What is Telehealth Therapy – Overview
Telehealth therapy, often called “Teletherapy,” refers to any type of mental healthcare service that is delivered by the therapist to the patient using a digital communications network or platform.
As video and online communications technologies improve and become more accessible to people, an increasing number of certified therapists are integrating virtual visits (Telemedicine/Telehealth) as part of their mental health practice.
Teletherapy is a convenient way to deliver therapy treatment for patients and therapists alike. Studies have also shown that Teletherapy can be as effective as conventional in-person counseling.
Here are some common examples of Telehealth Therapy:
- Participating in online group chats for group therapy
- Conducting mental health therapy sessions over the phone
- Receiving instructions for therapy over instant messenger or email
- Receiving therapy using video-conferencing for a person, a couple or a group
- Using mobile apps that help patients connect with counselors/therapists and receive therapy
What are the Benefits of Telehealth Therapy?
There are a wide variety of benefits of telehealth therapy. Compared to conventional mental healthcare methods, telehealth has the following benefits:
Telehealth Therapy Benefits of Patients
Results of several studies show that Teletherapy can be equally as effective as conventional therapy. Here are some of the common benefits of receiving mental healthcare services from certified therapists using Teletherapy:
- Cost-effective – Teletherapy is immensely helpful in saving significant amounts of money on mental healthcare. Patients tend to incur substantially low therapy-related expenses as they do not have to travel to and from the therapist’s clinic/office. Couples and single parents also save money for child care.
- Easy access – There are many reasons a patient might not be able to access conventional therapy, such as a physical disability, scheduling issue or geographical location. However, Teletherapy can be accessed from the comfort of one’s home or office and it is relatively simple to schedule an appointment for a virtual visit.
- Improved privacy – Many patients find it easier to talk to therapists when they don’t have to sit in the waiting room. Teletherapy alleviates any privacy concerns as the patient is at home.
- Higher effectiveness – Studies show that the majority of patients who seek Teletherapy are highly satisfied with the quality of care.
- Better public healthcare – The recent pandemic showed that it is important to be able to talk to healthcare professionals from remote locations, especially to protect vulnerable masses of the Teletherapy is an excellent way for patients to receive mental healthcare at home without having to face the risk of infection in case of an epidemic.
Telehealth Therapy Benefits for Therapists
Many mental healthcare professionals find Teletherapy is more suited to their style of treatment and helps meet their practice goals.
Some of the major benefits of Teletherapy for therapists are:
- Access to more patients – Telehealth has the potential to improve mental healthcare services, especially for people with financial worries, physical disabilities, transportation problems and other issues. This ease of access allows therapists to serve even more people. Teletherapy proves to be an effective way to increase your potential client base and enhance your revenue.
- Lowered overheads – Every professional knows maintaining an office is expensive. Mental healthcare professionals who shift from conventional in-person therapy to Teletherapy can effectively eliminate most of their overheads by working from home. Besides this, professionals who offer part-time mental health therapy and counseling can rent office space for a few days of the week, thereby lowering expenses.
- Less commuting – Similar to the patient, the therapists can use Teletherapy to offer services from their home, thus lowering commute costs and time.
Are there any disadvantages of Telehealth Therapy?
As is seen with any innovation, telehealth therapy has its advantages and its disadvantages too.
Disadvantages of Telehealth Therapy for Patients
Telehealth therapy is not for everyone because some of its disadvantages include:
- Therapy environment – For patients with little privacy at home, it can be tough to find the right time and space for conducting Teletherapy sessions. For such people, it is more effective to choose in-person counseling.
- Communication – At times, communicating across electronic media does not allow the therapist to understand everything, as it is harder to read body language and subtle clues over a video call. The same problem can be found with Teletherapy conducted using email and phone calls.
- Compliance issues – HIPAA requires healthcare professionals, including mental healthcare therapists, to maintain compliance with patient protection and client privacy regulations. Any form of unsecured communication between therapist and patient has the potential of being hacked for sensitive data. This can be avoided by working with therapists who use secure encrypted communication channels.
- Technical problems – There are several different technical difficulties that can arise and affect the quality of Teletherapy. These can include glitches in video software, slow internet connection and even communication delays, which can turn therapy sessions more stressful for patients. Besides this, there are many patients who lack sufficient proficiency with technology to use, or trust, online communication platforms. For such patients, Telehealth Therapy may not be a convenient option.
Disadvantages of Telehealth Therapy for Therapists
Here are some issues and disadvantages of telehealth therapy for mental healthcare providers:
- Client privacy – Mental and healthcare professionals need to comply with strict HIPAA regulations governing the transmission and storage of sensitive patient data. Hence, it is imperative for therapists to choose the appropriate platform and to ensure security at par with patient’s satisfaction and technical proficiency.
- Ethical and legal issues – Mental health therapists are obliged to comply with a wide variety of regulations from state licensing boards in the state they practice and the state where the client is situated. Maintaining compliance means having in-depth legal knowledge, as violating any regulation can mean losing the therapist’s
- Communication problems – Some patients may find it harder to form a rapport with their therapists when using digital communication. Some therapists can also find it difficult to read body language and subtle non-vocal signs to provide the best quality treatment.
- More client anonymity – Therapists who treat patients over online platforms can find it difficult to offer sufficient support to patients who pose a danger to themselves or others around them. Online platforms can also help patients conceal their true identity, and therapists must report any self-harm or endangering activity to authorities. However, online anonymity may make it more difficult for therapists to fulfill their duty completely.
Telehealth therapy is an excellent choice for those with problems attending in-person counseling. It is also an effective way for therapists to provide quality care to a larger number of people, especially the physically disabled or those in rural areas with no easy access to mental healthcare services.
What is a Telehealth Psychiatrist?