In March 2020, the University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) Behavioral Health Clinic for Families was tasked to make a swift transition to provide virtual care to their patients. Through the work of their learners, they exceeded their budgeted volumes by 5% following the modality change.
Kristen Brozak, the clinic manager at the M Physicians Behavioral Health Clinic for Families, said that they were looking into implementing virtual care before the pandemic.
“Virtual care offers so much flexibility,” Brozak said. “Some kids get anxious about coming in and this helps us better meet them where they’re at.”
The clinic serves child, adolescent and adult patients. Graduate student therapists are paired with faculty member supervisors to facilitate their training. Brozak shared that most of the patient care provided at the Behavioral Health Clinic for Families is done by supervised learners. In addition, a licensed naturopath delivers acupuncture treatments.
Alexandra (Sasha) Zagoloff, PhD, LP, is a clinical child psychologist and directs the clinic. She shared that no transition comes without challenges.
“It is a completely different experience to deliver psychotherapy over the computer than in a clinic room,” Dr. Zagoloff said. “Figuring out how to simultaneously teach trainees to do both of those well is something we’re still tackling.”
Dr. Zagoloff said that it has been hard for her as an educator to accept that the training model has changed permanently. She has been adjusting to the change with worry, but also hope.
“The reality is, in the psychotherapy field, in particular, virtual care has improved access so tremendously that I am on board and excited that this is the future of our training,” she said.
Brozak and Dr. Zagoloff both shared that this transition was unique because the faculty was no more experienced than the learners in providing virtual care. The learners assisted in troubleshooting some of the details throughout the transition.
“It helped us level-set with our learners and say ‘We’re in this with you,’” Dr. Zagoloff said.
Many first-time patients at the clinic meet in-person for their first appointment. Brozak said that this helps build a good foundation for a relationship between the provider and the patient. This also provides the learners with training in both modalities of care.
“I want to highlight the tenacity, resourcefulness and flexibility of my colleagues and the students,” Dr. Zagoloff said. “The students have a lot of things going on in graduate school, and to take this on is truly heroic. I want to convey unbelievable respect and gratitude.”