s allowing us to have a little more flexibility in our hours, in our availability. We’re not going to be limited to the 8am-5pm brick and mortar timeframe.”
The telehealth program is convenient, for both clients and for therapists.
“Scheduling is a little bit easier with Telehealth, because the therapist actually does their own scheduling,” Phinney said. “So, it’s just more convenient and, at times, it can be more comfortable for the client. It’s easier access, because the client does not have to leave home or they can find a secure place at work or somewhere else where they have privacy. Plus, it eliminates the travel time.”
Phinney said CWCC started planning for this service during the summer, even going so far as to create a therapist position that would focus strictly on telehealth therapy. This is one of CWCC’s newest additions, and Phinney hopes that it will remain a fixture of CWCC’s services for the foreseeable future.
“I would like to have the access for our clients be much easier, so that they can get the services they need,” she stated. “The flexibility of having telehealth, in-person meetings, and a combination of both are very important. I think that in-person, face-to-face [communication] is still very important in the therapeutic process but there are barriers for people.”
Those barriers depend on the client, and on the day. Living in Wyoming, weather is constantly an issue to consider. So, too, still, is the issue of COVID-19. Both of these factors and a myriad of others can make it hard for a client to participate in in-person meetings, so the telehealth service exists to ensure that clients still get the help they need, when they need it.
CWCC would also like to utilize telehealth services for group therapy.
“I would really like to see a healthy hybrid mix of both the traditional, face-to-face, in-person therapy and telehealth access,” Phinney said. “I would also like to see some of our groups on a telehealth platform. I’d like our groups to have the same access. It’s much easier for someone to come to a group wherever they’re at, as long as there’s privacy. Rather than having to leave, get in their car, come up here for a group, and then go home. In terms of travel time, for some people, it’s pretty significant. Casper’s not big, but it still takes you 20 minutes to get from one side of town to the other. So, you’re cutting the client’s time down by eliminating that travel.”
Part of the introduction of these telehealth services is to further combat the stigma surrounding mental health and, more importantly, “asking for help.” For some people, it’s hard to ask for help from somebody face-to-face; to admit to somebody, in person, that you’re struggling.
This is especially true if you’re a young person.
Central Wyoming Counseling Center realizes this, and is working with the Natrona County School District, as well as a multitude of other community partners, to combat the stigma of mental health and to let people know, regardless of their age or position in life, that it’s okay to not be okay.
“We’re very heavily-based in school programs,” Phinney said. “With the different grants that we have that are all telehealth, we’re partnering with the school districts to do some activities that bring awareness to mental health and decrease the stigma. We’re in the process of putting together an alumni chapter for substance use; for anyone that has completed substance use treatment. It’s not just a focus on substance abuse; it’s also about mental health. We have dual diagnosis groups up and running again.”
That’s not all they’re doing, however. And the school district isn’t the only community partner they’re working with who will be utilizing telehealth services.
“We’re partnering with the Iris Clubhouse as well,” Phinney offered. “We’re involved in the community and leading the community movement to link different entities and facilities to offer more wraparound access for people. We’re working with the jails now, specifically for mental health, so that we can help those people who are incarcerated. I see us building access with some of these avenues that didn’t have access before we began using telehealth.”
Phinney stated that this is still a new program, and there are still some kinks to work out. Some people, for example, don’t have access to the technology needed for telehealth services. For now, however, clients can even come to CWCC and use their computers to participate in telehealth. CWCC is working on other solutions as well.
Asking for help is hard, sometimes. Some people are overcome with anxiety when surrounded by new people. These telehealth services are designed to help quell that anxiety; to give people an opportunity to reach out for help without even having to leave their homes.
“Help is at their fingertips,” Phinney said. “We have everything set up, including our intake paperwork, which can actually be emailed. We have a DocuSign capability, where clients can fill everything out and email it back to us. Really, from the start, it can all be done online. So, help really is at the tips of their fingers.”