Within weeks of starting her own practice, Dr. Amy Fritz-Ocock transitioned to teletherapy to serve clients amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Her CCCs helped her through it.
It wasn’t the celebratory opening that Dr. Amy Fritz-Ocock, a speech-language pathologist in Florida, envisioned when she launched her private practice in February 2020. Barely a month later, and after only a handful of in-person sessions, she suddenly had to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That development could have proved devastating. “My initial thoughts were to bury my head in the sand and regret my decision to leave my last job and open my own practice,” Dr. Amy admits. “Then I thought, ‘No, this will be okay — it’s buying me some time to make sure I’m doing all of this right.’”
Dr. Amy adapted by switching to teletherapy and expanding the vision for her practice, while relying on current ASHA resources for guidance. For instance, ASHA began offering free courses early in the pandemic on topics such as practice management that were especially helpful to her. This information, along with the knowledge and expertise she gained from years of working as a clinician, allowed Dr. Amy to improve her business model to better meet evolving client needs.
“Throughout my career, if I didn’t know how to start or do something, I’ve turned to ASHA — it has always been such a nice security blanket,” she says. “This has all been a confidence boost knowing I can always draw from my CCCs and ASHA to do what is ethically sound and appropriate, even in the most unprecedented of times.”
Long before the pandemic, Dr. Amy’s CCCs have also been useful as she and her family have moved — Ohio, Indiana and now Florida — giving her a base and skill set that are applicable across the country and in different lines of work as an SLP. Drawing upon her wealth of experience, including her CCCs, Dr. Amy never felt at a loss for the education and information she needed.
“Knowing that I could move through three different states, my CCCs have allowed me to get the right jobs,” Dr. Amy says, having worked in schools, academia, private practice settings and an autism resource center before this current pursuit. “It makes a difference to have that national certification.”
Above all, she’s able to do what’s most important, which is meet the needs of her clients and their families and help them progress. Even before the pandemic, she lived by the philosophy of “giving away as much knowledge and support to others” as she can, saying “it always comes back tenfold, without exception.” She’s put that into practice even more so in the face of Covid-19.
Almost right away, Dr. Amy started by holding inexpensive social skills groups for clients. She also moved to offering virtual half-hour sessions versus the standard one-hour session that she would have in person. Not only is she still able to provide meaningful intervention, but it’s also more financially viable for many of her clients’ families. While still following ASHA guidelines, Dr. Amy has been able to experiment and develop techniques that are proving to be successful for everyone.
“I’ve been presenting everything in PowerPoint so that clients and families have a visual to look at, which has helped their understanding and boosted their comfort levels,” she says. “Client outcomes have surpassed those that have resulted from face-to-face care. I didn’t know I was going to like teletherapy at all, but now it’s hard to imagine going back.”
Ultimately, while the pandemic has undoubtedly altered so much of her life, in some ways, it hasn’t changed her approach to her clients. Yes, she’s working with them through a screen, and she’s out on her own with her practice now, but the same dedication to and joy from her job remains constant, if not enhanced.
She recalls a pre-pandemic instance when some friends were complaining about their jobs, and one of them noticed that Dr. Amy was being quiet. Another friend responded for her: “Oh, Amy? She actually likes her job.”
“I’m just someone who really loves what I do for a living,” she says. Nevertheless, even though the pandemic has been an especially difficult challenge for her and her practice, Dr. Amy says that trusting in and relying on the strong foundation of her CCCs and resources from ASHA has been a “silver lining over these past several months.”