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The “New Normal:” Re-opening the Office

There is nothing “normal” about the term “new normal” that is being used regarding re-opening our community during this unprecedented pandemic. What is “normal” to one person or family, may be “abnormal” to another, as we all begin to venture out, emerge from the “safety”* of our homes (*in quotations as I acknowledge that not everyone was sheltering in an environment that was either safe emotionally and/or physically). Each adult individual must make their own personal choice, and this can be challenging given we still have a lot to learn about this novel Coronavirus. Indeed, individuals within a family and/or home may have different ideas of what getting back to “normal” is. Each person will have their own viewpoint, level of risk tolerance—for themselves and their loved ones—and perceived needs or urgency to re-enter the community and their life activities. It will take a lot of thoughtfulness  and patience to respectfully manage our differences during this process. It is indeed an unusual occurrence in our lifetime that we are so acutely faced with having to balance one’s personal freedoms, with our relational and human ethics, with such potentially serious ramifications.

It is with these principles of personal choice and a commitment to relationship and the well-being of the client(s) and provider that I re-open my office with the following safety precautions in place to best prevent community spread and exposure to the virus:

·      Office seating in the waiting room and in therapy room has been arranged for appropriate physical distancing. 

·     A face shield will be worn by provider and clients are highly encouraged to wear the same or a facial covering (a courtesy face shield will  be provided complimentary upon request for you to keep and use when you come to your in-person office sessions).

·     I will be conscious at all times to maintain a safe, physical distance.

·     Restroom soap dispensers are maintained and everyone is encouraged to wash their hands.

·     Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and a Hepa filter ventilating system are provided in the therapy room.

·     Clients are asked to wait in their cars or outside until no earlier than 5 minutes before their appointment times, and therapist will text when office/waiting room cleared of previous appointment.

·     Pens and other areas that are commonly touched are thoroughly sanitized after each use.

·     Contact-less credit card processing is available, if not paying by check or cash.

·     Tissues and trash bins are easily accessed. Trash is disposed of on a frequent basis.

·     Common areas are thoroughly disinfected routinely.

·     Notification to the provider ahead of time if the client has had a known exposure to someone with the virus or suspected of having the virus within the past 14 days. Provider will offer tele-health if possible, should same conditions apply to themselves. 

·     Notification to the provider ahead of or at the time of the appointment if the client is experiencing any one of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, loss of smell or taste, intestinal malaise, or any other symptoms that have been associated with COVID-19. Provider will offer tele-health if possible, should same conditions apply to themselves.

Upon entering the waiting room, my clients will be asked to read and sign an Informed Consent Form that they understand and will abide by the above office safety guidelines for attending in-person office appointments. 

My clients will always have the choice of attending therapy sessions via tele health—whether they have or have not chosen to return to the office for in-person appointments. I will discuss with my clients the benefits and contraindications of making these decisions based on their unique case circumstances and individual and/or relationship treatment goals. 

I appreciate your cooperation with these re-opening policies as we cannot fully control nor anticipate the full mechanisms of contagion or prevention of a virus that are not yet fully known, and for which treatments and vaccines are not yet available. 

Lastly, I want to say to all of you that there has been a lot of focus, rightfully so, on the heroes in our community—our healthcare and essential workers. I want to acknowledge that each of you, each one of us, has had to get in touch with the brave hero part inside all of us, in some significant way since the onset of this crisis. I want to conclude this by asking you to take a deep, long breath and give yourself a little love for all the difficult choices you’ve had to make during this time, and scary or painful experiences you have faced. 

Stay safe, and see you soon!

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