As the Covid-19 pandemic thrust economic and medical uncertainties and social isolation upon the world at large, the need for help from mental health experts has been on a record high. In addition to exacerbating existing mental conditions among people who needed help, the pandemic has also led to increased stress, anxiety, and depression, negatively impacting public mental health. A recent study published in Lancet Psychiatry shows that one in five Americans who had Covid-19 were later diagnosed with anxiety, depression, sleeping disorders, and psychosis.
Despite growing evidence of the importance of a robust mental health response system, fear of the Coronavirus, systemic and infrastructural gaps keep people from actively seeking help, particularly the less privileged and the people living in rural areas.
This is where teletherapy comes to the rescue!!
Teletherapy is the delivery of mental health, speech, and occupational therapy services using online video conferencing tools. It offers virtual therapy sessions where the therapist employs the exact traditional techniques used in face-to-face sessions to help the client. Therapists and clients can schedule an appointment and log in at the decided time on a secure video platform to interact with each other using a webcam, mic, and headset. The therapist may also chart out a treatment plan that allows the client to freely engage with learning materials and interventions. Some therapists also use a blended care approach that integrates in-person sessions with virtual sessions at regular intervals or based on the client's needs.
Teletherapy, therefore, is an excellent way for therapists to improve the quality of their service. In this article, we discuss some of the benefits of going online with a private practice.
1. Wider Reach Teletherapy is a convenient option for people to seek help quickly and safely. Fear of the virus, transport difficulties, physical disabilities, economic constraints, and other such factors are legitimate reasons people avoid visiting clinics. Setting up a teletherapy practice helps therapists reach out to these sections of people, adding value to their service and expanding their client base at once.
2. Reduced Overheads
Teletherapy allows therapists to offer their service without the overhead costs of running a clinic. Therapists who provide both in-person and teletherapy sessions can still save on rent and electricity costs, significantly lowering their practice costs.
3. Reduced Commuting
Therapists can hold virtual therapy sessions within their homes' comforts, avoiding the traffic, pollution, and long commute to work. The freedom and flexibility offered by teletherapy help therapists stay stress-free, focused, and able to provide high-quality care to their clients.
4. Instant Monitoring
If clients face trouble following the therapist's treatment plan, they can contact the therapist instantly and get help. They no longer need to book an appointment, wait an entire week, and then wait again at the lobby. Since teletherapy provides instant monitoring, it enhances the quality of care provided by therapists.
5. Better Safety
There's always a risk element involved in in-person therapy sessions. Some clients might get aggressive or behave differently than expected through the session, risking therapists' safety. Teletherapy counseling can help therapists gain insights into the client's tendencies well before scheduling an in-person session. This averts safety risks and allows therapists to come prepared to provide care for such clients. Similarly, clients need not feel stressed about waiting to meet the therapist and hear what they have to say. They can open up about themselves better in a known environment such as their home.
6. Improved Care
Teletherapy gives therapists a first-hand account of their client's lives, which they might not have in an in-person setting. This could help therapists develop a well-rounded idea of the client's life and recommend treatment plans accordingly. They could also enforce certain aspects of their treatment plan in real-time, which the clients may have otherwise missed or dodged, by monitoring them in action via teletherapy.
Also, teletherapy allows therapists the flexibility to take the time, deliberate on the client's history, and suggest well-thought-out action points, instead of responding off-hand when the client is at the clinic. Again, this improves the quality of care provided by therapists.
7. Guaranteed Patient Confidentiality
People are often reluctant to visit therapists due to the social stigma around mental illnesses. They fear recognition when seen at the clinic and the ostracization that might follow. Teletherapy addresses these concerns by offering clients a high level of anonymity around their challenges.
While some people may raise concerns about clients' privacy on the video-conferencing tools used in teletherapy, it must be noted that therapists in the US are legally bound not to share the details about client sessions with third parties, just as in-person sessions. Also, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates therapists to safeguard client privacy.
Therapists can sail through these challenges by using teletherapy platforms that encrypt data to ensure compliance with privacy laws. For example, BetterHelp, an online counseling platform, is HIPAA-compliant, has its servers hosted in an A-grade facility, and works on an SSL encryption system that ensures state-of-the-art protection to client data. It also offers client anonymity by not asking for the full name or contact information of clients.
Similarly, platforms such as TruePill provide teletherapy, e-commerce, and pharmacy fulfillment features in one place, ensuring that clients don't ever need to fear being 'exposed' or judged.
8. Ease of Setup
With teletherapy, all that therapists need are a well-set-up space, a stable internet connection, a laptop or a computer, a webcam, and a microphone. While independent teletherapists may need to market themselves to gain clients, teletherapists working with teletherapy companies such as BetterHelp have it easier, as the technical, marketing, and compliance aspects of their practice are taken care of by the companies.
With the pandemic forcing most of the human population indoors, healthcare professionals are adopting teletherapy across state lines. Therapists who learn to ride this wave of innovation can make headways in their career, besides taking down an impending mental health crisis.