While mental health awareness and support continue to grow, one in every five U.S. adults is diagnosed with a mental health condition every year. Another 56% of Americans with mental health disorders fail to get adequate treatment. A main underlying issue is the shortage of mental health care options in parts of the country, which leaves millions without proper mental health services. This is where telehealth, also known as teletherapy, comes into play. Although not the only step to correcting the problem, telehealth is a critical step in offering the much-needed benefits of virtual comprehensive health services.
The positive benefits of telehealth have been backed by numerous successful studies across the country and beyond. One of the studies compared teletherapy consultations to in-person sessions and found that 96% of telehealth patients were happy with online treatment. Additionally, teletherapy patients showed significant improvement in the before and after treatment screening contrary to in-person patients.
Johns Hopkins conducted another study that concluded that patients enrolled for teletherapy health services were less likely to be hospitalized for mental health illnesses with a huge decrease in hospital admissions from 2006-2010.
What is Telehealth?
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), telehealth or teletherapy can be defined as real-time delivery of health care services between a patient and a physician through encrypted audio and video calls, for consultation, diagnosis, and treatment. Not to be confused with telemedicine that offers only remote medical services, telehealth can offer a host of non-clinical healthcare services, too.
The Benefits of Telehealth Therapy Appointments
Telehealth is a powerful health tool that offers numerous benefits for both therapists and their clients. In addition to being convenient, teletherapy makes the provision of healthcare services easier to access and provide. Telehealth therapy appointment benefits include:
- Flexible scheduling where patients and health care providers easily conduct real-time one-on-one sessions.
- Convenience since treatment can be done from anywhere and at any time as long as you both have a phone, internet connection, and a camera. (This can even work for hypnotherapy, where hypnosis for addictions or other mental health disorders can be done remotely.)
- Greater access, since patients can better access required health services from anywhere and at any time.
- More income options for therapists since teletherapy opens access to multiple patients.
- Improved quality healthcare services as echoed by numerous past and recent studies.
Get the Most Out of Telehealth Therapy
COVID-19 has changed how individuals access treatment. While the safety measures put in place won’t last forever, they will most likely remain in place for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean that you should put your treatment on hold. Social isolation is not good for your health. Instead, reach out and stay connected to important healthcare support systems. Ensure that your treatment happens despite the current challenges, via telehealth.
Write Down Any Burning Questions
Whether about symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment, have a list of questions ready to help you in remembering when the chance to ask arises.
Track Your Symptoms in Advance
You know firsthand what you are going through. Write down what you feel, how you feel it, and what tends to aggravate the symptoms.
Get Your Medical History Out
Your clinician may want to know or clarify some part of your past medical issues about diagnosis or medications that you may have taken in the past. Having this information handy saves lots of time for both you and the doctor during the session so you can focus on the most pressing concerns.
Choose a Quiet Place Free of Any Distractions
If you want to reap large from your telehealth appointment, eliminate all distractions. Book your appointment when you are least likely to get distracted or interrupted and ensure that your phone is in silent mode. Get away from anything that may deter you from fully concentrating on the task at hand. Find a private place where you are 100% comfortable and relax. Close the door and try to minimize any background noises as you settle in.
Check Your Devices and Troubleshoot Beforehand
You need to know what technology will be used and familiarize yourself with it prior to your appointment. If you’ve never used it before, practice with someone close to you and work out the kinks. Talking to a web-cam may feel weird at first, but with practice, it’ll gradually feel more natural. If you feel comfortable, the teletherapy appointment session will most likely be more productive. The Clinician’s Guide to Video Platforms can be a helpful resource.
Check Your Internet Connection
Set up the equipment in a spot where your internet connection is strongest. It’s recommended that you use a wired internet connection and give yourself ample time to set up and test all your equipment before the appointment. Given that there’s no foolproof technology, always have a backup plan. If the video call fails to work, have your phone handy for your health professional to place a voice call.
During Your Appointment
Take Notes for Future Reference
Always ask if the session is being recorded at the beginning and request a recap afterward. Taking notes will help you get the most important ideas and recommendations for future improvements.
Be Ready to Speak Honestly
Holding back will not only be unhealthy but also counterproductive for both you and the clinician. Be candid about your fears, challenges, treatment, and hopes about the therapy. Let your health professional know where they need to make adjustments to serve you best. Also, let them know what parts of the treatment are working.
Will There Be Follow-Ups?
Never leave the session without knowing when the next follow-up appointment will be so you both agree on a time and a date.
After Your Appointment
Stick to the Recommendations
Your teletherapy appointment is only a section of a broad treatment plan. To get the most out of it, ensure that you follow through with your physician’s recommendations.
Telehealth is a powerful tool that when used right offers a wide range of benefits to both patients and health care providers. Being a rapidly expanding healthcare area both in the mental and medical health space, therapists should have relevant processes and procedures in place to safeguard the patients’ best interests. For people who may want to learn more about telehealth therapy, Telehealth.HHS.gov is an excellent resource.