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First, what is teletherapy?
Teletherapy is similar to telemedicine. It’s therapy but…well…virtual! Teletherapy is when therapists have sessions with clients over a video call. With the shift of medicine into telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, many industries in healthcare pivoted towards using this model.
What are the benefits?
Psychology Today shared a wide list of benefits of teletherapy but I wanted to point out a few that have been relevant to my teletherapy experience: flexibility, low barrier to entry, and efficiency.
Flexibility: This was probably the most important factor in choosing teletherapy versus seeing a therapist in person. When choosing a therapist in person, I would always factor in whether they were close to my home or my office. I didn’t have a car at the time and wanted to make sure that I could find someone as close as possible to me. It limited my options and, eventually, I had to leave my therapist because her prices were too expensive, and shift to a fully-remote therapist. After starting teletherapy with a new therapist, I realized how much easier it was to have someone fully remote. I was able to travel, and not compromise my sessions. When I moved cities, I didn’t have to think about limiting my options to therapists that are near my home. The flexibility of teletherapy allowed me to expand my options and find the best therapist for me, both in personality and financially, without having to compromise on either.
Low Barrier to Entry: Psychology Today shared that, “[s]tatistics indicate the modal number of sessions attended by clients is: one.” This means that patients will go to one session and never return. There are a plethora of reasons as to why someone would not return – being vulnerable is terrifying, they didn’t click with the therapist, it was too expensive, not the right fit, whatever it may be. However, with teletherapy, the barrier to entry is much lower for folks to begin their journey. Rather than utilizing a huge exertion of energy, all patients have to do is log onto a video call. I can definitely relate to this! A low barrier of entry was important for me to continue therapy. I moved a few times in the past year and the thought of having to find a new therapist every single time I moved was…daunting to say the least. However, with teletherapy, my options opened up and it made the process of finding and committing to a new therapist much easier.
Efficiency: We all saw this with remote work. Without commuting, getting ready in the morning, sitting in traffic, or all of the extra time wasted, people became substantially more efficient with their days. This concept applies to teletherapy. By streamlining the process of therapy, and removing the obstacle of commuting to and from therapy, you have more time in your day to fit therapy in. Teletherapy takes all the typical excuses out of therapy – “I don’t have time”, “I can’t find someone close to me”, and “Commuting takes too much time”. Time is extremely important! Time is extremely valuable! With teletherapy, it’s possible for the busiest of folks to squeeze in time for their mental health – without sacrificing the rest of their obligations.
Why is teletherapy important?
The increase in telemedicine and teletherapy has allowed for wider access to healthcare among low-income populations. Vox shared that teletherapy can, “help clinicians find new clients in underserved areas and expand their practices to cover people who previously couldn’t travel for an appointment.” Transportation to and from appointments is a barrier for many low-income people, especially those living in rural areas. Teletherapy can reduce some barriers and be a more equitable way for folks to access mental health resources without the strain of having transportation, paying for transportation, or losing time spent that could have been working or taking care of one’s family. However, it’s important to note that transportation isn’t the only barrier to therapy in lower-income and rural areas; the problem of not having access to reliable internet is still far too common.
Teletherapy provides more equitable practices for patients to receive mental health care. According to Medical News Today, one of the most important benefits of teletherapy is providing greater access to care. The article states, “Some people are unable to use traditional therapy due to physical disabilities, geographic location, or scheduling issues.” In addition to folks having less access to transportation in rural areas, folks with disabilities or scheduling issues (who may be constrained to specific work hours) now have the flexibility to see their therapist on their own time, in the comfort of their own homes. This is just one step in creating equitable health practices.
Will I get the same experience as seeing a therapist in person?
This is up to you. Some people don’t find the same connection when talking to someone over a video call but others find that the benefits outweigh this potential con when thinking about taking up teletherapy. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your preferences.
Personally, I have experienced that when I met with a therapist in person, they had the ability to call out if I am exhibiting nervous or anxious body language. However, over video chat, it can be more difficult to pick up on those cues. Although this is a part of the in-person experience I am compromising by using teletherapy – along with the connection created from meeting someone in person – I found that the benefits of teletherapy outweigh the cons for my personal mental health and lifestyle.
Where do I do my sessions?
Unless you live alone, it can be challenging to take your teletherapy sessions in private or in a space that makes you feel comfortable to open up. A few of our team members shared where they have taken their teletherapy calls…this has included spots like work offices, fire escapes, parks, porches, bathtubs, cars, supply closets, benches, and bedrooms, to name a few. When I used to have a car, this was my favorite teletherapy spot. I would drive a few minutes away from my house to get some space and set up my phone on my dashboard. Now that I’m car-less in New York, I’m personally a big fan of the random park bench. It has forced me to get out of my comfort zone because, you know, talking through your therapy in public can be terrifying. But, once you realize that most people are passing by you and no one can probably hear what you’re saying (or even cares), it helps you push through that discomfort. I never thought I’d be someone who could take their therapy sessions in public.
If you are still learning more about your journey into teletherapy, check out this article I wrote about the members of our team and what they think about their therapy experiences. You’d be surprised at how many people are in therapy – all it takes is talking about it and learning more for yourself.