What is Teletherapy & Is It Effective?

As our new normal continues to evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has made it easy to communicate and stay connected with our social circles. With FaceTime and many other video conferencing tools, we have the ability to reach friends, relatives, and coworkers remotely. Teletherapy can be a convenient method of therapy for you and your provider. You may have heard of teletherapy and you might be wondering what it is, how it works, and whether it is effective. Dive in to learn more from us about this growing practice.

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy, commonly known as telepsychiatry, is mental health counseling via the phone or online through video conferencing. According to Medical News Today, teletherapy is “any remote therapy that uses technology to help the therapist and client communicate.” Teletherapy can include therapy sessions over the phone, group chats for group therapy, video conferencing for individuals, couples, families, and groups, receiving therapy via email or instant messenger, and utilizing therapy apps that connect clients to therapists. With telepsychiatry, mental health providers can work with patients remotely to offer online therapy sessions, develop healthy coping mechanisms and routines, and practice therapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

“The telehealth model has been around for quite a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic truly prompted the mental health community to take advantage of this treatment model,” says Nicole Boggan, Supervisor of Clinical Programs at Diversus Health.

How Does Online Therapy Work?

In the same way that traditional therapy sessions work, teletherapy sessions are similar, except that the client and the provider are not in the same room. Patients can schedule individual or group therapy sessions with a mental health provider to engage in a live video appointment. Patients should plan ahead and prepare for teletherapy sessions as they would with in-person sessions.

Teletherapy often involves virtual interaction between a psychiatrist and the patient, typically through the use of computers, tablets, and smartphones. Online therapy works to support mental health specialists providing services to patients in a live, interactive setting. Sessions are conducted as they would be if everyone was in the same room together.

“I am happy that clients in our community have continued to be able to receive the mental health services that they need,” says Boggan, “and that those who have found themselves struggling through all of the challenges brought on by COVID-19 have had somewhere to turn to for support.”

Is Teletherapy Effective?

The big question: is teletherapy as effective as in-person visits to your therapist? In short, the answer is yes, for most patients. The effectiveness of teletherapy depends on the individual seeking therapy. The American Psychiatric Association reports that “telemedicine in psychiatry is a validated and effective practice of medicine that increases access to care.” Teletherapy has been an avenue of virtual mental health care in the United States since the 1990s. While it has grown in availability, especially during the pandemic, teletherapy is considered to be a highly effective method of therapy.

“Without this telehealth model there would have been two options: continue in-person services and risk staff and client infection, or close our doors to the community,” says Boggan.

Studies demonstrate that teletherapy can be more beneficial for certain patients, especially for those who feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar, clinical settings. In some ways, teletherapy can help patients feel more relaxed and willing to share their thoughts and feelings with their provider. In the comfort of your own home, technology can improve therapy, allowing you to open up about your experiences in familiar settings with video communication.

“While the sudden upheaval brought on by COVID-19 forced everyone, staff and clients included, to make some unprecedented changes, it is monumental that we have been able to get through this past year together as a community and find ourselves coming to what we all hope is the other side,” Boggan says.

Teletherapy does have some limitations. For instance, certain types of therapy such as play therapy for children, are restricted by teletherapy. For specialized sessions, in-person office visits are likely to provide a better experience.

Overall, teletherapy is an ideal option for anyone who finds it difficult to access therapy in person. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, teletherapy is a great option for slowing the spread of illness. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health concerns, request an appointment with one of our providers at Diversus Health. We support mental health and well-being for all. Contact us today to get started.

*If you need immediate assistance, contact our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

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