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When Can I See My Therapist in Person Again After Being Fully Vaccinated?

Therapist wearing a face mask.

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Key Takeaways

  • Experts say that it’s safe to see your therapist in person if you are both fully vaccinated.
  • In-person counseling has its benefits like giving patients more privacy and allowing therapists to see non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
  • If you and your therapist are fully vaccinated, you can choose not to wear your masks indoors if you're comfortable doing so.

People in the U.S. are increasingly seeking mental health care and therapy due to the psychological toll of the pandemic. But in an effort to remain safe and abide by social distancing guidelines, healthcare providers and individuals looking for help have turned to teletherapy.

While teletherapy has proven to be beneficial with its convenience and accessibility, many are looking forward to seeing their therapists in person again after being fully vaccinated. 

You are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot or two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“Current CDC guidance is that fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with other fully immunized persons without mask-wearing or social distancing," Chris Beyrer, MD, Desmond M. Tutu Professor in Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, tells Verywell. "So if the therapist is also fully immunized, people can safely do counseling sessions."

If you plan on seeing your therapist soon, here are some factors you may want to consider and why it can be more beneficial than teletherapy.

Factors to Consider 

The decision to see your therapist in person depends on your personal comfort levels and risk perception.

“When you can see your therapist in person after the vaccine would be up to [your] therapist and you, to be honest, and what protocols they have in place,” Jessi Gold, MD, MS, assistant professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Department of Psychiatry, tells Verywell. “You might be vaccinated but still not convinced you can't bring back a new strain to a sick child or family member at home, so that might not make you want to see your therapist in person or may make you more cautious about safety protocols.”

Experts recommend that you ask about your therapist’s vaccination status before deciding to see them in person. To be on the safe side, they should be fully vaccinated as well.

“Most healthcare providers have now been offered vaccines, but many have chosen not to be immunized or to delay immunization," Beyrer says. "Since they may have considerable exposure due to their occupation, clients should not be meeting face-to-face with unimmunized therapists."

However, according to Beyrer, there are certain mental health emergencies where it’s crucial not to wait until you’re vaccinated before you see your therapist in person, such as:

  • Suicidal thoughts, feelings, or ideation
  • Substance and overdose risks
  • Worsening intimate partner violence

“If persons need to be seen, this can be done with full personal protective equipment if they are not immunized,” Beyrer says.

What This Means For You

If you are fully vaccinated and you want to see your therapist in person, check in with them and ask whether they are open to in-person counseling again. Experts recommend that you only see them in person if they are fully vaccinated as well.

Benefits of In-Person Therapy

Many people have found teletherapy helpful during the pandemic—with its level of flexibility and ease of access. However, seeing your therapist in person can be just as beneficial, if not more.

“Some people prefer in-person therapy over telehealth and may be excited to return to going to appointments in person,” Gold says. “Personally I can't wait to get back to seeing patients in person and also, as a patient, could not wait to get back to seeing my therapist in person. For me, I do telehealth all day for work and just could not do more telehealth for my own therapy. It was just not as good and I was so excited to be able to go back.”

In-person counseling may have some advantages over online therapy.

Increases Privacy

Many individuals don’t have the luxury of a quiet, private space to do teletherapy. Some call from their cars or bathrooms and others are constantly interrupted by dogs, leaf blowers, or knocks on the door. These distractions don’t help patients fully express themselves, but they can be avoided by seeing therapists in person.

“Being able to come into the office avoids these interruptions and allows for a safe, open space for conversation without interruptions," Gold says. "As a result, people might be more willing to talk about things that are hard to say in their own home. I have had patients whisper or type things about people in the next room and that is a lot harder than feeling fully open to say what they want and feel in the moment and as expressively as they need to.”

Body Language

Because therapy is done over a screen, it’s more difficult for therapists to notice facial expressions and body language, which gives them a clearer idea of their patient’s thoughts. According to Gold, empathizing with patients through a screen is limited because it’s not possible to hand them a tissue or shift the body to support them.

“With telehealth we really only see a person's face and body, we don't even see their hands,” Gold says. “We also can't see all of their subtle clues through a screen and might miss things that we would catch in person in therapy.”

Reduces Screen Time

Electronic devices became the dominant mode of work and even connecting with friends or family for many this past year. So it may be exhausting to stare at a screen for therapy as well, both for people seeking care and healthcare professionals. 

“As a provider, I find telehealth to be much more burnout-inducing than in-person therapy," Gold says. "By the end of the day, I am exhausted and distracted and really longing to be in a room with a patient looking at me and talking to me instead of talking to a screen."

For many individuals, going to see their therapist in person can set the session apart from everything else they do within the day because it won’t involve screens.

Navigating online therapy may also be challenging for people who don’t have access to an internet connection or aren’t technologically adept. “For many older persons and for children, the technology barriers—or the digital divide—can be a real challenge to successful online therapy,” Beyrer says.

Improves Well-Being

Going to see your therapist in person gets you out of the house to accomplish something for yourself. “For someone with depression, getting up and dressed and out of the house can actually be part of treatment," Gold says. "Seeing another person, in person, especially when the pandemic has been so isolating can also be particularly therapeutic right now."

How to Minimize Risks

Wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distance, and practicing good hand hygiene is still important, especially if you’re using public transportation to go see your therapist.

“Your therapist may also want you to keep a mask on still—that will be up to their comfort levels—and they probably will as well, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] guidelines about vaccinated people indoors suggest that two vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or social distance,” Gold says.

If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms even though you're fully vaccinated, stay at home. Reschedule with your therapist and make sure to isolate and get tested first.

“Plenty of therapists have been seeing their patients in person the whole time, long before vaccinations,” Gold says. “They have different safety protocols in place for that and you would have to ask and see before going in. If you really want to be seen in person and they are doing in-person visits, that is something to discuss with your therapist.”

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people. Updated April 2, 2021.

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