Teletherapy: Your Guide To Finding An Online Therapist
June 6, 2021at3:30 PM
by Dr Hilda Wong
There is an old icebreaker joke about a doctor asking a patient if they think that using the word “practice,” to describe a doctor’s work is unnerving. Professional, licensed medical doctors, nurses, and practitioners have a public trust to perform their jobs as efficiently as possible. After all, they take an oath to start their careers.
However, when ancient medicine emerged, it really was “practice.”
In the modern context, medical professionals must always study, improve their skills, and “practice,” but that term has another meaning.
In an era of scientific and medical breakthroughs, medical techniques and procedures are constantly evolving. Medical professionals and patients alike must “practice” to get used to them when medical techniques and procedures evolve and change.
Old habits die hard because we become so used to them. But new medical techniques and procedures sometimes develop because of necessity.
The Resurgence of Teletherapy
Teletherapy is not a new idea. But its current practice has surged in use because of coronavirus-related lockdowns.
Also, many people avoided emergency rooms and hospitals out of fear of the coronavirus and pleas by medical professionals to visit only if necessary. ER and hospital visits during March and April 2020 plunged by 42% relative to the previous year.
Since the onset of the pandemic, untold numbers of chronic conditions appreciably worsened, and regular treatments were delayed or ceased. People who never contracted the coronavirus were in worse danger.
The advent of the coronavirus pandemic made teletherapy more practical now than ever before. And the convenience of modern teletherapy, since most people have internet access and a computer device, means it will outlast the pandemic.
So, let’s learn about teletherapy, finding a therapist online, and the benefits and drawbacks of the practice.
Teletherapy is the online version of an in-patient visit to a therapist’s office. Telemedicine or telehealth is the online version of an in-patient visit to the doctor’s office, but that is a topic for another column.
However, the general overall umbrella term is “telepractice.”
Teletherapy is a traditional therapy session that is conducted via a secure video conferencing platform. Have you ever used Zoom, Skype, or Facetime? Then it’s the same concept. You will log into a secure video conferencing platform provided by the therapist.
Teletherapy is also known as e-therapy, online therapy, virtual therapy, and video therapy. All you need to engage in a teletherapy session is a laptop, smart device, computer with a microphone and camera, a fast and secure internet connection, and a private area to conduct the session.
Many people are hesitant to try teletherapy because they are used to in-patient sessions.
However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, says that teletherapy can be just as effective as in-patient therapy, depending on the circumstances.
And teletherapy is not a new medical technique.
Origins of Teletherapy
The concept of teletherapy goes back all the way to the pre-internet era of the 1960s. Back then, therapists began conducting therapy sessions over the landline telephone, which was the state-of-the-art communications technology of the era.
In 1972, researchers conducted teletherapy sessions on linked, prototype versions of the vacuum-monitor home computers that would flood the market 20 years later.
The first teletherapy session occurred at the dawn of the internet in 1986 on a Cornell University counseling center online chatroom post board.
Dr. David Sommers developed modern teletherapy in 1995.
This brief analysis of the origins of teletherapy is meant to reassure you that teletherapy is a time-tested, professional, safe, and efficient way to get treatment.
Teletherapy 101: How to Find a Therapist
If you have never tried teletherapy before and are hesitant, take a few days to develop a comfortable approach.
Here are some tips.
Assess Your Goals (And Prep)
With teletherapy, you don’t have the option of sitting in a chair across your therapist for an in-person session.
The average teletherapy session lasts about an hour, though online session ties vary with each therapist.
Think about what you want to discuss in a teletherapy session. Your therapist will try to set the tone professionally, but it may take a few sessions before you become comfortable with the practice.
Develop a list of what you want to discuss. What do you hope to achieve with your teletherapy sessions? What life challenges or personal issues do you want to discuss with the therapist?
It will take time to develop a conversational flow during your sessions.
Make a list or personal diary of thoughts and ideas to discuss beforehand. And make sure you have a secure, private area to conduct your teletherapy sessions.
Assess Your Insurance Coverage
Never assume when it comes to your insurance coverage. Call your insurance representative and ask if behavioral or mental health services via teletherapy are covered under your plan.
Find out what steps are required to secure coverage.
Search for Teletherapy Specialists
Start with requesting network provider information from your insurance plan. You may have an extensive list of teletherapy professionals at your fingertips via your insurance network provider plan and not even realize it.
You may also get referrals from your doctor or medical professional.
Depending on your insurance plan or out-of-pocket budget, the typical teletherapy session may cost anywhere between $30 to $200 per session.
Make a list of potential therapists to choose from and contact them for an initial consultation. Most teletherapists offer free or low-cost initial consultations or first sessions as an icebreaker treatment.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Teletherapy
One benefit of teletherapy is that you can schedule sessions at your convenience. Teletherapy is relatively cheaper than traditional in-person therapy in an office. So, you won’t have to waste time waiting in an office or filling out paperwork.
You will save money on your travel costs to a therapist’s office.
One drawback of teletherapy is that some people struggle to adjust to it since they are so used to the traditional practice.
If you live in a nearby time zone or have slow internet connectivity, you could miss an appointment or experience frustrating glitches during a session.
Remember – while teletherapy is not a new practice, it will take time for a new generation of patients and medical professionals to use it efficiently. It will take time to get used to teletherapy, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Take the First Step and Apply for a Teletherapy Session Today