Doing Therapy While Staying at Home: Benefits and Limitations of Online Therapy (Telehealth)


What is Telehealth Therapy?


In these times of coronavirus and social distancing there is no need to forego therapy. Just like work meetings are being conducted via teleconference to enable working from home, so are therapy sessions.

Telehealth is the word used to describe the myriad of ways therapy can be offered through technological mediums like the phone or the internet.

My favorite telehealth method is to offer video-conference sessions through the platform. Rather than having to download any software on your computer or mobile device, the platform allows me to simply send my clients a link to join me in a video chat room that is hosted securely online. All my clients need is a computer or mobile device with a built in camera and microphone (which comes standard nowadays), as well as a stable internet connection.

There are some drawbacks but also some benefits to having your sessions conducted online. 


Let’s start with the benefits…


It is really quite convenient to be able to have therapy sessions from home. No need for a long commute during rush hour. Just find a comfortable room at home and sign on when you are ready. Teletherapy is the Netflix version of going to the movies. Sit in your own comfortable chair, have easy access to the drinks and snacks in your own refrigerator, and feel at ease in the comfort of your own home. Rather than going to the therapist’s office, you will feel like your therapist is joining you in your own home.

Teletherapy also allows you to choose the right therapist regardless of their geographical location. You can choose a therapist way on the other side of town, or even one in a completely different city. This gives you a lot more options to choose from. However, because therapists are licensed at the state level, you still have to choose a therapist within the same state in which you reside and plan to have your sessions.

A last point about the benefits is that it is nice that even during emergencies such as hurricanes, floods, virus scares, or sickness, you can still reach your therapist and get your mental health needs met. Marital problems and personal issues don’t just go away because the world is in a crisis. In fact attention to self-care and mental well-being becomes even more important during such anxious times. In our current COVID-19 conditions. videoconference sessions offer a safe way to not go without therapy and not put your life in hold.


What about the drawbacks…?


One of the initial reactions to the idea of teletherapy is often that it doesn't seem to be as personal as an in-office visit. However, after trying it and getting used to it, this reservation often goes away. The felt connection truly does come through even if the interaction takes places between people in two different geographical locations.  As the experience of togetherness takes hold and we get lost in the content of the experience of the therapy itself, people often forget about the technological set-up.

Another drawback of teletherapy is the difficulties people can sometimes have finding or creating a private space at home without interruptions, noise, or the ability to be overheard by other people. In the therapy office the space is designed to offer this sanctuary, but at home you might be sharing the space with others and it can be more difficult to create the perfect escape.

Another issue that I will mention about teletherapy is that connecting through technology is dependent on the whimsies of the technology being used. Occasional slow connections, freezing images, distorted sounds, or dropped calls can happen from time to time and can be frustrating. However, internet speeds have increased substantially over the years, so as long as you have a good wifi connection and internet speed these glitches should be rare.

Finally there are some added risks to confidentiality when you communicate through technology rather than in-person. Many technological mediums for instance could be listened to or hacked into by third parties. Communicating via standard e-mail for example does not ensure the privacy of your information, since other people could potentially hack into your account. The platform I use, however, is fully HIPAA compliant, meaning that security and encryption protocols are used to assure that data integrity and privacy is maintained.


The Verdict:


Although you might have some trepidations about seeing a therapist through telehealth, once you try it once you are likely to feel a lot more at ease with it. Most clients feel a little hesitant at first, but quickly realize that doing telehealth sessions really isn't that different from an in-office visit at the end of the day. Once you overcome your initial resistance to trying it, you might even find that you like it better than an in-office visit due to the added conveniences and time savings it brings. Teletherapy does not have to be a "downgrade" from an in-office visit, simply a different way of communicating that has a different profile of limitations and benefits.


Dr. Rune Moelbak, couples therapist in Houston TexasAbout Me: I am Rune Moelbak, Ph.D. a clinical psychologist and certified EFT couples therapist. I am currently offering both in-person therapy and tele-health sessions to accommodate different needs. Click here to schedule a telehealth appointment.

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