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Telehealth: Staying Safe While Getting Support


Sometimes, Having to Attend a Session Physically is Challenging

When it comes to mental health conditions, many factors come into play that often affect a person at different levels. Mental health issues affect us not only emotionally, but can also place a burden on our physical disposition to get up, leave home and go to the psychologist’s office. For example, lack of motivation and having no energy is part of depression. Also, at times, leaving home, can exacerbate anxiety and fears. Having been traumatized by different events may contribute to wanting to stay within the safety of our home.

Other times, it’s simply inconvenient or logistically difficult to attend personally to the psychologist’s office. Our lives are very busy, and our schedules are tight. Also, unexpected meetings, events, responsibilities can affect our ability to get into our car or public transportation expecting traffic to get to our session on time.

More recently with unexpected threats that can be associated with natural disasters (e.g. after effects of a hurricane), or our current threat of Coronavirus make staying at home a necessity to be safe and protect others. Maintaining a reasonable level of isolation from others becomes a major factor in lowering the chances of getting or passing any highly-contagious health issues.

Now more than ever, with the threat of the Coronavirus, staying safe has become a priority for all of us. Guidelines include avoiding crowds or contact with high-risk situations and people. Unfortunately, this risk can apply to medical and psychology offices that usually attract multiple visitors interacting who are seeking proper care.

How to take care of our emotional and mental needs when we just can’t make it to the Therapist’s Office?

The good news is that Telehealth offers a great alternative to being able to address our needs when being physically present is challenging. With Telehealth we can access the best of two worlds: safety and effective care. Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services using telecommunication technologies (e.g. video conference, phone sessions, chats/texts). It facilitates remote patient and clinician consults. This has become increasingly easier with the advent of new technology that facilitates remote communications.

How effective is Telehealth?

According to multiple research studies, Telehealth is an effective solution in providing mental health services. For example, the NIH (National Institute of Health) includes a recently published article that concludes that: Telemental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental illnesses universally. While being comparable to in-person services, telemental health care is particularly advantageous and inexpensive through the use of current technologies and adaptable designs, especially in isolated communities. ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723163/).”

As a matter of fact, the practice of providing psychotherapy via video teleconferencing has been in place for close to 30 years at the Department of Veterans Affairs and has proven to be effective in treating multiple mental health conditions including PTSD. Also, it has been supported by research that show that face-to-face and technology-based therapy provided similar results together with high patient satisfaction and positive clinical outcomes (for reference you can visit this American Psychological Association – APA – site: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/06/telehealth).

An additional endorsement of Telehealth (also known as Tele Psychology) is that many insurance companies cover these services. Furthermore, with the recent Coronavirus threat, Medicare and Medicaid, that traditionally had significant restrictions surrounding Telehealth, have now approved this process to ensure providing care to clients and patients.

Here are some suggestions in accessing quality care via Telehealth for psychological services. Make sure that both you and your psychotherapist have technology options that are agreeable and satisfactory. Also, treat a Telehealth session with the same care and confidentiality as a face-to-face session by holding the “session” in a private, quiet, non-distracting environment (room of your home, office, etc.). Having a previous understanding of payment methods that would apply for any copayments or fees (e.g. Can you pay remotely with credit or debit card? Can you send a check by mail? etc.). Finally, ensuring that continued care will be available.

After having conducted multiple sessions via Telehealth, I can assure you that my experience and the feedback received from multiple clients has been very positive. As a matter of fact, holding a session via video conferencing almost requires an increased level of concentration and attention on the part of the psychotherapist that can ensure properly capturing of critical details and being able to properly interpret emotions, etc.

With this, my suggestion is to contact your current psychotherapist to confirm willingness and ability to provide Telehealth support or, if not, contact a proven professional that can provide high-quality care via Telehealth. At the end, the goal is for you to receive the support and care needed to address any mental health concerns and also to help you cope with the high stress level related to the challenging times during the Coronavirus crisis.

Having Some Concerns and Questions about Telehealth is Understandable

How is privacy and confidentiality protected when using Telehealth?

First, all sessions should be conducted in a private room with proper sound isolation from both ends. Also, using the proper technology and also making sure that there are no traces of any confidential information (e.g. texts, voice messages) also ensures proper protection. Finally, the client should be properly informed, made aware of all details, and the client should approve the use of Telehealth. These factors, among others, will allow for feeling safe, and protected.

How effective is Telehealth?

As described above, Telehealth has shown, according to multiple scientific studies to provide similar, positive outcomes and client satisfaction as face-to-face meetings. It is important to ensure efficacy that the professional is well-trained, and focused when providing Telehealth services. An added assurance of the efficacy of Telehealth is that most health insurance companies have now moved to endorse, approve and cover Telehealth services.

What technology should I use?

This becomes a matter of preference and availability. Ideally, the best scenario is having access to some way of video conferencing as this allows a feel similar to a face-to-face session. Also, it allows both parties to pick on facial expressions and gestures that are an important qualitative factor to a positive therapeutic experience. However, when in need for support, it is best to access therapy services through almost any means than foregoing the access to a well-trained professional. Most commonly used services: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp.

Call To Discuss Your Situation And To Address Any Questions Regarding Telehealth, And Next Steps.

I answer all calls directly myself. As part of our call we can ensure that we are a good fit and take the next steps to help you improve your life and your relationship. Take the simple but important step of a calling me at 305-981-6434 (Miami Office) or at 561-376-9699 (Boca Raton Office). Also, you can call our Toll Free Number: (800) 593-6109. For those who prefer email, please address any questions to drgustavobenejam@gmail.com.

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