Telehealth has never been more popular. What was once considered a temporary solution to social distancing preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now seen as the future of therapy. LMU’s Marital and Family (Art) Therapy program has been embracing this change head on, fully integrating telehealth into the required MFT curriculum and the practicum program.
The MFT practicum program allows our students to provide direct service in the field by completing two internships which meet the educational, geographic and specific interests of the student. Students have worked with local mental health agencies that specialize in substance abuse, mental illness, older adults, HIV/AIDS support, LGBTQ identities, children’s hospitals and more. All practicum services are coordinated through the Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic.
In the spring of 2020, the MFT practicum program quickly shifted to an online approach. Born of necessity in a quarantined world, the department expanded their services to provide free or low-cost virtual therapy to some of the most marginalized communities. The clients were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, whether relating to health concerns, job insecurity, and the toll of isolation. Expanding telehealth services allowed our graduate students to continue to provide therapy to these groups from wherever they were, and even improved access to therapy in many cases.
“We quickly came to understand that telehealth is the future,” said Kathleen Fogel-Richmond, the MFT practicum coordinator. “It not only supports the whole family, but it also removes a barrier in that our clients no longer have to travel to get therapy. It also has its limitations, however, so we are thoughtfully building our program to capitalize on these new opportunities while still recognizing the importance of some in-person experiences.”
This academic year, the majority of MFT students are working in a hybrid approach while receiving both in-person and telehealth training in their courses. Jamie Lombrana is a MFT graduate student who has been facilitating services through telehealth since she began her practicum. Last semester, Lombrana was living in Texas while offering services to kids ages 4-14 in Los Angeles.
Lombrana has enjoyed her telehealth time in practicum. While there were some moments of trial and error, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, Lombrana told us that professors and students have been learning the ropes of teletherapy at the same time.
“Telehealth has become such an important tool,” she said. “Even though COVID restriction rules have been lifting, I think telehealth is such a crucial tool in this moment, and I do think it is here to stay. Telehealth offers convenience and is really easy and resourceful if the client can’t meet in person or doesn’t feel comfortable doing so.”