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.
The good news is that 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.
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, tele mental 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 shows 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, which traditionally had significant restrictions surrounding Telehealth, have now approved this process to ensure providing care to clients and patients.
Here are some suggestions for 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 a 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 have 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 your willingness and ability to provide Telehealth support or, if not, contact a proven professional that can provide high-quality care via Telehealth. In 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.