If you are contemplating starting therapy, or have been working with a therapist this spring and summer, you may quickly be introduced to telehealth for psychotherapy. Telehealth has made therapy accessible to people during a time when staying home has become the new normal to stop the spread of coronavirus. But, telehealth is not brand new. Many therapists, myself included, have been practicing telehealth prior to the pandemic, and scores more have pivoted to telehealth in order to be able to serve their clients safely during a difficult time. Here are some top tips to make the most of telehealth and info to tuck away if you are considering starting remote therapy.
1. Telehealth is effective.
If you are new to the idea of remote services for psychotherapy, rest assured, the research supports this mode of treatment delivery. The therapy itself really doesn’t change appreciably for most types of intervention, it is just the delivery method of watching your therapist on your screen as opposed to sitting opposite one another in a room. While you may have to get comfortable with talking to someone on a screen if you haven’t already been using video platforms for work, my experience has been that people fairly rapidly are at ease and the experience is not appreciably different than being in office together. Want the hard data? Here are some research articles that support the efficacy of telehealth: telehealth vs in person for treatment of depression, telehealth vs in person for chronic pain, and a general overview of telemedicine for mental health treatment.
2. You’ll get more out of your experience if you prepare for therapy.
It might be tempting to schedule your therapy appointment in between high pressure work meetings, or in a window while waiting for a child to complete an activity or appointment. Telehealth is nothing if not convenient, and the lack of drive time means it is easier to squeeze into smaller windows of time on your schedule. But if you are not centered and emotionally ready to engage in therapy, you may spend a good chunk of your appointment calming and focusing yourself. Just as you would drive to a therapist’s office and likely sit in the waiting room for a few moments before your appointment, try regrouping with 5-10 minutes of quiet meditation or journaling before your appointment. You might also benefit from keeping a journal or notebook with thoughts and topics that come up during the week that you’d like to review with your therapist. A little forethought before your appointment and centering of your mind may make the time that much more valuable.
3. You are responsible for aspects of privacy that your therapist would manage in office.
When you come to my physical office, I am responsible for keeping the space private: managing the noise to the extent that I can from other surrounding offices and minimizing sound transfer to keep our conversations confidential. When you are engaged in teletherapy, your therapist can only be responsible for their side of the connection, but they can give you guidance on managing privacy on your side. Start by finding a quiet and uninterrupted space for your appointments. If others are in the house, let them know not to interrupt, and minimize interruptions from electronics. Close other windows on your computer to minimize distractions and free up bandwidth for better connection. Use a sound machine to decrease noise transfer, and wear noise cancelling headphones with an integrated microphone to reduce both distractions and noise transfer. If you are the primary caregiver for children who will be in the house, consider how to meet their needs while you are in an appointment so that you can be fully present during therapy.
4. Treat your telehealth therapy time the way you would treat in-office therapy.
In addition to preparing for your sessions as described above, treat your therapy time as you would if you were in office. While being at home might lead to a more casual feel for your time, it’s best to give your full attention to therapy in order to receive the most benefit. “Multi-tasking” during your appointment is likely to take you out of the therapy space and could negatively impact your time. Similarly, using drugs or alcohol prior to an appointment is not advisable and, depending on your therapist, could lead to your appointment being ended early. Work with your therapist to find an appointment time during which you can be fully present to receive the optimum benefit from your telehealth therapy.
5. Your insurance likely treats telehealth no different from in office work (state dependent).
When the pandemic sent people home, most insurances at least temporarily authorized payment for telehealth services. Of course, this will depend on your insurance and some of this depends on your state. For those of us in Colorado, Governor Polis passed legislation that requires insurance companies to reimburse for telehealth. Hopefully, more states will follow suit to help more people be able to access telehealth not just during the pandemic, but at any time, as it is a boon to folks in rural location, with transportation issues, with health concerns, and with busy schedules making commuting time a deterrent to seeking help. If you are unsure and planning to use your health insurance for therapy, reach out and find out what your plan covers.
Interested in telehealth treatment? I am currently accepting new clients aged 16+ for private pay (outside of insurance panel) mental health treatment, focusing on treatment of anxiety and stress. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to pursue working with me or if I can help you find an appropriate referral!