After ten weeks of operating remotely, Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) will once again open its doors to the community the week of June 1st. While half of its clients have continued to receive creative arts therapy via telehealth, half have not met with their therapists in more than two months. Telehealth has many benefits, but there are some challenges that cannot be overcome by people with certain disabilities or mental health disorders. Furthermore, some of ITA’s clients simply are not comfortable engaging in therapy in this manner.
“It is essential we continue to support everyone who needs our help. We are very concerned about the safety and well-being of our clients and are looking forward to reconnecting,” says Executive Director Jenni Rook.
While some clients will return to the clinic, ITA therapists will continue to offer remote sessions for all who can benefit from teletherapy.
“We want to limit the number of people in our clinic and offices as Illinois moves into Phase 3 of reopening and will encourage clients to stay home if possible. We will also continue to require our staff to work from home when they are not needed in the clinic for client care,” says Rook.
The Evanston and Highland Park clinics will operate with many restrictions and precautions in place in order to ensure safety while COVID-19 is still widespread. Clients can expect the offices to look quite different with limited materials available for creative arts therapy and reduced seating in the lobby. Therapists are working now to prepare clients for what they will see when they arrive to try to minimize the fear and anxiety that could stem from their familiar setting being transformed.
Clients will be asked to take their own precautions to protect themselves and others including:
- Wearing face coverings
- Washing their hands upon entering the building
- Arriving no more than five minutes before their scheduled appointment
- Limiting the number of people accompanying them to therapy to one guest
“We plan to take strict precautions in line with the recommendations set forth by the CDC and the IDPH. Our plan is to reopen gradually with less precautions over time as the state of Illinois moves into Phases 4 and 5,” says Rook.
ITA is sensitive to how triggering a COVID-19–safe environment can be for people with trauma histories, anxiety and Autism; therefore, the therapists are attempting to find creative ways to ensure safety while keeping the clinic space inviting and friendly.
“I see so many alarming signs in the community that are yellow, red, and black with bold words. They grab your attention, but that visual intensity, combined with people wearing masks and Plexiglass barriers, is quite scary, especially for children,” says Practice Director, Marni Rosen. “We can do better than that and create a safe environment without inducing more fear than people already have right now.”
Visitors can expect to see cuddly cartoon CATs (CAT = Creative Arts Therapists) stationed around the building reminding them of the new rules. The therapy team is also creating social stories to help prepare clients for the changes they can expect accompanied by photos and videos of the space.
ITA will also provide telehealth for summer school classrooms and resume providing in-person therapy at its community partner sites as these facilities begin to reopen. Similar precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of the therapists and the communities we serve.
ITA understands many clients will not resume therapy in the near future due to safety concerns and vulnerability to illness. The organization anticipates losing more than $200,000 in revenue from March through the end of August due to canceled therapy sessions and the annual fundraiser. ITA will continue to provide services at drastically reduced fees in order to accommodate everyone who is experiencing financial hardship.