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    A woman talking to her therapist during a virtual therapy session

    What is Telehealth Therapy & How Does it Work?

    4 mins

    The pandemic changed everything and prevented most citizens from engaging in everyday activities for a significant period of time. Some of those activities could be put on hold, while others, such as essential conversations with doctors and therapists, could not. That’s where telehealth therapy comes in. 

    So, what is telehealth therapy? It’s an online, face-to-face program with medical professionals, and it has gained serious popularity.

    Telehealth therapy turned out to be (and continues to be) vital for many people. Patients can stay safe at home and connect with psychiatrists and therapists using video conferencing platforms, online chat, or phone calls.

    Crisp, lag-free video calls feel so much like in-person therapy visits that most patients don’t see it as a compromise. In fact, according to a 2019 survey, over 75% of people found telehealth to be as good as or better than in-person visits.

    What Are the Advantages of Telehealth Therapy?

    Meeting in person with a therapist or psychiatrist is wonderful. Nothing is exactly like being face to face with another human being. But in-person appointments are not always best for our busy lives. Telehealth therapy has many benefits. Here are just a few:

    Flexibility

    If you have a career with non-traditional hours (perhaps you work nights and weekends), then finding time to go to a psychiatrist’s office can be challenging. Being able to hop on a video call can be the difference between regular sessions and no sessions at all.

    Greater Access

    For people stuck at home (whether because of the pandemic or otherwise), telehealth therapy offers accessibility. Telehealth therapy also enables mental health professionals to reach patients in remote locations or communities and even around the world. Someone in the wilds of Alaska or the middle of Death Valley can still get care as long as they have a private computer or smartphone. 

    According to Mental Health America, 24% of American adults with a mental illness report that they aren’t getting the treatment they need. Telehealth therapy can reach these individuals.

    Money and Time Savings

    Thanks to remote conferencing, patients don’t need to spend money driving or commuting to their therapist’s office, paying for a babysitter, or taking time off work. You also don’t need to spend any time in a waiting room. 

    Telehealth Therapy Regulations

    Unfortunately, although telehealth therapy aims to offer 100% widespread availability, states have their own requirements and restrictions about who can use it. The video conferencing software used must also be HIPAA-compliant to ensure patient confidentiality. Many mental health care providers will offer this software for free to enable video therapy sessions for their patients. 

    The positive news is that the pandemic prompted lawmakers to look closer at telehealth medicine and its benefits. New laws are being proposed constantly, and the public can easily track changes in telehealth medicine laws. Whatever state you live in, you will need to discuss whether you can have telehealth therapy sessions with your mental health provider.

    Does Insurance Cover Telehealth Therapy?

    It depends on your specific coverage and what state you live in. If your state has passed a parity law, it requires insurance providers to treat telehealth visits the same as in-person visits. However, you will still need to check your specific plan to find out if telehealth is covered.

    Both Medicare and Medicaid can cover telehealth therapy, depending on the type of telemedicine needed. You will have to reference your specific plan and state laws to see how much you will get reimbursed or if you have coverage for your specific needs.

    What Do I Need for Telehealth Therapy?

    Let’s start by discussing the technology you need. You must have:

    • A computer, laptop, phone, or another mobile device capable of supporting video conferencing

    • A camera and microphone (if they aren’t already built into your device)

    • Headphones (if you want privacy)

    • A high-speed internet connection (go with a wired connection instead of wifi, if possible)

    As for your surroundings, find a private and quiet space with limited distractions to have your appointments. Also, make sure you’re dressed appropriately (remember, your therapist will be able to see you)!

    You may also have to sign consent documents before your session. Make sure you fill them out and send them to your mental health provider. Test your equipment before the session, too! You won’t want to get settled and ready for your video conference only to discover technical issues.

    Is Telehealth Therapy Right For Me?

    Now that you know more about what telehealth therapy is, only you and your therapist or psychiatrist can determine whether it’s the appropriate treatment method for you. 

    Many people thrive using online mental health care and think what telehealth therapy is offering in terms of convenience and cost savings beats in-person treatment. Others need the physical presence of fellow human beings to get the help they need. Talk to your therapist about your needs and preferences before making any decisions.

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    Kara Thesing
    Senior Consultant, Team Lead at Bennie
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