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What is teletherapy? Benefits and uses

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Teletherapy is a type of mental health counselling that takes place over the phone or via the internet.

More therapists are implementing this type of virtual mental health care into their practice as videoconferencing software improves.

Both the client and the therapist may find teletherapy to be beneficial. The majority of research indicates that it is just as effective as in-person counselling.

Definitions

Teletherapy

Teletherapy is any type of remote therapy that use technology to aid communication between the therapist and the client. Teletherapy can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • doing therapy sessions over the phone
  • having a group chat for group therapy
  • using videoconferencing for individual, couples, or group therapy
  • receiving therapy via email or instant messenger
  • using apps that connect clients to therapists and offer therapy within the app

Benefits

In comparison to traditional therapy, teletherapy offers a number of advantages.

For therapy clients

Teletherapy appears to be as beneficial as in-person therapy, according to most studies. The following are some of the advantages of pursuing research-backed teletherapy with a qualified therapist:

  • Improved access to care: Traditional treatment is not an option for certain people owing to physical limitations, regional limitations, or scheduling conflicts.
  • Reduced costs: Clients may be able to save money on treatment by using teletherapy. When clients do not have to travel to obtain treatment or pay for child care, they are more likely to incur fewer therapy-related expenses.
  • High levels of satisfaction: Users of high-quality teletherapy report a high level of treatment satisfaction.
  • More personal space: Teletherapy people do not have to wait in crowded waiting rooms and can receive treatment in the comfort of their own homes. For some, this is a welcome relief from privacy concerns.
  • Improved public health: The COVID-19 health crisis highlights how having access to medical treatment at home can help to halt the spread of disease and safeguard vulnerable people. During epidemics and pandemics, teletherapy allows people to receive mental health care at home without risking the spread of infection.

For therapists

Teletherapy may suit some therapists’ personal styles and allow them to achieve their practise goals. Among the advantages are:

  • Reduced overheads: Keeping a workplace in good shape can be costly. Many of the overheads for therapists who transition to a telehealth-only paradigm can be eliminated. Part-time teletherapy providers may be able to hire office space only a few days a week, decreasing costs.
  • The ability to reach more clients: People with impairments, financial concerns, transportation issues, and other impediments to therapy may benefit from telehealth. This increased accessibility allows therapists to assist more people. Therapists might earn more money by expanding their possible client pool.
  • A shorter commute: A therapist who specialises in teletherapy may be able to help clients from the comfort of their own home, minimising or eliminating their travel.

Limitations and disadvantages

While teletherapy offers numerous advantages, it also has significant drawbacks.

For therapy clients

Teletherapy is not a treatment option for everyone. The following are some disadvantages:

  • Compliance: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that healthcare providers, including therapists, respect the privacy of their patients or clients. Clients should only work with therapists who encrypt data because unsecure chat and other apps can expose critical information.
  • Therapy environment: Finding the time and space for therapy might be difficult for people with little solitude at home. Treatment in a clinic may be a less stressful option than treatment at home.
  • Technical difficulties: Online counselling might feel uncomfortable and impersonal due to slow internet connections, video programme issues, and communication delays. Telehealth may not be a good option for people who lack technological ability or do not trust digital platforms.
  • Communication: It can be more difficult to discern body language and other subtle clues while communicating over a digital channel. These types of communication are eliminated with email and phone therapy.

For therapists

The following are some of the problems that therapists may face when using digital therapy:

  • Ethical and legal issues: Therapists must follow the regulations of the state licencing board in both the state where they practise and the state where they treat a client. This compliance can necessitate a high level of legal understanding, and breaking the law can jeopardise a therapist’s licence.
  • An increase in client anonymity: It may be more challenging for therapists to support clients who are a danger to themselves or others when they meet with them via a digital platform. Clients may be able to hide their true identity. If a client is in risk of injuring oneself or others, therapists have a responsibility to notify the appropriate authorities, and client anonymity might make this more difficult, thereby jeopardising the therapist’s ethical commitments.
  • Client privacy: HIPAA and other privacy requirements must be followed by therapists. Time and technical expertise are required for selecting the correct platform and taking proactive efforts to secure customer data.
  • Communication barriers: Establishing a good rapport with clients across digital networks can take longer. Body language and other subtle forms of communication may be difficult for certain therapists to read, making it more difficult to provide high-quality treatment.

Uses

Teletherapy is a type of therapy that is similar to traditional therapy. Because in-person treatment does not involve physical contact or laboratory tests, the majority of the therapy experience can be replicated virtually, particularly through video chat. As a result, teletherapy can assist with a variety of diseases and challenges, including depression, anxiety, interpersonal issues, trauma, and chronic stress.

Most disorders for which scientists have attempted teletherapy appear to be treatable, according to new studies. According to a 2010 study, distance-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for depression may be just as beneficial as in-person counselling.

People who are considering teletherapy should talk to their doctor about it.

How a teletherapy session works

While teletherapy can be done over the phone or via email, most modern telemental health sessions employ video chat.

The therapeutic process is identical to that of face-to-face counselling. It normally starts with a few first sessions in which the therapist and client get to know each other and talk about treatment goals. The therapist may then go more into the client’s concerns, make behavioural modifications recommendations, and urge the client to reflect on their emotions.

The therapist may request that the client take precautions to maintain confidentiality. These could include the following:

  • logging on from a private network
  • keeping their computer locked to prevent others from viewing the session
  • accessing therapy via an encrypted therapy platform

Clients should also inquire about their therapist’s procedures for maintaining client confidentiality and preventing third parties from viewing sessions or notes.

Who is qualified to get teletherapy?

While anyone can offer support to another person via the internet or over the phone, only qualified professionals can call their services therapy. Depending on the state in which they operate, clinicians can call themselves therapists.

Teletherapy may be provided by a variety of providers, including:

  • licensed professional counselors
  • licensed marriage and family therapists
  • licensed clinical social workers
  • licensed psychologists
  • licensed psychiatrists

State licencing requirements vary, but in general, a therapist must be licenced in the state where the client is treated. As a result of this rule, a clinician licenced in Tennessee may not be able to treat a client who lives in California. Providers should verify with the client’s home state’s licencing board to determine their ethical and legal obligations.

Conclusion

People who find it difficult to get to therapy in person may benefit from teletherapy. It’s also a great way to prevent illness from spreading, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic or during flu and cold season.

Quality treatment, like other health services, yields better results. A person should collaborate with their therapist to develop a treatment plan that is both effective and beneficial.

Sources:

  • https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/03/virtual
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662387/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723163/
  • https://telehealth.org/blog/practicing-over-state-lines/
  • https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1357633X19871746
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/teletherapy
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/mental-health-professionals-duty-to-warn.aspx
  • https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/online-therapy
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005789409000781