Terms like inclusivity, diversity, equity, accessibility, and others are currently some of the most well-explored and well-discussed terms in modern society. In the field of mental health, these words play a vital role in the patient-provider relationship. To be a counselor is also to be things like inclusive and accessible to those in need of mental health services. Inclusivity, in particular, is something that should always exist in the mental health space.
What is Inclusivity?
Inclusivity is the practice of offering equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
From healthcare to government services and education, there are many fields that adhere closely to this idea, making sure to create equal and open access to their services and structures.
For example, in healthcare, providers are expected to provide the same level of care to every individual that walks through their door. In the workplace, individuals should be able to expect equitable access to opportunities in their field no matter their background. In the educational setting, everyone is supposed to have access to school at the k-12 level, no matter what.
The concept of inclusivity matters greatly to those that have historically been unable to access important services, opportunities, and resources that others have been able to benefit from.
What is the Role of Inclusivity in Counseling?
In the field of mental health, inclusivity means offering accessible and equitable care to every patient, regardless of their background. Not only this, it means making services, like counseling, accessible to those who have historically been unable to access them.
Barriers to care have long prevented individuals in marginalized/underserved communities from being able to access the mental health services they need while other people groups benefit from them. Some of the most common barriers that decrease inclusivity include:
- Distance -Mental health care deserts are geographical areas with zero mental health providers. This means that the individuals who live in these areas have to travel outside their hometowns in order to receive counseling. Should an individual lack transportation or the means to travel, then they are not able to seek help unless a provider in their network offers telehealth, assuming they have coverage, a stable internet connection, and digital literacy skills.
- Availability of Services -Whether a provider is far away or there are just simply not enough providers in their immediate area, some patients struggle to find an appointment with a provider that makes sense for their schedule and unique needs.
- Cost/Coverage -The cost of services is often not manageable for those who lack mental health coverage. While health insurance companies are covering services like counseling more frequently today than in the past, the cost is still a major barrier for many that can decrease inclusivity in counseling.
- Work -For those with careers/jobs that do not permit regular time off for things like mental health care, in-person services are not always an option. Appointments often fall during work-day hours, requiring them to take time off work to drive to the appointment, attend, and then drive back. This can add up to several hours a week away from work. Their employers may have an issue with this or it might not be a reasonable financial option for that individual.
There are many more boundaries that decrease inclusivity in counseling, but the important thing is that providers are taking steps to become more inclusive and accessible.
How Telehealth Can Improve Inclusivity in Counseling
Telehealth is one of the top methods that providers can use to increase inclusivity in counseling. It eliminates the need for traveling to in-person visits, so it is perfect for individuals who lack transportation, are unable to take themselves, or do not have the time to travel the distance.
The right solution is easy to use, so it is accessible for those who might usually lack digital literacy or find technology to be a challenge.
A quality telehealth tool is secure, so it can be used safely across multiple types of internet connections, protecting the patient and their information. Inclusivity is an important part of counseling and telehealth is a huge part of making services like it more accessible and equitable.
The sooner providers can implement a top-of-the-line telehealth tool, the sooner they can start to eliminate those barriers to care.
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