Embracing the new normal
The pandemic, the shelter in place orders and the physical distancing requirements have certainly created a new set of challenges for many of us in the psychotherapy sector, as we rapidly pivot to online therapy.
Migrating to online therapy.
Today, as we enter the sixth month of this new environment, many are finally recognizing the value of technology and online platforms for accessing their healthcare providers.
Whether to reach out to a primary caregiver for a skin rash or to continue therapy sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist, telehealth is becoming the norm.
As a clinical psychologist trained in various evidence-based approaches, most of my work has been in person, but I have also managed training and work with telehealth, especially at Veterans Hospitals. I utilized telehealth and online therapy to connect with veterans living in the suburbs, those with limited access to care, let alone therapy. Telehealth also enabled veterans with severe PTSD, those unable to leave their homes to access care, to eventually heal. Thus, I have always held a positive view of telehealth.
So, while my practice remains open, my physical office is not, and for now, all my patient work is conducted online. Although I personally prefer in-person psychotherapy, telehealth provides more accessibility to my established clients and allows me to meet and help new individuals seeking care.
As I continue to speak to existing and new clients, I am asked many questions about telehealth and online therapy. Here are some of the frequently asked:
How does Online Therapy (E-therapy and or teletherapy) work?
- It is basically the same, except through a tablet, computer, or phone screen. In the in-person format, you would walk in and sit in front of the therapist. Discuss, reflect, learn, and process life and events. Through online therapy, you use a safe HIPAA compliant link. Just turn your monitor on, click on the link, and voila, you are in your session. The most important factor to note in teletherapy is ensuring you have a safe and quiet space and a stable wifi connection.
Is online psychotherapy effective?
- Several studies have shown the effectiveness of teletherapy. In 2014, according to the Journal of Affective Disorders, online therapy was found to be nearly as effective as face-to-face therapy for treating depressive disorders. Many evidence-based psychotherapies, including practitioners of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, have shown online therapy to be as effective as in-person therapy in reducing symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders, including anxiety.
Is online psychotherapy confidential? Can you trust it?
- I highly value client confidentiality. It is at the forefront of my practice.
For in-person therapy, my private personal office ensures confidentiality. For online sessions, I locate myself in a private space, with a sound machine inside and outside my room to reassure my clients that their privacy is secured. I highly recommend my clients only engage in sessions in a private space away from family, neighbors, and other distractions, and to make sure they have 45-60 minutes in that private space. I have had clients attend online sessions in their cars or even from their backyards to make sure they have privacy.
If there is no safe space available I recommend that the session be rescheduled and planned at times when safety and confidentiality are possible.
Do I need specific instruments/equipment?
- No special equipment is needed other than a device where you can attend the session via the link sent: e.g., computer, tablet, or wireless cell-phone with wifi access.