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Posted by GVT Admin on Jul 9, 2024 11:19:48 AM

Teletherapy

More and more frequently these days we hear from social workers specializing in mental health that many more clients are using teletherapy to attend sessions. Teletherapy is any remote therapy that uses technology to help the therapist and client communicate. 

Some examples of teletherapy include: 

•    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

Before Covid

Before the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic, psychotherapists considered talking to clients over the phone no therapy session at all. Keeping in contact while exchanging logistical information was not considered true therapy. However, as COVID wore on and clients were unable to appear in person, therapists began to adapt their techniques to telecommunication and teletherapy was born.

Depending on the Patient

Many therapists agree that, depending on the patient, teletherapy can be just as effective as traditional in-person therapy. Dr. Chloe Greenbaum, a licensed psychologist and adjunct professor at New York University, points out that "some people have difficulty accessing in-person psychotherapy due to their geographic location, the cost of childcare, physical disabilities, chronic illness, or lack of transportation." She explains that online therapy can eliminate those barriers, making it more accessible for clients.

Still a Novel Approach

•    "The overwhelming vast majority of all mental health research is based on in-person sessions," Dr. Kyle Zrenchik says. "We just don’t fully know how effective video sessions are yet overall. But we do know that we are able to reach certain populations easier." 
•    Clarissa Harwell LCSW explains that most therapists pay attention to their clients' body language rather than just what they are saying verbally. "While phone therapy is likely preferred over no therapy, it's not the preferred method for most practitioners. For therapy to be good, we are doing more than just talking. Therapists are observing, listening, and responding to everything that happens in the room." Therefore, she feels that video-based sessions are more effective than phone appointments.

•    Many people have difficulty accessing in-person psychotherapy due to a lack of transportation, trouble finding or affording childcare for their appointment, their location, and illnesses or disabilities. Some people have severe phobias or family obligations that prevent them from leaving their houses. Others may have compromised immune systems or provide care for vulnerable populations. Teletherapy is the obvious answer in all of these cases.

Limitations of Teletherapy

•    During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, some therapists chose not to return to their offices. Clients who wished to resume in-person therapy needed to decide whether to begin treatment with a new provider who continued doing in-person therapy or to continue doing online therapy with their existing provider. This presented clients with an unwanted choice and was troubling for many.
•    Dr. Zrenchik adds that it can be harder to build a solid relationship with clients using teletherapy. "People crave human connection, and there are certain aspects of that which simply cannot translate to a digital format."
•    A lack of privacy might be another issue for clients with roommates or those who don't have a private area to talk to their therapist. 

Benefits of Teletherapy

•    Greater access to care: Some people are unable to use traditional therapy due to physical disabilities, geographic location, or scheduling issues.
•    Lower costs: Teletherapy may help clients save money on treatment. Clients are also likely to incur fewer therapy-associated expenses when they do not have to travel to receive treatment or pay for childcare.
•    High satisfaction: Users of quality teletherapy report high satisfaction with treatment.
•    More privacy: People who choose teletherapy do not have to sit in busy waiting rooms but can seek treatment in the privacy of their own homes. For some, this alleviates privacy concerns.
•    Better public health: The COVID-19 health crisis demonstrates that the ability to seek medical care at home can slow the spread of illness and protect vulnerable populations. Teletherapy allows people to get mental health treatment at home without risking the spread of infection during epidemics and pandemics.

Where We Stand Now

Widespread use of teletherapy is still in its infancy and not endorsed by 100% of practitioners. It is clear, however, that for some clients it is the best option and, in some cases, the only option. The mental health social work community continues to study the pros and cons of teletherapy with an eye on developing a comprehensive plan for the appropriate clients. 

Topics: mental health

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