There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of life in a short amount of time. For many people, most of their in-person conversations, meetings, and jobs, have been moved to work-at-home. Many people by now have experienced a meeting of some type using a video teleconferencing platform.
Therapists and other mental health professionals are no different, and many have made the decision to continue seeing clients virtually through teleconferencing.
While it’s important for clients to continue to see their therapist during this time of social distancing and large amounts of change, meeting with a therapist virtually can raise some questions and concerns. The good news is, teletherapy has been shown in recent studies to be 100% as effective as face to face, in-person therapy.
What Is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy, also sometimes referred to as telehealth, is the practice of providing mental health services through a teleconferencing tool with a HIPAA compliant platform. The therapist and client are able to talk together using voice and video through their phone, computer or tablet. Therapy then can continue even when clients are not able to physically travel to see their therapist, like while observing social distancing guidelines.
Still, moving therapy online is a change that many people are uncomfortable with at first. Let’s talk about some of the common concerns around teletherapy.
One major concern with teletherapy is how to maintain confidentiality when moving from in-person sessions behind closed doors to an online platform. Protecting a client’s privacy is a valid and legitimate concern. Therapists are both legally and ethically bound by law to protect client confidentiality in any therapy situation online or in person.
It’s also important for the therapist and client to set boundaries regarding the type of environment that will best protect confidentiality. Therapists must hold therapy sessions in a private and secure room and will not record or share any sessions without express permission from a client. It’s important for the client to also plan for their teletherapy to be in a quiet room or private area where others are less likely to overhear a conversation.
The environment for both clinician and client should be professional and help the client feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
Teletherapy done through a HIPAA compliant platform, provides security features and end to end encryption to protect sensitive information. Therapists are required to use these encrypted secure platforms to conduct teletherapy.
Of course, there is also the concern about accessibility. Not everyone has access to a computer or the internet. If they do, internet service may not always be reliable or able to stream video conferencing. In cases where video conferencing is not accessible to a client, there are voice-only options for teletherapy. Sessions would just be held over the phone rather than on video. The good news is there will always be a plan in place for any technical difficulties that might arise!
Downfalls to therapy sessions without video are the inability to see each other and gain cues from body language. Body language makes up about 67% of communication so missing crucial cues or nuances may lead to more misunderstanding. Video conferencing is preferred over phone calls for this reason, although video can miss some of these cues. However, with the close proximity to the screen sometimes facial expression is even more detectable than in person.
Benefits of Teletherapy
Despite these concerns, however, teletherapy has many benefits and is an excellent way to continue therapy when social distancing or other factors don’t allow clients and therapists to be in the office. Here are a few of the largest benefits of teletherapy:
Health and Safety
One of the most immediate benefits of teletherapy considering the state of our country right now and the implications of COVID-19, teletherapy eliminates your risk of exposure to illness in an office setting with many people coming and going day to day. It’s the safest way to continue your mental health treatment at this time.
Because of the internet and videoconference technology, teletherapy is accessible for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive treatment. Physical disabilities, mobility issues, lack of transportation, and social distancing are now not a barrier between you and your mental health professional. Consistency and continuity of treatment are vital to mental health services and teletherapy removes barriers of physical accessibility.
Teletherapy allows clients the opportunity to schedule appointments that are more convenient for them since they are attending sessions from their own homes. It’s more convenient to be in your own home in your PJ’s than having to travel to your therapists’ office. More than that, people are in the comfort of their own home and may be more comfortable sharing their personal issues with their therapist because they are surrounded by a familiar environment, like the couch!
Does Teletherapy Really Work The Same As Face To Face?
The short and simple answer – YES!
Teletherapy has been studied for a number of years and has shown to be just as effective as traditional face to face therapy! One of the most important success factors in therapy is a client’s relationship with their therapist, and that relationship can smoothly transition to a virtual format.
Several therapeutic models such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and even Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and many others that are highly effective in treating a number of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma, and PTSD, have also shown great success in a teletherapy setting.
How well does teletherapy really work? While teletherapy isn’t the answer for everyone, it can definitely be equally as effective as face to face therapy sessions. In fact, teletherapy with adolescents has been known to be superior to in person therapy sessions for many young people.
In this time that we are in with COVID-19, rising levels of uncertainty and anxiety it’s important to take care of yourself and be consistent with your therapy sessions! Give teletherapy a try.
Are you having a hard time coping with shelter in place or overwhelmed by news and media coverage of this pandemic? Let’s connect! Call us or email to connect with a licensed therapist who is well versed in providing teletherapy. Help is available and closer than you think!
940-222-8552 or [email protected]
Teen Social Anxiety