There is much more to Ken’s* story than the wonders of telehealth. His is a story of the right therapy, the right therapist and the right relationship they share. Since 2018, when he became a client of Sound Solutions, Sound’s therapy program for individuals living with moderate behavioral health issues, he was engaged in traditional, onsite therapy approximately twice a month.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic struck a year ago, that progress was threatened – but telehealth proved to be timely and necessary.
Since childhood, Ken had been struggling with his own identity and self-esteem, which only worsened due to the struggles his parents (divorced in 1980) were experiencing themselves. His father, in particular, had a powerful influence on his life.
“My Dad was the center of attention, he worked the room,” Ken recalls. “He was bubbly in front of everyone else, but when it was just the family, he was mean; he was a mean drunk, physically, verbally abusive. I guess I would say I was scared of him.”
Ken acknowledges that his father left him feeling disapproved, worthless and rejected. This would be a long standing struggle for Ken throughout his life, ultimately leading to two suicide attempts in 2011 and in 2018. Ken would later be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which affects 6.8 million adults in the US annually.
“When Ken arrived in my office in 2018,” says TomAaron Batterson, his therapist, “the logical outcome of his current circumstances would have been gradual life failure – loss of health, loss of job, loss of housing, loss of credit, and on down the line. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Ken accepted help and trusted the judgement of professionals in his life, more than his own.”
The increased isolation, disconnection and the continual worry about personal safety wrought by the pandemic, though, threatened to derail the progress Ken had been making. But through Sound Solutions telehealth services, Ken has not only continued receiving the care he needed but he actually improved. Ken believes the more frequent meetings through telehealth have been critical: “I’d be worse off if I didn’t have Tom!” he says about the access afforded to him via telehealth.
“Definitely, without a doubt!” Batterson says, when asked if telehealth benefited Ken. “It has allowed Ken to show me parts of his living environment which increases my understanding and awareness of his circumstances. As a result, I was able to converse with him about his living environment in more grounded ways, with realistic detail.”
Through telehealth, the two met weekly, rather than every other week when they were doing onsite visits. In the past year, they met for a total of 42 out the 52 weeks since the Covid lockdown began. Batterson asks thoughtful questions and offers suggestions on ways for Ken to take control of his life, build confidence in himself and emerge into a sense of hope. Ken clearly has appreciated the sessions and the more frequent contact was helpful — life-saving even.
“I’m so glad that we are doing telehealth, because I don’t know what I would do (without it),” declares Ken. “It’s almost like being in the same room. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through (the isolation). I live alone, I don’t have much of a family, I don’t have really any friends, so I’m isolated, basically. So if I couldn’t have my sessions, there would have been a third (suicide) attempt.”
The sessions serve as a weekly checkpoint for Ken and Batterson, and Ken feels that the sessions give him something to work toward weekly — and gives him continual support to normalize his self-worth and confidence.
“The ‘medicine’ of therapy in my mind is ‘acceptance,’” says Batterson, noting that Ken hasn’t always found it easy to accept himself. “But it is still ‘medicine,’ it’s still the medicine of ‘I’m going to accept you exactly as you are and hopefully give you a model for doing that as well.’ It’s been a foundational piece of our relationship.”
It’s clear, in speaking with both therapist and client, that there’s more work to do, there are more chapters to write in Ken’s story. Though still experiencing self-doubt, Ken is making measured, ever so gradual improvements and his outlook on life, and his future, is progressing.
“I have felt ignored,” says Ken, “and Tom is reaffirming that somebody is listening to me.”
*Last name not used for confidentiality reasons.