rural therapist isolation

4 Ways to Overcome Rural Therapist Isolationism

Therapist Isolation is a Real Problem

Sometimes therapists take little things for granted. Let’s say that you left your session plan at home and needed one in a fix. Or what if you want to drop by a fellow clinicians room to chat about a new idea?  These and other everyday events can be the rarest of luxuries when you are the only therapist for miles!

Let’s face it. Isolation is a real and enduring challenge for many rural therapists. Lacking the opportunities to connect with others in your field and learn from peers deprives rural therapists of one of their most important learning opportunities. Aside from cross-pollinating with other therapists, there are other professional development drawbacks.

Many of those professional development opportunities take place in significant universities and urban areas, easily accessible to most therapists but not to rural ones. Traveling hours away to attend a seminar or conference is often infeasible for rural therapists. Also, it is often difficult to find a substitute to cover the absent therapist.

Aside from the educational benefit of the seminar or conference is the opportunity to build relationships with other therapists. If participation is so challenging, relationship building is all but impossible.

What are some creative ways for therapists to connect and learn from each other?

4 Ways to Erase Therapist Isolation

1. Edcamp Collaboration

Therapists can now subscribe to an Edcamp board online. These are virtual platforms designed to facilitate the connection of speech, occupational, and mental health, therapists regardless of location. Now with high-resolution providers such as GoToMeeting and Zoom, this virtual solution is the “next best thing to being there.”

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2. Virtual Classroom

A virtual classroom is essentially a weekly chat online where featured therapists assume the spotlight and share from their expertise. Often these webinars are recorded so that those unable to attend can still benefit. What’s more, many of these opportunities offer continuing education credits for participating.

3. Virtual PLC

Sometimes virtual classrooms can be taken to the next level by providing an opportunity to segue into virtual professional learning communities (PLCs). In other words, current technology can allow the rural therapist to attend the conferences previously unavailable due to geographical constraints.

4. Virtual Personalized Development

Virtual Personalized Development (PD) is now available online. Services are now provided by experts in the various therapeutic fields that will hone in on a clinician's particular needs. Previously these were only available in person, which made them cost prohibitive for most. Now, the therapist essentially hires an online tutor.

In this cyber world we live in, geographical constraints are being removed almost daily. In the same way that teletherapy is making headway in providing therapy for children from a distance, connecting therapists through our new virtual reality is slowly becoming the norm.

Rural therapists no longer need to remain in isolation as in the past. Modern technology has created possibilities that only a few short years ago seemed unimaginable. Everyone stands to gain – the children, the parents, the therapists, and the school administrators.

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