Current Precautions in Dr. Michael’s Office for COVID-19 (revised 7/8/2020)

My previous, late June 2020 policy is below for reference. However, after further thought and monitoring of the apparent rate of increase of COVID-19 cases in California, I have rethought this.

In my private Claremont office, for now I will be offering only online or telephone services except for unanticipated, emergent situations in which in-person assessment is needed.

Please see my corresponding service page; there is evidence that, in many cases, online or telephone psychotherapy / counseling is quite effective for clients. It can also be more convenient.

Note: During the time I was briefly open for in-person sessions, correct masking was done and distances were 6-feet (closer to 7) between me and any client. I also had other protective practices in place.

Regarding this new change back to offering only distance services in my private office, there are some concerns that led to it:

  • If there is a positive test result for someone in my office–or other evidence that someone coming to my office had / has COVID-19–contact tracers must be cooperated with. That means I might have to give the names of all individuals who have been to my office in a given time frame. While that would not be my ‘fault’, it could threaten an important aspect of psychotherapy / counseling: near-total privacy.
  • Utilization of PPE, even the basic mask only, is challenging for the work of psychotherapy, in my opinion. It is not conducive to a feeling of physical ease and freedom, including for me. However, currently the mask is required for doing business in-person.
  • I cannot protect you from any poor decisions / episodes of negligence of other persons in my office building / complex.

I know there are some objections to purely distance practice, and I address three of them below:

‘I Need to Get Out of the House’

If you are a new client and feel like there is nowhere private to do the work, please reconsider. There is nearly always a way. The most important things are:

  • Pick an area or location where you are truly alone and will not be overheard
  • Pick a place where you have reliable data service, private (password / encrypted) WiFi, reliable phone signal, or a dedicated landline
  • Pick a place that is allowable by law / other rules

‘I Am Trying Not to Tell ____ I Am In Therapy’

Unless it is dangerous to do so, consider being open with loved ones about your needs for psychotherapy / counseling, even if it might provoke discussion. You do not have to tell them what you discuss in therapy, just that you need it. This often provides the most privacy and comfort, because there is an understanding about what you will do, in what room, at what time.

‘What If My Insurance Refuses to Pay / Keep Paying for Distance Work Because We Have ‘Opened’?’

I would hope that would not happen and it might be rather short-sighted of them. I am not an insurance-driven practice. At most, I provide you with superbills to give to your insurance if you have out-of-network benefits. That said, if your insurance company does discontinue the option for distance work, please talk with me about other arrangements and ways to continue your very important psychological care.

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Previous policy of 6/28/2020:

I am open for in-person sessions, but for the safety of you, your loved ones, other clients, other occupants of the office complex, my loved ones, and me, I prefer distance (online or telephone) sessions. We can discuss various pros and cons, on a case-by-case basis, regarding coming to the office in person or not.

Every day before beginning work and at mid-day, I will be taking my temperature. I will also be screening myself for a strong, frequent cough, heavy fatigue, or shortness of breath. If my temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I will cancel or make online / telephone arrangements, be tested for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and await results, before continuing in-person appointments. If I have any of the other noted symptoms, I will take the same actions. I may also test myself without suspecting any serious symptoms.

I am asking clients to take their temperature before each session and take stock of the same symptoms (strong cough, heavy fatigue, or shortness of breath). If you forgot and you will allow me, I will use a no-touch digital thermometer and ask the questions. Though I cannot require that you be tested, I can require distance sessions instead of in-person.

I am maintaining 6’+ distance between me and clients. I ask you do the same, including between any other clients or other office inhabitants you might encounter in the waiting area. I am doing my best to instruct and schedule so that extra-session, person-to-person encounters will be minimal.

Currently, masks are required for doing in-person business in Claremont and I am requiring them in-office. If you do not have a mask, I will ask you to wait while I get you one (if stocked).

Touch will not be employed purposefully or allowed, except for provision of physical safety, accidental touch, etc. If we touch accidentally or otherwise, we will both sanitize hands.

I will be washing my hands or using hand sanitizer between each in-person session and at CDC-recommended times.

In the therapy room, I have a plastic couch cover, covered by soft disposable pads. I change the pads with each client, and I sanitize the plastic cover at least once for each in-office day.

I ask that clients not touch surfaces or objects in the office or waiting area, except to sit. You can of course touch your side table and the couch in the therapy office. If you touch any other things, sanitize your hands.

I use electronic medical records and billing / payment. There should be little need to touch objects.

Please do not venture into any office suite area except for the waiting area and my individual office.

I have a consent form for in-person therapy / counseling that I am having in-person clients sign beginning 6/30/2020. It gives more details about procedures, responsibilities, when I might need to contact health authorities, etc.

Thank you for your understanding and for your best adherence to these procedures.