What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy, also known as online therapy, e-therapy, or video therapy, is any remote therapy that uses a virtual platform to help therapists and clients communicate. If you’ve ever used FaceTime or Skype, it’s essentially the same thing – except more secure and with a qualified professional at the other end instead of a distant friend or relative.
Teletherapy is similar to, and has been shown to be as effective as, traditional, in-person therapy. Studies have shown that teletherapy can provide individuals with the necessary help and guidance needed to tackle a wide range of mental and behavioral issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship difficulties. Teletherapy has been around since the 1990s, though it has grown in availability over the last few years, as people’s access to the internet has increased.
Is Teletherapy Effective?
Teletherapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for a wide range of ages. Its effectiveness, just like traditional therapy, will be further enhanced if there is consistency and active participation on the part of both the mental health professional and the client.
Teletherapy can be beneficial for a wide range of people with a diverse set of circumstances and experiences. A multitude of services can be offered through online platforms, including individual and group therapy, assessment of psychological and behavioral problems and speech and occupational therapy.
How Do Online Therapy Sessions Work?
Teletherapy sessions work much the same way as traditional therapy sessions with only one significant difference – the therapist and the client are not in the same room. Sessions are scheduled at an appropriate and suitable time and day for each party, who then log-in via an agreed, secure video platform. The therapist and client can see and hear each other in real-time during the session via the use of webcams and headsets. Through this virtual environment, they can interact with each other, and the therapist uses the same traditional techniques and activities they would use in a face-to-face therapy session.
Are Teletherapy Sessions Confidential?
Just like in-person sessions, mental health professionals are ethically and legally bound by privacy laws to not share details about their teletherapy sessions with third parties, including insurance companies and family members, except with the expressed and written consent of the client. We will ensure that we are in a private and secure room during all our teletherapy sessions. Sessions will not be recorded or shared, except with the explicit agreement from the client.
Therapists utilizing teletherapy are required to use specialized software that is encrypted and offers a high level of security and privacy. Any software that therapists use must be approved by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), both of which are legislations that ensure data privacy and security for safeguarding medical information, including therapy.
What are the benefits and challenges of Teletherapy?
There are a number of benefits and challenges of both online and in-person therapy; however, there are a few of these that are unique to online therapy.
> Convenience. The ease of scheduling an online session can mean faster access to psychological services from the convenience of your home.
> Decreased Costs. Teletherapy may offer a less-costly means of receiving psychological services due to decreased travel expenses and rates of sessions.
> Easy Scheduling. Teletherapy offers mental health professionals and clients flexibility of scheduling and decreased travel time, both of which can reduce stress (high traffic times!) and increase stability.
> Accessibility. Teletherapy can offer higher accessibility to psychological and other mental health services by underserved populations, such as those who could not physically access an office due to illness, lack of resources or availability.
> Effectiveness. Most research has shown that teletherapy can be as effective as in-person therapy.
> Interruptions. Difficulty to fully control one’s environment may lead to external interruptions, while the presence of others in the home can make it difficult to maintain privacy or to feel comfortable during sessions.
> Security and Confidentiality. Despite all measures taken to protect individuals’ privacy and confidentiality, and even through the use of GDPR and HIPAA compliant platforms, it cannot be guaranteed that teletherapy will be fully protected at all times and there is still a chance of a security breach.
> Technical Difficulties. Disruptions may occur due to technical difficulties, such as the internet going out, technological failures and loss of signal.
> The Therapeutic Relationship. Many therapists stress that one of the critical components for successful therapy is the relationship between patient and therapist, and in-person connections can be vital for successful treatment. For individuals who experience difficulty forming relationships or struggle with social interaction, traditional face-to-face therapy could be more beneficial in overcoming these challenges.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, steps can be taken to reduce them:
1. When a session is scheduled, it is important to find a day and time when the least interruptions are likely to occur. It should also be a time when you or your child feel more comfortable with other individuals in the home.
2. To protect our clients’ data and privacy, we use a platform that is GDPR and HIPAA compliant to conduct our sessions. Security can be heightened if you use a secure internet network/WIFI and avoid entering sessions while in public locations/on free, public networks.
3. At the beginning of our work together, we can create a plan in the event of technical difficulties, such as ways to communicate in order to fix the issue or re-schedule the session at a later time.
We use a HIPAA and GDPR-compliant platform to conduct our teletherapy sessions. This platform was specifically designed for mental health professionals and includes secure video conferencing, document sharing, video and screen sharing, a whiteboard and interactive apps. Once you contact the mental health professional with whom you would like to work, a profile will be created and an email with information on the scheduled session will be sent to your email address. You can then create your password and access the session through your profile. You do not need to download an application to access the platform, all you need is an internet browser. We recommend using internet browsers that are secure and support video conferencing, such as Safari, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. The platform allows you to view and schedule appointments and can be used to access billing information for online sessions.
Your mental health professional will explain these steps in more detail prior to your first teletherapy session.
As a team we aspire to provide the necessary help our clients need and deserve in order for them to feel safe and comfortable, whether this is done in person or online. We remain available should you have any questions or would like to receive more information about our teletherapy services.