The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid increase in remote therapy and counselling services. Broadly speaking this is beneficial, as studies have found that therapy provided online or over-the-phone is just as effective as in-person therapy, when implemented appropriately. As a licensed psychologist with a lot of experience providing such services even before the pandemic, I believe that understanding the benefits and risks of engaging in remote therapy is paramount in ensuring that we maximize treatment outcomes.
What are the benefits?
If you are struggling to cope and find it difficult to make in-person appointments, engaging in therapy over-the-phone or through video-conferencing may be greatly beneficial for you. The benefits of therapy or counseling services via telehealth include:
- Reduced Commute Time
- With no need to travel to and from a physical office space, the overall time commitment needed to attend traditional in-person sessions is greatly reduced.
- Flexible Scheduling Options
- Therapists may offer sessions earlier in the morning or later in the evening; and clients can often take a calls or video-conferences to attend sessions during the day.
- Accommodate Changes in Plans or Travel
- Remote access means that you don’t necessarily need to cancel appointments when plans change, as you can access the session wherever you are—even when you are traveling.
- Improved Continuity of Care
- The option to attend therapy sessions remotely can also increase adherence to treatment plans, especially for individuals who have busy lives that require flexible scheduling options.
- Expand Accessibility of Services
- Psychological services and specialties offered remotely can greatly increase access to care for those who live in areas where such services are not readily available in-person.
What are the risks?
While there are many benefits of telepsychology, it is extremely important to take the time to also discuss the potential risks with your provider. In my experience, planning ahead with your therapist is crucial in optimizing treatment outcomes and minimize risks. These discussions may include the following:
- Therapist License
- In most jurisdictions, psychotherapy is considered to be provided where the client is located. Therefore, it is important to know where your provider is licensed and the potential risks to engaging in therapy with a provider who is not licensed to practice in your state.
- Risks to Confidentiality
- When engaging in psychotherapy online or over-the-phone, there is a risk that others around you may overhear your conversation. Access to a quiet, private space to attend your sessions and the use of secure technologies can greatly reduce this risk.
- Emergency Planning
- Although unlikely, it is important to talk with your provider about what would happen if you came across a crisis during remote treatment. Who would be contacted? And how would you get help?
- Required Technology
- Remote therapy may require you to be comfortable using the devices and/or apps used to provide services. You should discuss with your provider any reservations you may have about the technology required to attend sessions remotely.
- Appropriateness of Remote Care
- Many psychological services can be provided effectively online or over-the-phone. However, it is ultimately up to you and your provider to decide if it is the right fit for you, given your diagnosis, the nature of topics being discussed in sessions, and your specific circumstances.
How do I find Online Therapy?
With the ongoing global pandemic, many therapists are now offering mental health care through telehealth, but not everyone has had extensive training in this area of practice. Ideally, clients seeking remote psychotherapy or counseling services should pursue therapists that are experienced in providing such services, particularly if they are considering taking part in therapy via telehealth in the long-term. Often providers list their availability for remote therapy services on their websites or on their directory profiles. I encourage anyone who is interested in online therapy to reach out to those providers in their area to ask about their experience with and options for telehealth and discuss the applicable risks and benefits of online therapy and counseling services with them directly.
About Dr. Tanaka & Coronado Psych
Dr. Rika Tanaka (PSY30925) is a licensed psychologist and founder of Coronado Psych. At Coronado Psych, our mission is to offer high-quality, evidence-based psychological services and supportive counseling to our community. We currently have availability for new clients and are offering all sessions online or over-the-phone. We also have reduced fees available for healthcare and essential workers.
If you or someone you love is interested in therapy or supportive counseling, please feel free to contact Coronado Psych at (619) 554-0120 or email@example.com. You can also schedule a complimentary initial consultation at: https://coronado-psych.clientsecure.me.
Learn more by visiting our website (www.coronadopsych.com) or watching this brief video: