Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic (PMVC): A Mother’s Perspective
This is the fourth in a series of blogs that will introduce you to an innovative approach to mental health care pioneered by Psychotherapy Matters: the Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic or PMVC.
We hope to report regularly on the experiences of clients and therapists and what we are learning about the use of technology to promote collaborative care. In this entry, Lori, a member of PM staff who has personal struggles with mental health issues in her family speaks about her views of PMVC. We thank Lori and her family for sharing their story.
I wish something like the Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic (PMVC) had existed for my family over 20 years ago. Here’s why:
My son, now 27, was one of the first children going through the public school system with a myriad of issues, specifically, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and anxiety disorder. The school insisted on a diagnosis (and medication) so that they could get funding for in-house assistance if he was to be in a regular classroom, or for him to qualify for special programs.
Unfortunately, no child psychiatrist was available in the Kitchener-Waterloo area at the time. For a full assessment and management plan, including diagnosis and medication, we had to travel to London for appointments with a psychiatrist. The timing of the appointments meant that one or both parents had to miss a day’s pay from work, and both children needed to be off school for the day in case the parents didn’t get back on time to pick them up.
I won’t get into too many details here. The long and short of it is, after about six appointments, two psychiatrists, much stress and many tears later, we had the diagnosis and medication mapped out. Medication was maintained by our family doctor, who adjusted the dosing throughout the years. However, we had no further contact or support from any other mental health care professional. We had no family therapy from a trained psychotherapist. We had no individual therapy to help my son change problematic behaviours.
Does the story sound right to you so far?
Both my partner and I had coverage through work plans for “other” costs like chiropractic, massage, and mental health services. Since the medication could only be managed by a psychiatrist or family doctor, our family doctor was all the support we had from the health community from that point on. We did not have the resources to make the trek to London on a regular basis for maintenance and support. No recommendations were made to us for further counselling. Fortune on our side, we held it together and pulled through. My son is now 27, a high school graduate, and holds a full-time job. Many families with similar challenges are not so lucky.
If the Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic (PMVC) and the internet technology making it possible had been around 20 years ago, the story could have been much different. We would have worked closely with a local mental health professional like a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or a trained psychotherapist. We would have had continuing support throughout the years. This mental health care professional, with PMVC access, could have provided a concise, non-biased report to the psychiatrist. The local psychotherapist would have worked with the psychiatrist on a diagnosis and plan, and then carry out the plan agreed upon with the family.
Financially, less work and school would have been missed, likely less money would have been spent, and the stress level would have been significantly reduced. I’ve had to be the mental health professional for my son when he’s had rough patches. It would have been nice (and still would be nice) to have a mental health care expert close by for help. My son is still at home and still requires emotional support when he’s in a rage or one of his low moods. He still doesn’t trust easily and is loathe to reach out on his own.
For my grandchildren, or anyone I know going through a similar situation, I will make a point of recommending the PMVC option to them. So many families feel abandoned by the system because of the difficulty navigating through it and the options not being clearly made available. Many, without support or the strength and know-how to help themselves, fall through the cracks. If family doctors and mental health professionals at every level worked together to optimize care and make it more readily available to all, we would have more successful outcomes for families.
I feel tremendous hope for the future of mental health care knowing that there are dedicated folk behind PMVC working to grow this service for families like mine.