Long travel times, inconvenient appointments, and more make it even harder to deal with problems, get the treatment needed, and find the road to recovery.
Advancements in telemedicine, or telehealth, have come a long way, and for many virtual mental health services are just as good as a face to face visit, just without the travel and expense.
Sometimes called online therapy or telepsychology, virtual mental health services are simply services provided using the internet, typically through some kind of video conferencing system. Services can also be delivered via the phone (mental health hotlines) or even through text-based chats.
The services offered are typically various forms of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, grief counseling, etc. As therapy does not require contact between provider and patient, it is ideally suited for being moved online.
Some services might also include self-help systems, such as meditation apps, that patients are recommended to use between sessions. This can be beneficial for some.
Virtual therapy does not, of course, work for everyone. Some people are more comfortable talking to their psychologist face to face, or may be made anxious by fears that the therapy app is not secure. Older patients may not be comfortable with the technology in general. However, for many people, virtual health services can be just as good.
One study showed that in patients with depression, those treated online not only improved as fast as those treated face-to-face, but actually seemed to gain more in the long term. Another demonstrated that people with panic disorder could get as much benefit from online…and for people with agoraphobia, not having to leave their home to get initial treatment and having the psychologist able to talk them through going outside, it could be particularly beneficial.
The primary benefit of virtual mental health services is improved convenience. Not having to spend extra time and money traveling to the therapist’s office can make the difference, for some people, in being able to even afford their treatment. There are, however, other benefits.
It is often less expensive, especially for people who have no insurance or who’s insurance does not cover their therapy.
Many people find online communication more comfortable than face-to-face, especially younger adults. Especially during the pandemic era, most people have spent more time online attending webinars and socializing, and have thus developed an increased comfort with it.
It can provide access to people who would not be able to get to the office at all, such as people in rural communities, or people who are unable to drive because of a disability or chronic illness. Online therapy is a good option for people who are housebound.
Additionally, patients are less likely to miss sessions because of inclement weather or illness. Online therapy allows somebody with a contagious illness such as COVID-19, or even a cold, to attend their session without exposing the therapist or other patients.
Finally, with the ease of access you can sometimes find time to schedule more sessions, which can potentially increase progress.
First of all, it’s important to be very careful with online therapy services. There are services out there that advertise therapy, but only offer apps, unqualified “therapists” who are at best professional listeners, or even text-based therapy that turns out to be a chatbot. Extremely cheap online therapy should always be viewed with care.
People need to choose an online therapist who is licensed in the area they live in. If they don’t know where the therapist lives, then the chances are they are not legally allowed to treat them. Because of this, it’s often best to choose a therapist who also has a physical office in the same state. In many states, the word “therapist” is not legally protected. The word “psychologist,” however, is. You can’t claim to be a psychologist without being licensed.
Make sure to choose a professional therapist of equal quality to one who works entirely in an office. There should be no difference in qualifications. As with all therapy, it’s vital that the patient is completely comfortable with the therapist and able to talk to them without hesitation.
Another thing to consider is whether the patient would benefit from both online and face-to-face sessions. If this is the case, they will need to find an online therapist who also has an office they can get to. Some people who receive face-to-face therapy might also get an online session, such as if they are mildly ill or they have a work crisis which means they have time for their session, but not to drive to and from the office.
Patients who live in California should choose Enhance Health Group for their online therapy. In addition to our inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment, we offer online therapy for individuals, groups, and families. We also use online therapy to follow up with our patients after they have completed the program.
We can treat a variety of mental health problems, and we offer cognitive behavioral therapy and its variants dialectical behavior therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy, which can help you identify and deal with negative thoughts and the behaviors they potentially lead to.
All of our therapy is conducted by licensed mental health professionals who can help with your problems. Whether a patient needs a few sessions or longer term treatment, we use techniques that have been proven effective and which we know work online as well as face to face.
We are based in Orange County, CA, but can offer online services throughout the state, including to people who live in more remote areas and may not have local access to a good psychologist. Contact us today for a consultation.