So, you’re interested in obtaining psychotherapy but don’t want to take off hours from work to drive to a therapist’s office, meander around searching for parking, and then drive back to work after an emotionally-laden session. I don’t blame you. Wouldn’t it be nice if your therapist could just come to you? Well, I’ve got good news. Keep reading.
What is Telepsychology?
Telepsychology is one term used to describe psychotherapy services offered via phone, interactive video, email, or text messaging. You may have heard these services referred to as distance therapy, e-therapy, virtual therapy, or web therapy. In this blog, I will be speaking of telepsychology services that are provided real-time via on-line video.
Reasons to Consider Online Video Therapy:
Confidentiality. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for clients to worry about the stigma of seeing a therapist. Telepsychology offers a degree of anonymity that helps reduce stigma-related fears. Many of my clients who are professionals, worry that they will encounter their own patients or clients in my waiting room. These apprehensions can be alleviated with telepsychology.
Efficiency. Efficiency is one of the primary reasons my clients utilize telepsychology services. A 45-minute sessions takes up 45-minutes of their time. No more leaving work early to sit in traffic for their session. They can complete a therapy session during their lunch hour and still have time for a sandwich.
Convenience. No sitter? No transportation? Got the sniffles? You can still have your therapy session, as long as you have internet access.
Comfort. Many people find that being in their own “space” is more comfortable and some find it easier to share revealing, personal information if they are in the comfort of their own home. Furthermore, I have had clients say that having their pet or their favorite pillow by their side during virtual therapy is an additional source of comfort that is not available in my office.
Access. Telepsychology can be especially beneficial for clients who live in rural areas or underserved communities where there is a shortage of therapists or a lack of specialized providers. Online video therapy allows the client access to more clinicians and specialists who may not be within a reasonable driving distance.
How Does Online Video Therapy Work?
There are some differences among the various telehealth platforms, but typically you will click on a link that is received in a confirmation Email or log in to the website. There may be a few-second download the first time the service is used. You then, usually, enter a virtual waiting room. Ta Da! It’s that simple.
Both video and audio should be on. Headsets/earbuds provide additional privacy and are recommended. You should discuss with the therapist what the plan is if connectivity is lost. My backup Plan A for these situations is to complete the session by phone. For the most part, however, if your device can stream services like Netflix, you shouldn’t have any significant problems using online video therapy. The experience is similar to using Skype or FaceTime.
The Questions You Should Ask:
Does My Insurance Cover Telepsychology? While more and more insurance companies are now covering telepsychology services, not all are. You’ll want to call your insurance company directly and ask about whether or not telehealth services are a covered service.
Is It Safe? Confidential? One of the reasons that psychotherapy is effective is because the psychologist ensures that you have a safe and private space to share your thoughts and feelings. An online video session should also feel like and be a safe space. You should ask is the service is HIPAA compliant, indicating that your privacy is maintained.
Where Is The Provider Licensed? While there are a few exceptions, psychologists must be licensed in the state where you are located to order to offer therapy services.
Need Help? Get It!
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five Americans struggle with mental illness. Yet, only one third of these people obtain treatment for various reasons. Some of these barriers can be alleviated with telepsychology.
Telepsychology is rapidly growing. Despite all the benefits, however, telepsychology is not for everyone. If you contact a therapist who provides telepsychology services, they will ask you several questions to assess your appropriateness. Furthermore, you may find that face-to-face treatment is more effective for you. If you need help, get it…via whatever modality is beneficial for you.