Prior to COVID-19, therapists were starting to get more comfortable utilizing Telehealth to deliver therapy services to clients. This was an appealing option for those with very busy schedules or who had difficulty traveling to a therapy office. At that point in time, there was still somewhat of a stigma against teletherapy or online therapy that remained, and many therapists and clients alike believed that it was a “lesser option” because of the loss of in-person connection.
Now, in our world in which COVID-19 exists, almost all therapy is being delivered online and therapists and clients are enjoying it! Aside from the obvious current benefit of avoiding transmission of COVID, the forced practice of exclusively online therapy has revealed many of its positive aspects.
One set of benefits relates to access of care. When seeing therapists online, clients have access to specialists they would not otherwise be able to reasonably see. Additionally, some communities and areas of our country have a lack of access to care due to a shortage of therapists. Other communities (usually major cities) may have plenty of therapists but still not enough to meet demand leading to long wait times. Also, finding a therapist who is a good fit can be a bit easier if a client has a wider net to cast when searching.
Another positive aspect of Teletherapy is convenience. This is often the most obvious factor that many consider. It just can be a hassle to get to a therapist’s office if coordination with public transportation or looking for parking is part of the equation. Using teletherapy in whichever location the client chooses also eliminates commute time and taking weather that limits travel into consideration. Teletherapy also allows for more privacy before and after sessions. Seeing strangers after a particularly intense session or while waiting for your session on a really bad day is also nothing anyone wants to experience. For those in smaller communities who want to remain discrete, this solves an obvious problem.
Lastly, there are some unique and interesting bonuses we have discovered about online therapy during the time of COVID. Teletherapy allows for more “in the moment” intervention which improves coping skills use and application. Especially when clients are having a hard time, a teletherapy session allows client and therapist to talk through things in real time and get a practical plan in place that someone can immediately implement (often taking that first step with the support of their therapist). It also can be very useful to see clients in their own environment. This sometimes gives insight into dynamics at home with partners, family members, or roommates and allows therapists to be even more helpful.
Is teletherapy here to stay? I definitely hope so! We have some challenges to work through such as extended insurance coverage of telehealth services, but as we are all adjusting to our “new normal,” I hope teletherapy is part of it!