By Dr. Natalie Sergent
As psychologists, we often talk about “meeting people where they are" in terms of our therapeutic work with them. This has traditionally meant respecting where an individual is currently at with their desire for change, their current needs and struggles and their life journey in general. It means putting aside our own expectations for their skillset, level of motivation and speed of progress. However, more recently in the mental health field, we have taken this saying and have started to apply it to meeting people where they are physically located.
Over the past three years, psychotherapy has evolved from only taking place within the confines of a therapist's office to being able to take place within the comfort of one's own home via telehealth. Telehealth has allowed therapy to survive, and even thrive, in the midst of the pandemic, and it has opened up a new world of opportunity for patients who may have previously avoided therapy due to the anxiety of stepping into a behavioral health facility. In addition, the rise of integrated behavioral health partnerships (often in the form of co-locating a therapist within a primary care office) has opened additional doors to mental health treatment by pairing therapy with the benign idea of “going to the doctor." Research has shown a dramatic increase in mental health struggles since the start of the pandemic, and through embracing telehealth and integrated behavioral health opportunities, we have increased our capacity to serve the community and those in need and have aided in decreasing the stigma behind seeking mental health treatment.
In an effort to increase our community engagement and outreach, Boys Town's Behavioral Health Clinic in Washington, DC has embraced both of these treatment options, as we have been providing telehealth services and engaging in integrated behavioral health partnerships throughout the last several years. We currently serve three pediatric offices in Northern Virginia, as well as two pediatric practices in Maryland, providing therapy services to their patients both virtually and in-person. We have also continued to offer both in-person and telehealth appointments for the patients of our main clinic in Northeast Washington, DC. While we currently have three of our six providers engaged in integrated behavioral health work, the clinic has a goal to establish our remaining providers in pediatric offices throughout the rest of 2023. We have experienced strong success with our initial integrated behavioral health partnerships, and we look forward to continuing to build our community relationships and presence in the coming months and years.
Dr. Natalie Sergent (left), Director of the Boys Town Washington DC Behavioral Health Clinic, with Dr. Maiya Clark, owner and pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics in Silver Spring, MD. Sunshine Pediatrics is one of our five current integrated behavioral health partner sites, providing us with greater ability to serve the local community and aiding us in decreasing the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.