Too busy to get into the office to see your therapist? Concerned to go into any office given all the recent talk of Coronavirus? I’ve made available an alternative that may be right for you: Teletherapy is therapy delivered online via secure video application or over the phone.
Though teletherapy has been around for over 20 years, it’s gained traction in the last few years. While this is partly due to advancements in technology, it speaks to a greater cultural shift promoting greater access to care and less stigma regarding mental health.
While teletherapy can be just as effective as traditional, in-person therapy, it’s important to consider whether it’s right for you.
Here’s what the American Psychological Association says:
“With the click of a mouse or the tap of an app, you can have instant and inexpensive access to a TeleTherapist, or so make the claims of many new tools and technologies that want to take psychotherapy out of the therapist’s office and into whatever location you are connected to the Internet. Using the Web can be convenient for many people who are comfortable using the Internet and looking for help.”
But before you work with a mental health TeleTherapist, here are points to consider:
When you don’t have the time, availability, or ability to see a therapist in person, online therapy sessions can be a great way to accommodate your needs. With online technology like Zoom, you can create a working relationship with an experienced counselor who offers the same skills provided in an office setting: compassion, understanding, guidance, and confidentiality. You have a chance to make a “just right” therapeutic setting that is most comfortable for you.
With the rise of concern with COVID-19 flu epidemic, TeleTherapy is gaining worldwide popularity because it
- Prevents exposure to people or virus-carriers
- Offers an alternative to meeting in enclosed places that increase the risk of COVID-19 contagion
- Eliminates travel time and cost
- Makes mental health resources available to the homebound and people in remote geographic areas
- Increases privacy and reduces stress for those who are anxious or embarrassed to receive counseling in person
- Gives clients more options when choosing a counselor
- Allows a closer face-to-face interaction (this may take some getting used to).
- Is now covered by most insurance carriers. Still, it is best to contact the company directly to inquire. All fees remain the same as with face-to-face meetings
- You can dress comfortably as there’s no need to leave the house!
While online therapy has a number of benefits, there are a couple of concerns to consider as well:
Connectivity – If you have a poor wireless connection, this can be frustrating. When a screen freezes or you’re bumped off the session, a phone call will need to suffice.
Security – Security of the transmission can be another concern; however, there is a simple solution. Several services will provide encrypted video conferencing, which is critical for HIPAA-compliant privacy. Zoom is one such service; it’s free and the download is quick and user-friendly.
Distractions – Some clients are young parents or living with a toxic partner who may be threatened by having their loved one in therapy. Maintaining your privacy is key. If you can’t find space to be alone and uninterrupted for 50 minutes – the standard therapy “hour” – TeleTherapy is contraindicated.
Sensory Accessibility – Besides having a modern computer, cellphone, or iPad, the only other equipment needed is a web camera and reliable headphones (with mic). Some electronic devices have a camera within the device. It’s best to test this equipment online with a Zoom or Skype friend.
A Good Fit – TeleTherapy may not be a good fit for some clients. If you’re not satisfied, seek a referral to another provider.
State licensing boards require therapists to be licensed in the same state as the client to whom they are providing services. I am currently licensed in Washington.
In the event of an emergency, your best choice is usually your local mental health crisis phone line. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please stop now and phone the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Chat line or your local suicide hotline, or 911.