September 19 – 25, 2021 is Telehealth Awareness Week!
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a dramatic, almost overnight shift to remote activities for many of us. All of a sudden we were online shopping for basic groceries, getting meals delivered, refilling prescriptions remotely, attending work meetings and sending our kids to class online.
Hospitals, pediatric offices, specialty clinics and other medical facilities have similarly moved many traditionally face-to-face services online, and behavioral health services are no exception. Therapy, psychiatry and counseling services that have always been thought of as strictly face-to-face services are now being offered virtually–and quite successfully! Even urgent care appointments and support groups for those struggling with addiction, grief or other serious mental health conditions have moved online.
Although teletherapy seemed sudden and new in the early stages of the pandemic, it had actually already been in use for decades and was proven to be as effective as traditional in-person therapy. But while pre-pandemic users of it were typically clients who lived in rural areas with difficulty making an in-person appointments or who struggled with medical conditions that kept them homebound, the COVID era ushered in a new wave of people struggling with mental health during statewide lockdowns and seeking help. During the early weeks of the pandemic, in fact, Pine Rest shifted from conducting approximately 100 Telehealth appointments per week to in March of 2020 to nearly 6,000 per week by May 2020.
But with the world beginning to open up again now and in-person therapy appointments gradually becoming more available, many people are discovering they actually prefer telehealth sessions to in-person appointments and wish to keep connecting remotely even after the pandemic has ended.
So how can you determine if teletherapy might be right for you–to either start for the first time or to continue with post-pandemic?
When should you choose teletherapy rather than in-person therapy?
For your treatment therapy to be the most effective, a couple requisites are key. First, find a counselor you feel genuinely understands and empathizes with you. Second is to attend all of your appointments on a consistent basis for the full course of treatment.
Teletherapy can help address many reasons why you might not otherwise be able to attend traditional face-to-face therapy, so that you can get the most from your treatment.
Here are 10 barriers you might be facing and how teletherapy can overcome them.
1. The clinic is very far away.
Unfortunately not many therapists are located in rural areas which means driving 50, 100 or more miles for treatment. No driving with teletherapy, but you will need high-speed internet access and a smartphone, tablet or computer.
2. You don’t have convenient transportation to the office.
Maybe you don’t have a vehicle, or public transportation doesn’t come anywhere close to where you live and/or the office, or it does but takes a long time each way. Family and friends may be willing to drive you, but it’s difficult to coordinate schedules. Like #1 above, no ride scheduling necessary.
3. You can’t get time off work to go to your appointment on a regular basis.
If you only needed the one-hour for the appointment, the in-person appointment might work out for you. However, it’s the drive to and from that makes it difficult to schedule into your work day. With teletherapy, you can attend the visit from your office or other room where you can close the door … or even from your car.
4. Arranging for child care is difficult.
You’re already asking family to help out in lots of other ways, and here’s one more. Or maybe you don’t have close family and friends who can help. Maybe you can’t afford it. With teletherapy, parents often schedule therapy during normal nap time.
5. You have a chronic illness and just can’t manage getting to and from one more appointment.
Chronic illnesses tend to leave people with low energy levels and other symptoms which make it difficult to get to a therapist’s office consistently. With teletherapy, choose a comfy outfit, make a cup of tea, and call up your therapist from the comfort of your own couch. Our patients say this really helps them get the most out of their appointment.
6. Unpredictable weather.
7. You don’t want to be seen in the parking lot or waiting room!
Maybe you’re worried about your car being seen in the parking lot. We know that mental illness affects us all and that it’s a disease, but not everyone gets that. Teletherapy is completely confidential and private!
8. You’re more comfortable at home.
Let’s face it. Some of us are homebodies and prefer the security and relaxation of our own space. If home is your comfort zone, then teletherapy is for you. When it’s appointment time, make a cup of tea, stay in your pajamas and get cozy on your coach.
9. You travel a lot.
It’s hard to make a treatment schedule work when you don’t know where you’re going to be from week to week or month to month … or you know, but it’s not anywhere close to the clinic. With teletherapy, as long as you can connect, you can attend your session.
10. Your schedule is hectic.
Like #9 above, it’s hard to make appointments consistently when your routine is anything but. With teletherapy, just make sure to block out the one-hour for your appointment time.
Why choose teletherapy at Pine Rest?
- Our therapists are exceptional! All of our therapists are highly qualified, state-licensed and certified mental health professionals.
- We have over 200 trained clinicians so we can refer you to one who specializes in providing the care you need. Plus, we can refer you internally when needed.
- Our services meet or exceed all established standards.
- We follow all confidentiality laws and policies.
Teletherapy can remove barriers for people and enable them to obtain the treatment they need to live a healthy and productive life.
- Teletherapy through Pine Rest Telehealth Services
- Pine Rest Enhanced Psychiatric Urgent Care including Virtual Assessments
- Frequently Asked Questions about Pine Rest Telehealth Services
By Kris Brown, staff writer. Reviewed by Jean Holthaus, LISW, MSW.