Teletherapy 101: What You Should Know

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending our lives in unprecedented ways, the world of telemedicine has taken a new turn. Previously used in only specific cases requiring access to immediate, remote health services, it is now fast becoming the norm. We can attribute this to both necessity and convenience.

Teletherapy counseling services have also seen a rapid rise in popularity over the past few years. As everyday stresses accumulate and lead to increased mental health issues on a community level, the need for remote counseling becomes even more apparent.

persons head with mental health written inside of head

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is the provision of counseling and related services using remote telecommunication technology. It can be done on an audio call or via any other private and secure interface.

Who Can Benefit From it?

Although almost all therapists have shifted to teletherapy during the pandemic, there are other scenarios in which teletherapy can be of immense help. Here are some such cases.

  • People traveling for a long time who do not want to miss their therapy appointments.
  • Many people whose movement is compromised by their social situations, for example, women and children in oppressive homes.
  • Those who do not wish to disclose their situation to anyone can avail of therapy services from the comfort of their room.
  • People suffering from social anxiety who find it hard to physically step out and show up for therapy.
  • People with busy schedules who want more flexible timings.
  • Those who have relocated to a new city or state and do not wish to change their therapist.

Many such examples exist around us. Teletherapy counseling services can ease people’s way towards getting the appropriate care for their issues.

In addition to this, teletherapy can benefit people suffering from a diversity of issues. Here is a list of some of them.

  • Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more
  • Developmental issues present since birth, such as autism, Down’s syndrome, etc.
  • Speech and comprehension disorders
  • The psychological aspect of debilitating or terminal illnesses, for example, cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), myasthenia gravis

However, it must be kept in mind that one need not be suffering from a disease or pre-diagnosed issue to seek therapy. Many people turn to counsel to bring order to their thoughts and lives, help them find better coping mechanisms, and get to know themselves better.

Therapy, especially grief counseling, can also work wonders when it comes to getting to the other side of relationship struggles, academic decisions, and career insecurity. 

The Ins and Outs of Teletherapy

Teletherapy works pretty much the same but also in an entirely different way from regular therapy. Paradoxical, yes. Surprising? No.

The structure is the same. You find yourself an available therapist and book an appointment. An important thing to remember is to ask your insurance company to provide you with a list of therapists covered by your plan.

As all therapists work differently, you start according to whatever treatment style you were looking for. We will come back to this little bit in a short while.

Every therapist requires a brief history of your mental health to map out a plan for you. Then you must figure out the frequency and timings of your appointments, and any reservations you might have. Remember that you must always be as open with your therapist about your needs and limitations as possible to ensure good progress.

What sets teletherapy apart from regular therapy are the nuances of telecommunication. You must figure out what mode of communication works best for you. Although video calls are the ideal choice, some clients prefer to start with simple audio calls for the first couple of sessions as they warm up.

Moreover, establishing trust and human connection takes time over virtual therapy. You must hold space for the process of warming up and feeling comfortable with your therapist.

woman sitting with therapist in person

Is It As Effective As In-Person Therapy?

Yes, it is. According to the American Psychiatric Association, research on the effectiveness of teletherapy began in the 1960s and the conclusions drawn are all positive. The provision of telehealth counseling has increased the general public’s access to mental health care.

It has also helped bypass the stigma associated with seeking therapy. As the clinical psychologist, Dhara Meghani says, “For patients who have never before sought care from a therapist due to various barriers —including concern about being seen at a physical clinic—the option to obtain services online can be a port of entry into mental health care.”

Effectiveness aside, studies have also shown that the quality of mental health services is the same in both virtual and in-person therapy. Therefore, teletherapy counseling is not a secondary option when it comes to seeking help for mental health issues.

However, a few forms of therapy that require physical presence, such as play therapy for children, do require in-person sessions and cannot be made up for by virtual methods.

Finding the Perfect Teletherapist For You

Some clients prefer to start slow and talk about everything before getting to the action part. Others prefer a more hands-on approach to their issues. Similarly, some therapists specialize in certain techniques, such as CBT, while others are open to anything.

Picking the right therapist requires addressing all issues, preferences, and limitations openly and without reservation. Keep your eye on the signs that your current therapist is working for you, and do not be afraid to find someone else if that is not the case. Make sure you check all their credentials and specializations before signing up.

The Bottomline

At the end of the day, there is something we can all gain from therapy, be it virtual or in-person. The key is to do your research and approach whatever form of therapy you pick with your homework done.

Teletherapy counseling is, quite literally, therapy at your doorstep with the accessibility it provides. It is a disservice to yourself to put your mental health in the backseat. We hope you decide to seek help today and wish you good luck on your journey.

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