Understanding Long COVID:
A Biopsychosocial Approach for Mental Health Professionals
Monday, October 23, 2023, 1:45 PM America/New_York - 4:45 PM America/New_York
Presenter: Dr Jennifer Henderson, PhD
Course Length: 3 Hours
This workshop Offers 3 Live Interactive Continuing Education Credits
A. Introduction (10min): This introductory portion of the program highlights what factors led the speaker to take a closer look into the biopsychosocial factors of long COVID, a condition that has emerged as a second wave pandemic. It addresses the importance of mental health professionals understanding the condition and its enduring impact on “long haulers.”
B. Brief Overview of Long COVID (10min): This portion of the program addresses the emerging public recognition of long COVID as a serious medical condition with global impact. It reviews current knowledge of its prevalence, projections of impact, and estimated economic burden.
C. Clinical Presentation (40min): This portion of the program surveys the current literature and understanding of long COVID as a medical condition. Specific topics include diagnostic criteria, symptoms, and theorized causal factors. Patient stories of their experience living with this frequently disabling condition are highlighted. Other treatment considerations are explored, including the current model of treatment, barriers to care, and lingering questions long haulers typically worry about.
D. Mental Health Considerations (~60 – 75min): This portion of the program addresses the psychosocial factors mental health professionals should be knowledgeable about to ethically provide treatment and support to long haulers. Key factors highlighted in this section include: treatment barriers unique to those with long COVID, the nature of living with an invisible illness, and psychiatric/neuropsychiatric presentation. This section also addresses the lack of treatment protocols and the current model of care based on similar conditions (e.g., ME/CFS). Finally, this section also highlights special considerations mental health professionals should be mindful of when treating long haulers (e.g., cultural factors, pediatric presentation, disability).
E. Group Exercise: Role play addressing resistance to therapy (~15min): This brief group exercise enables participants to role play addressing resistance to therapy. Most longer haulers report struggling to get an accurate diagnosis, having long COVID recognized by others (e.g., work, friends and family, primary care physicians), and dealing with debilitating physical and cognitive symptoms. Many resent the implication that their concerns are illegitimate or “all in their head” when encouraged to seek behavioral health therapy. This role play allows participants to synthesize what they have learned throughout the presentation to address such therapy resistance.
F. Review / Questions / Additional Resources (10min): This final section offers a summary of the material covered as well as providing participants with additional resources they may find helpful to continue their professional growth following completion of this webinar.