A woman talks to her therapist over the phone in a teletherapy session
Published On: April 6, 2020|Categories: Treatment and Therapy|

Telemental health refers to online counseling, in which a therapist provides behavioral therapy via phone, computer, video conferencing, or other digital means. Clients may choose to participate in teletherapy if they cannot leave their home, live in rural areas, or have an unconventional job or working hours.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this type of care plays a critical role in treating clients with mental health disorders. Current patients who rely on therapy need to be able to continue treatment while in isolation. And those with COVID-19 anxiety need access to effective treatment and resources.

Learn more about telehealth and get answers to common questions to see if this form of therapy is right for you or your loved one. 

How Does Teletherapy Work?

Typically, clients can receive the same services that they would if they participated in in-person therapy, such as assessment, diagnosis, management, follow-up, and more. Clients can participate in teletherapy through a variety of digital means.

Telemental health will differ depending on what medium you use. Some people may prefer to use a telehealth app for treatment. Most apps will have a directory of treatment providers to choose from. Users can engage and communicate with a therapist through the app.

Alternatively, many brick-and-mortar practices offer online therapy. Clients can use online therapy exclusively or in addition to in-person visits. For example, if you are on a business trip, you can participate in a video session with your therapist rather than missing an appointment.

Video conferencing and phone calls require that the client and therapist both be present, as this communication occurs in real-time. Therapy through email or texting is not in real-time, and therefore doesn’t require that both parties be present at the same time. The mode of communication can have an impact on the therapeutic experience. Keep in mind that video conferencing is most similar to face-to-face therapy.

Is Online Counseling Safe and Confidential?

Understandably, those considering online counseling may have concerns about privacy and confidentiality. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) extends to telehealth services. This means that patients are protected and information is confidential.

There are many telehealth solutions that are designed specifically for healthcare and are HIPAA-compliant. Video conferencing software like Zoom and BlueJeans have HIPAA-compliant capabilities.

If you are seeking your own solutions, be sure to check that the software you are using is HIPAA-compliant. It’s also reasonable to ask your therapist about the solutions they use.

What are the Benefits of Telemental Health?

There are many benefits to telemental health, including:

  • Accessibility
  • Convenience
  • Flexibility
  • Affordability

One of the biggest benefits is that it makes mental health treatment accessible to people who may not otherwise be able to receive it. People who live in rural areas or who are housebound can still receive quality care. 

Telehealth is convenient for both patients and therapists. Therapy can take place anytime, anywhere. Some patients may prefer the comfort of their home when talking about uncomfortable topics. In this case, convenience can enhance the therapeutic experience.

The cost of online therapy compared to in-person therapy varies. Some platforms advertise lower than average rates, but may not be covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider to make sure telemental health services are covered. If you are receiving online therapy from a practice with a physical location, your telehealth sessions will likely cost the same as an in-person visit. However, you may save on other costs associated with in-office treatment, like travel or time off work.

What are Some Challenges of Telemental Health?

While there are many benefits to telemental health, there are challenges:

  • Therapists don’t have access to visual cues like body language or facial expressions that can help guide a therapeutic session.
  • Insurance does not always cover telehealth services.
  • Clients may have distractions at home. It can be easier to focus in the therapist’s office.
  • For some patients, direct care is required so telemental health is not an option.

Online therapy may not be a suitable solution for everyone. People with serious mental health disorders require direct treatment. Telepsychiatry isn’t ideal in complex situations or when symptoms are not managed.

Do You Need to Be in the Same State as Your Online Therapist?

Licensing laws differ between states and within states. Therefore, receiving telehealth from a therapist in another state may not be possible. Some states have licenses that permit out-of-state clinicians to provide therapy for 10 to 30 days. 

Fortunately, therapists can treat clients in the states in which they are licensed. This means that people can still receive quality care from a therapist who may work in another county or across the state. This is especially beneficial for those who may live in rural areas.

Is Online Therapy Effective?

Telemental health is an effective form of care for clients and clinicians. In fact, it may help reduce the stigma around mental health treatment. Those who are hesitant to visit a therapist in a clinical setting can still receive quality care in the comfort of their home. Teletherapy can bridge the gap for quality mental health treatment.

We remain committed to providing quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet the needs of current and prospective clients, The Light Program is offering telehealth for outpatient services, including psychiatry. We use BlueJeans, a HIPAA-compliant platform, to conduct our telehealth sessions.

To request a telehealth appointment from The Light Program, call us at (610) 644-6464 or complete a contact form.

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