Six months ago, Telehealth was that thing that some people knew about, some people used, and a lot of people questioned. Now, in the time of COVID, TeleHealth is a new way of life. I've been seeing all of my clients via Telehealth exclusively for months. Prior to COVID, I saw a couple clients via Telehealth per week. COVID had forced therapists to adapt and improve our telehealth skills, even for types of therapy we previously would have shied away from providing via technology.
So what is Telehealth anyway? Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services via telecommunication technology. It is most often via video conference delivered through a HIPPA compliant platform (e.g. Telehealth by SimplePractice, Zoom, Doxy.me etc.) however, phone calls and text messages may also qualify. Some insurance panels have their own limits on how telehealth services can be delivered in order to be reimbursable, but basically telehealth is any way you may receive healthcare services that is not when you are in the room with your provider.
Telehealth has many pros!
It reduces lost work time and travel costs (therapy on your lunch break anyone?).
Telehealth allows improved access for those with mobility concerns, transportation issues, or scheduling conflicts.
You get more choices! You can access specialists, providers with specific styles, or therapeutic approaches you wouldn't normally have access too with traditional means. (Just make sure the provider's license is good in your area! Many therapists' licenses are state dependent- and it is determined by your location, not the therapists')
You can have sessions in the comfort of your own home! It might make you less likely to cancel that session. Therapy can be hard sometimes and anything that makes it easier is a win.
Telehealth reduces risk of getting sick in a pandemic. This is a new pro for my personal list, but it bears repeating. Those with concerns about contracting COVID-19 and those wishing to reduce community spread should opt for telehealth whenever possible.
There are some concerns with Telehealth.
A therapist can talk through these with you and your specific situation to reduce the likelihood that these will affect you.
The therapist may loose nonverbal cues that are often really helpful to you getting the full therapeutic experience. In the time of COVID-19 in person therapy should necessitate a mask for safety. As a therapist, I believe just as many, if not more, of these cues would be lost with a client and therapist both wearing a mask.
Therapy is a form of self care. Sometimes using technology decreases you taking time away when you need it.
You may get distractions in the middle of your session. One way to avoid this is to lock yourself in a private room and use an app like RainyMood or a white noise machine (this one is $10 and wireless!) outside the door to increase your privacy. Some people also have great success taking their therapy session in their car.
You must have access to a good internet connection and a video conferencing camera. Thankfully with cell phones becoming more prevalent, this is easier and easier for most people.
Telehealth is not always a good fit for all clients (e.g. young children or severe mental illness or families) or it may change the way therapy is delivered. If you are interested in telehealth for a specific need, find a provider who has plenty of experience providing this service and engaging over the camera.
A silver lining of COVID-19 is the increased access for many to telehealth services. While private insurance companies reimbursed prior to the pandemic, it often was not at a comparable rate or for all consumers. Additionally, medicaid has now allowed telehealth access to mental health services which greatly improves access for many that need care and face considerable burdens to go to therapy. Let us all keep the pressure on with medicaid and insurance companies to continue to provide telehealth as an option for both providers and consumers.
Interested in Telehealth? Book a free 15 minute consultation to see if it is right for you.