You may have noticed a stark increase in the amount of telehealth options becoming available. But in the counseling world, is all teletherapy created equal? How does it even work? By the end of this post, you’ll learn how (and if) teletherapy works and what to ask to make sure you’re receiving ethical, high quality teletherapy services.
Telehealth v. Teletherapy
Online counseling has many names - teletherapy, internet therapy, telepsychology, E-therapy . . . the list goes on. The important distinction is that the term “telehealth” is an umbrella term that encompases all types of health care in which services are provided electronically, via an online platform. Teletherapy is one type of telehealth as it provides psychotherapy services to people through a HIPPA secure, online platform.
So don’t let yourself get confused about the terms. Teletherapy, or online counseling, is simply a method of providing the same evidence-based services you may be used to receiving in your therapists office, from the comfort of your own home!
Effectiveness of Teletherapy
Some individuals are hesitant to try teletherapy because they are not sure if online counseling is as effective as meeting with a therapist in person. Don’t let this stop you!
Versions of teletherapy have been around since the 1960s and have been the subject of several research studies. According to several studies, several of which are highlighted by the American Psychological Association, teletherapy is proven to be just as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy. In fact, in some cases teletherapy leads to a higher retention rate, meaning the accessibility and convenience created by telehealth allows for more consistent mental health care and, therefore, better outcomes.
Many clients (and therapists) were forced to try teletherapy during covid and have never gone back. The research, combined with an increasing number of personal narratives coming forth from those who have taken the leap to teletherapy, consistently note the benefits online counseling that includes an audio and video component have on treating anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder, substance use, eating disorders, and PTSD.
The Teletherapy Process
Teletherapy is very similar to in person counseling. The same thing happens--you talk to your therapist, they help you process emotions and guide you through interventions-- just online and from a distance.
Similar to in person counseling, teletherapy involves finding a counselor that will be a good fit for you and your goals, setting an appointment, and showing up to an (on average) 50 minute session. Here is a breakdown to getting started in teletherapy:
1. Schedule a Free Consultation
One of the most important elements to success in therapy is having a good connection with your counselor. Whether you're planning to attend therapy in person or online, it is recommended to shop around and speak with a few therapists about the issue you’re seeking help with and how they are qualified to support you towards reaching your goals.
When looking for a teletherapist that you click with, consider asking these questions:
What telehealth platform are they using? Is it HIPPA secure? Is it easy for you to access and log into?
What is their experience with telehealth? Are they certified in teletherapy or have they taken continuing education courses on the subject?
What experience do they have in working with people facing your issue? What approach would they take for your treatment?
2. Book Your First Session . . . and request a trial run (if needed)
Ok, so you’ve spoken with a few therapists over the phone. You feel like you’ve found one that really gets you and made you feel comfortable. The therapist you’ll be working with answered all of your questions and you feel confident about the process of logging into your telehealth session. Great! Go ahead and schedule that first session.
Not tech savvy? Are you nervous about being able to login to session correctly? Request that your therapist schedule a trial run - just to log in and out of the session. This will help you feel calm and confident when joining your first official session.
3. Plan and Prepare Your Space
Before logging in, you’ll want to make sure you’ve thought about where you’ll be during your counseling session. Pick a spot in your house that is close to the internet router (to ensure a strong connection) but is also private.
Ideally, you’ll join your teletherapy session from a room with a door that closes and is in an area of your home where others can’t hear you. Make this spot cozy - have pillows and blankets around, a box of tissues nearby (just in case).
Here is a list of recommended items you may want to have with you during your online therapy session:
The technology you plan to use to join the session (Laptop/Ipad/Cell Phone)
Notebook and a Pen (to write down homework or those powerful realizations)
Glass of Water or Organic Herbal Tea
Lamp or overhead lighting