Our Teletherapy service allows us to work with our clients without having to be in the same office. This helps prevent the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19. It can also make seeing a therapist much easier if you need to see one during your lunch break or if the drive is long.
Q. What is teletherapy?
Teletherapy (also sometimes called Telehealth counseling) is the delivery of psychotherapy and counseling over the Internet using video conferencing software. Zoom is one well-known video conferencing platform that can be used for teletherapy and telehealth. Teletherapy can be done using a computer, tablet, or smart phone.
The technology is very similar to Skype and Apple’s FaceTime. It allows therapists to work with clients without being in the same room (or even the same city!) together. Teletherapy allows therapists to assess their clients’ difficulties, make diagnoses, and perform counseling and psychotherapy. While Teletherapy done over the computer may not seem as personal as face to face psychotherapy, in my experience it can come close and many clients find that it works very well.
Q. Can you do group therapy with Telehealth, where everyone is at a different location on a different computer?
Yes! Multiple people can join Telehealth sessions, all from different locations.
Q. What do I need to do Teletherapy with my therapist?
A properly outfitted computer, private, high speed internet connection, and a private space will allow you to do teletherapy with your therapist.
You will need a computer with a microphone and video camera (these can be built into the computer or they can be external devices), a tablet, or a smartphone. I recommend using a computer or tablet rather than a smart phone whenever possible, because of the small size of the screen of a smart phone. You will see your therapist much better on a computer or tablet.
You will also need a private, high speed Internet connection. Never try to do teletherapy on public Wi-fi; your session will be neither private nor confidential. Your home Internet is probably your best bet, but it is important to make sure that your home Internet connection has password protection and adequate Internet security. You will also be able to do Teletherapy over your smart phone’s 4G wireless connection, although in my experience the quality of the connection isn’t optimal. It will probably work well enough, but it won’t be optimal.
Finally, you will need a private room or space for your Teletherapy session. If you do Telehealth with the door to your room open or if you go outside for your session, your privacy and confidentiality can be easily compromised.
Q. Are there any advantages to Teletherapy over face-to-face therapy?
There can be several advantages to Teletherapy:
- It may save you the travel time to see your therapist. You may be able to simply make the video call from home, or from your parked car, outside your place of work.
- Teletherapy offers greater access to services for people living in rural areas. If you have few—or even no—therapists in your area, you can access any number of skilled therapists elsewhere in the state.
- Teletherapy can allow clients to access therapists who have greater or more specific expertise than those living in their immediate area. If you want a specialist in eating disorders or sex therapy, you may be able to find the professional you are looking for in a large city 150 miles away.
Q. How much does Teletherapy cost?
It varies by practitioner, but in general Teletherapy costs the same as face to face psychotherapy. I currently charge $150/hour for both face to face counseling and teletherapy.
Q. Does insurance pay for Teletherapy?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the president’s subsequent emergency declaration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have broadened access to Medicare Telehealth services to include psychotherapy and other mental health services. Many insurance companies have followed suit, and are paying for a variety of Telehealth services, including Teletherapy. If you are uncertain about insurance coverage, I recommend checking with your insurance company about Teletherapy coverage.
Q. Can EMDR be done via Telehealth?
EMDR can be done through Telehealth. It is preferable to do EMDR face to face, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, Teletherapy may be the only safe option available. EMDR by Telehealth can be done using an app that creates bilateral auditory stimulation that can be installed on your smartphone. There may be other ways to do EMDR via Teletherapy as well. Due to EMDR’s potential for stirring up significant emotional distress in the process of healing trauma, planning ahead how the therapist and client will deal with this distress if it becomes problematic is necessary. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have done EMDR by Telehealth successfully.
Q. Are there any disadvantages to Teletherapy?
I have mentioned several already, such as the need for the right computer/tablet/smart phone equipment, and the fact that interacting over the Internet by video does not feel as personal to some people. It is also worth noting that some mental health problems can be so severe or disruptive that many therapists would choose not to treat these issues with Telehealth; in this case you would be better served looking for a local therapist.
In addition, you should know that a treating therapist must be licensed in the state he/she is operating in and in the state where you are physically located. If you are located in Alabama or North Carolina and a particular therapist is licensed to practice in Tennessee only, then the therapist cannot legally work with you (unless you move to Tennessee, that is. But hopefully you would need better reasons to move across state lines!).
I am licensed to practice in Tennessee only.
Q. What Teletherapy platform do you use?
I use a HIPPA-compliant platform called Doxy.me. Doxy.me protects your privacy by encrypting the audio and video signal before sending it over the Internet. Doxy.me also does not record therapy conversations. The platform is convenient; it allows me to share files and Internet links with you, and it allows me to accept credit card payments.
Currently, due to the national crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am conducting all of my therapy sessions using teletherapy. I look forward to returning to face to face therapy in my office in the future but for now I will continue doing teletherapy exclusively until I feel it is safe and wise to meet face to face again.