I. How Does Teletherapy Work?

Teletherapy can be initiated by a provider as part of a care plan or from a patient in which the patient gets in touch to make an appointment. This can be done over the phone or via a website or app, depending on the practitioner.

Before the therapy session, new patients will be asked to fill out a questionnaire that asks about their medical and mental health history, and their current condition. Once the actual appointment begins, the therapist or provider will also ask the patient a series of questions about their situation. “This evaluation is similar to any other, except with telemedicine, it’s all done over video stream,” says Dr. Bregman.

Psychiatric appointments and therapy are all done through HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, encrypted software for confidentiality, adds Dr. Bregman.

From there, the doctor and patient work together to decide on a treatment plan that best benefits the patient. In psychiatry, this may include medication management, therapy, or both. Going forward, teletherapy sessions can be set for a scheduled time as per the doctor or therapist’s recommendations.

Teletherapy can also be used for group therapy sessions, couples, or families.

II. What Are The Benefits of Teletherapy?

A June 2020 survey by the American Psychological Association  (APA) found that 76% of clinicians say they are now solely providing remote services, while 16% say they are offering a combination of remote and in-person sessions – that’s more than nine out of 10 psychologists using teletherapy.

“Several recent studies provided evidence for the effectiveness of teletherapy in the military, veteran and public safety personnel populations, says Susy Salvo-Wendt, Summit Healthcare telehealth specialist. “The studies showed that the delivery of these therapies can be as effective as in-person delivery, with the added benefit of reducing stigma and cost while increasing access to therapy.”

Here are some of the benefits of teletherapy:

  • No sacrifice in care quality: The main benefit of teletherapy and telepsychiatry is that they can be just as effective as in-person visits, says Dr. Bregman. While some other types of physical examinations and doctor consultations are better suited for an in-person appointment, since therapy is centered around mental health and having deep discussions, all that’s required is a quiet place to converse and a good Wi-Fi connection.
  • Therapy at home can be more beneficial for some patients: “There is the added convenience of being able to receive care in the comfort of one’s own home,” says Dr. Bregman. Comfort level is especially significant for people who are seeking treatment for conditions like stress, anxiety, or depression. “Patients seem to be more compliant with treatment when they can meet with their doctor from a place where they feel secure,” he says. Teletherapy offers a way for patients to avoid traffic, crowded waiting rooms, or deal with navigating an unfamiliar setting – all of which can be stress-inducing. More relaxed patients are better positioned to have a productive therapy session. “I like to say that positive compliance equals positive outcomes,” says Dr. Bregman.
  • Convenience: Squeezing in appointments is not always easy for people juggling work and home responsibilities. Teletherapy can help solve that problem. “The convenience and efficacy of this mode of practice is wonderful for everyone, and not just during the pandemic,” says Dr. Bregman. “The easier it is to take care of one’s health, the more likely it is they will adhere to treatment.”

III. Who is a Candidate For Teletherapy?

While Dr. Bregman has been recommending online treatment to all of his patients even before COVID, the pandemic has made teletherapy a more widespread and highly adopted option. Anyone who is seeking therapy these days should be able to find a practitioner who offers a teletherapy format if appropriate.  “The triage of a patient for virtual health, should be standardized with flexibility built in for individual needs” said Susy Salvo-Wendt, Telehealth Specialist.  “The more triage best practices developed for specific clinical applications the better the care can be developed and delivered through a variety of platforms including virtual”.

The only requirement is that the patient has a computer or smart device, and a reliable Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Once the patient learns how to connect to whatever portal their therapist or psychiatrist uses, the sessions can be conducted seamlessly, just the same as they would be in person.

“The convenience and efficiency can’t be beat. For mental health professionals, we can see more patients and continue to provide them with quality treatment,” says Dr. Bregman.

While the world was trending to a more digital experience, the pandemic has certainly expedited the transition to virtual healthcare – especially for mental health treatment, says Dr. Bregman. “I believe telemedicine is going to be a big part of the future. And in many areas, especially psychiatry and therapy, I believe it will become the standard of care.”

IV. Expert

OnlineDoctor.com interviewed this expert for article guidance:

Dr. Arthur Bregman, Psychiatrist, Coral Gables, FL

V. Sources