As the Covid 19 Pandemic emerged, the good life center expediently transitioned all clients from in-person services to telehealth. After working virtually for an extended period of time, we identified a number of benefits of telehealth:
1. Telehealth is a simple and convenient way to access therapy
Online therapy is a great alternative to access sessions for clients who have busy schedules, lack mobility or have difficulties accessing transportations. It is also a simple way to gain access to treatment when the client lives or works at a distance from their first-choice therapist office.
2. Teleheath is similar to in-person treatment
It is our experience that sessions held online run very smoothly. Clients and therapists can see each other’s facial expressions and interact comfortably in much the same way that they would in our office. Furthermore, the clients and the therapists can share forms and documents as they would in the office, and there is even the capacity to share screens.
3. Virtual sessions facilitate the participation of collaterals in treatment
Online sessions have simplified and increased the accessibility of including people in clients’ support systems in treatment. Collateral supports can join session from different geographical locations at the same time.
4. Teletherapy is particularly useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders
Telehealth is a perfect venue to bring therapy sessions into different environments the client finds triggering or has been avoiding in the past. This is particularly relevant for the treatment of specific phobia, OCD, intrusive thoughts, and Trauma. Telehealth sessions allow the therapist to meet clients in the “actual” places that trigger their anxiety, to be with them as they engage in exposures, and to support them throughout this process.
5. Teletherapy is cost effective
Accessing treatment online reduces time and adjacent costs, such as gas, car millage or cost of public transportation. Teletherapy is also cost effective during exposure treatment since the therapist does not have to commute to meet the client in different locations.
Special Considerations when Using Telehealth
1. Secure Internet Access:
Telehealth is a secure way to provide and receive treatment. The therapist at the Good Life Center uses secure internet connections and use platforms that are HIPAA compliant, are safe and protected. In turn, the clients are asked to access sessions through secure internet connections in order to maintain the confidentiality of the sessions.
Therapists at the Good Life Center deliver sessions from their private offices and ensure the session is private. Clients are responsible for securing a private and secure location to have their therapy sessions. The location should allow clients to speak freely without being interrupted or overheard.
3. Telehealth Equipment:
While no equipment is necessary other than a device with internet access, some clients choose to use headsets during their session. This may be helpful in adding an additional layer of privacy to avoid others hearing the exchanges between the clients and their therapists.
It is important for clients to provide their exact location in order for therapists to ensure client safety. Therapists may need to access additional resources or contact emergency personnel and provide the clients exact location in the event that an emergency takes place while meeting clients via telethealth.
Our Experience with Telehealth
While we have had telehealth available since we opened our practice, we initially viewed online therapy as an alternate to in-person services to accommodate clients who could not participate in in-person services (e.g., clients who worked or lived a significant distance from our office, or who had limited mobility due to injury or other physical limitations). We never imagined that a global pandemic would force us to transition our entire practice to teletherapy exclusively. In March 2020 when the pandemic began, we had all of the infrastructure in place to be able to immediately, smoothly, and seamlessly deliver treatment virtually and continue providing excellent care without any interruption. Over this time, we learned that telehealth has many benefits that can enhance the therapy experience and increase its accessibility for a wide variety of people.
Telehealth Outcomes: What does the research show?
Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of telehealth for the delivery of mental health services. For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a large 4-year study comparing 98,609 mental health patients before and after receiving tele therapy. This study indicated that there was a 25% decrease in major psychiatric hospitalizations among patients who receive tele health treatment. The study also indicated that telehealth increased access to mental health services to hard-to-reach patients. (1)
Research has also supported the use of telehealth for treating specific disorders. For example, telehealth is as effective as face-to-face delivery of services of PTSD (2), depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder (3) and substance use, eating disorders in children and adolescents (4). Research also indicates that cognitive behavioral treatment renders equivalent results to cognitive behavioral therapy treatment delivered in face-to-face contact (5). Furthermore, a systematic review of the literature on scientific research focusing on patient’s satisfaction and the strength of the therapeutic alliance also indicates that telehealth is comparable to in- person treatment. These are two crucial elements of treatment associated with treatment success (6)
(1) Godleski, L., et al., Psychiatric Services, Vol. 63, No. 4, 2012
(2) Turgoose, D., et al., Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, Vol. 24, No. 9, 2018
(3) Varker, T., et al., Psychological Services, Vol. 16, No. 4, 2019
(4) Slone, N.C., et al., Psychological Services, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2012
(5) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 82, No. 2, 2014
(6) Jenkins-Guarnieri, M.A., et al., Telemedicine and e-Health, Vol. 21, No. 8, 2015
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