To click or not to click...Telehealth/Online therapy/Telepsychology...What is it and is it right for me?

Never in my life did I contemplate the idea of offering therapy online.  It's not that I had misconceptions about it, it's that I never even considered it.  My training had been in traditional face to face therapy and that is what I knew and what I taught my students to do.  Then along came COVID and shook us all right out of our comfort zone.  I was suddenly overwhelmed in courses that were tailored to learning to do therapy online and teaching students how to do this.  I must admit that at first I was a little skeptical. Would this work? Would I feel comfortable? Would patients feel comfortable? Would students feel comfortable? What did the research say about this in a world of endless evidence based therapy and supervision?

0979635001610892223.jpgLulú and Piccolina

As Lulú looked at me and probably thought if this whole online thing would mean less play time and Piccolina wondered if there would be treats for being quiet and polite, I embarked in this new world of the cyber unknown to see what it was all about.  After all, if I was teaching my students to do this, I had to see for myself if it was doable. 

Telehealth, Telepsychology,  or Online Therapy is basically therapy offered through a secure platform that offers the same confidentiality and standard of care that would be expected in an office setting.  Seems simple enough; however there are several things to consider when deciding if you (as a therapist or as a client) want to do this. 

Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Make sure your therapist offers a a HIPAA secure platform and is licensed in the state where you both are.  
  • Both sides should discuss and sign a Telehealth Consent Form.
  • The location of the client should always be known in case of an emergency.
  • Both sides should have stable internet to be able to hold appropriate video and sound quality.
  • You should have an agreement as to what to do if internet fails.

When telepsychology is not appropriate:

  • Some people require in person therapy to work on specific things.  
  • It might be challenging with young children. 
  • Feeling that you are not "techie" enough and feel frustrated about having to talk into a computer screen. 
  • Feeling skeptical and simply preferring to see their therapist in person.

When telepsychology is appropriate:

  • The obvious answer here would be because a person does not feel safe with in person visits due to COVID. 
  • When you are busy and LOVE to have the freedom of seeing a therapist at the scheduled time. 
  • When you don't want to deal with traffic and waiting rooms. 
  • When you feel comfortable with technology.

What I've learned:

So far, I love it.  I have had to take several courses on this subject and do quite a bit of research on secure platforms and data security. I also had to invest in my office equipment to have everything run smoothly.  This includes the technical side and the office setup.  I want my clients to like what they see when they catch a glimpse of  what is behind me.  My clients get a peek into my home and it should look nice, inviting, and soothing. These details make a difference.  My clients like the ease of connecting at the scheduled time without any external inconvenience.  Adults and teens have responded very well.  People who feel they can't understand basic email functions, might not benefit from this.  If there are technical issues to be addressed during the session, this modality might not be a good fit. However, for those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone, help might be just a click away.

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