Posted on March 23, 2020
If there was ever a time when people needed support from mental health professionals, it is now. Many individuals, both with and without histories of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and fearful. As a therapist, you’re probably looking for ways to help in a situation that feels truly helpless. However, seeing patients right now is difficult. Regulars don’t feel comfortable keeping appointments, and potential new clients don’t feel like it’s possible to seek out a therapy matching service when social distancing measures are mandated. However, teletherapy is becoming a popular solution for patients that are seeking mental health services but cannot physically be in a room with a therapist.
Teletherapy is the offering of mental health services done in real-time using a video chat platform, by taking a phone call or communicating through text or email. Psychotherapists are often skeptical about teletherapy, mostly wondering about whether it will stay true to the nature of the practice. Can therapists have the same level of impact and efficacy through a screen? While we do believe that in-person therapy sessions are incredibly impactful, the short answer here is yes. With the recent global health crisis, it’s important to leverage resources and new solutions that allow you to still provide mental health services to those in need.
While in-person sessions are typically the favored method of receiving therapy, many clients are receptive to having a therapy session remotely even every day. The benefits of therapy online include:
Telepsychology is actually ideal in many ways, but it is not for everyone. With that said, we are not living in ordinary times. Even if teletherapy isn’t for you, you might figure out how to make it work for you to continue being able to practice therapy during social distancing.
While telepsychology is an incredibly powerful tool for most therapy, it is not appropriate for every concern or every client. Many guidelines caution against using it for serious issues, like being at risk for self-harm —for example. It is also not the preferred method of conducting therapy, as data suggests that the majority of clients or therapists prefer in-person sessions when given the choice. Some of the various drawbacks to teletherapy are:
All things considered, the negatives are nominal.
The greatest thing about teletherapy services is that online therapists can start anytime and conduct a session from anywhere. During this time, it’s important to maintain communication with your current clients and let them know that they can still receive treatment during this indefinite period of social distancing via video conferencing or telephone. Encourage your patients to not miss appointments, and be flexible with new schedules and arrangements. Additionally, make sure your website, social media or any promotional platforms are updated to advertise that you have a telepractice for new prospects.
FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom are popular and easy to use video chat platforms amongst online therapists. Most people with Apple devices, like iPhones, are already set up to use FaceTime, and those with Google accounts can easily log into a Google Hangout or Meeting. Skype and Zoom require patients to download an application, so if you choose to use those platforms, make sure your patients have the necessary information to get set up prior to their appointment. It’s also important to consider that some people might not be comfortable having sessions on a video call, and might prefer to not use the camera on video chat platforms, or prefer a regular phone call.
These are very difficult times for patients, and for therapists to maintain business. But, leveraging technology through teletherapy can help create a bridge to prevent gaps in critical mental health care. Ultimately, the integrity of the therapeutic relationship with your patients will not be diluted in any way just because you’re connecting through a screen. Social distance and isolation don’t need to mean mental health care is on pause. Take your private practice online and continue to care for patients in the same way you always have.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.