Before the Covid 19 pandemic, the potential of telehealth and virtual therapy was just starting to be recognized as an option for the treatment of mental health disorders. Then, the world shut down and remote care exploded into universal acceptance.
In the months since, people (and insurance companies) have learned to navigate the ins and outs of virtual therapy. Once we are free to resume our normal lives, however, will this option go away?
What Is A Telepysch Appointment For Mental Health Care During The Covid-19 Pandemic?
In a nutshell, a telepsych appointment for mental health care is pretty similar to an in-person session – with a few convenient differences.
With telemedicine, the client talks to their licensed mental health professional from the comfort of their own couch, instead of going in to the office.
Clients can choose to see their therapist via an online platform like Skype or Zoom or they can take part in an online chat session via their phone or computer. They don’t have to worry about traffic or commuting to the office in bad weather – and don’t even have to change out of their pajamas!
Because there was often no other option during the pandemic shut downs, individuals who had been in therapy before covid-19 quickly adapted to virtual and online teletherapy. This allowed them to safely continue treatment at a time when stress levels were through the roof.
How Effective Is Teletherapy?
We already knew that teletherapy was effective before the pandemic. In fact, studies by the Veteran’s Administration showed that vets who suffered from PTSD and received counseling via videoconferencing did equally well, in general, as those who went to in-person appointments.
Other reviews have shown that children and adolescents who received teletherapy for substance abuse and eating disorders did as well with virtual sessions as they did in traditional settings.
Moreover, in a review of 24 studies on teletherapy, researchers concluded that, “Telephone-delivered and VTC-delivered psychological interventions provide a mode of treatment delivery that can potentially overcome barriers and increase access to psychological interventions.”
Risks And Benefits Of Teletherapy
Along with being able to receive therapy from the comfort of your home, there are other benefits to virtual and online therapy:
- It saves time and money on commuting costs.
- Allows the client to keep their session in the event of car trouble or transit delays and keeps them safe from possible covid exposure from commuting to a session via public transportation.
- The client can talk to any therapist they wish. This gives them flexibility if they live in a remote area and allows them to keep the same therapist if they move to another city.
- Removes the stigma of mental health therapy and provides anonymity (there’s no chance of bumping into a friend or neighbor as you are walking into a therapy session)
- This type of therapy is accessible for those who have a disability or physical limitations.
As with anything, there are certain negatives to teletherapy, as well. They include:
- Technology problems could be frustrating and result in rescheduling a much-needed appointment.
- Distractions can reduce the effectiveness of the therapy session.
- Insurance coverage may not be available for virtual mental health treatment, although many insurance companies have begun covering it since the pandemic.
- Possible state licensing limitations if you wish to see an out-of-state provider. Some states will only allow an out-of-state psychologist or mental health therapist to provide services in that state for a short period of time (generally for less than a month).
- Can reduce the facial and physical cues a therapist would pick up on if they were seeing the client in person. This may mean they may not get a clear idea of the client’s mood or thoughts, or the client may have a harder time expressing their emotions and concerns.
- Lack of privacy for the client if others (for example, roommates or family members) are around when they are speaking with their therapist.
- Providers may unknowingly be using a platform that is not HIPAA compliant.
Will Teletherapy Continue After Covid?
It is highly likely that telepsychology will continue after the pandemic is over. While clinicians and clients were slow to embrace the technology, once they were forced to do so out of safety concerns, most quickly adapted.
Now, both therapists and clients are seeing the benefits. Jeanine Turner, PhD., a professor of Communication, Culture & Technology at Georgetown University, says, “Last year, within weeks, the system had to absorb all the challenges of wide-scale adoption. Now, it’s taken off—and there will be no going back.”
One hurdle to get over may be that of health insurance coverage. While the major insurance carriers are covering telepsychology, some are starting to balk at covering it, despite the ongoing pandemic.
Also, many people have self-insured plans, covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which is not required to cover teletherapy. To combat this, the American Psychological Association (APA) is advocating to ensure coverage.
Our Teletherapy Services Are Here For You
If you need expert help during the pandemic or afterwards, you can talk with our licensed, professional therapists online or through a video session. Our virtual platforms provide the highest possible security to your personal information and allow us to maintain absolute confidentiality with strict non disclosure policies.
Whatever the difficulty that you are facing in your life, we are here to listen and offer effective solutions. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.