Telehealth for Mental Health Services
Ann L. Date, Psy.D. LP
Life as we knew it abruptly and without much warning came to a halt. For some of us, this change has resulted in increased mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and anger. For others of us, this change has exposed the imbalances in our families and in ourselves that we can no longer mask by running off to work or school or sports or the bar or the mall or to our friends. This imbalance, while uncomfortable and sometimes overwhelming, is also an opportunity for growth and change. Mental health therapists can be thought of as change-specialists – ready to come alongside to support you in this time of need.
Scientific studies consistently show that mental health therapy works as well, if not better, than medication to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While in person therapy is not available right now, teletherapy is and it works extremely well.
Teletherapy is conducted over the internet using a live video connection. It can also be done using a telephone if you don’t have internet access. For many of us the idea of meeting a therapist and having on-line sessions seems a bit daunting. But our therapists and clients find that after the first couple of minutes, it feels like you are in the same room with the other person.
Benefits to teletherapy include no traveling, having therapy in the comfort and safety of your home, and being able to avoid sitting in a waiting room. We knew about these benefits beforehand, but in the course of delivering telehealth, we have found even more advantages. Therapists are able to enter their clients’ living spaces. For example, one adolescent client was arguing with his mother about emptying the dishwasher. The therapist asked the client to move the computer near the dishwasher so she could be with him while he clears it. This therapist reports, “We had great fun clearing the dishwasher and then we were able to talk about the difference between the pain of arguing with his mother versus the pain of getting the dishwasher emptied. He indicated it was easier to just clear the dishwasher.” Another client enjoys having a morning therapy session while she is still lying in bed, under her cozy covers while drinking a cup of coffee. Other clients like to have their pets with them in session. Teletherapy is much easier on parents who no longer have to act as taxi drivers.
While many of our therapists have conducted teletherapy sessions prior to COVID19, they too had to adjust to working at home full time as well as seeing all of their clients over the internet. This was no small feat. Setting up private and secure home offices, learning how to use the internet effectively to provide clients with out of session assignments and handouts, and keeping in touch with clinical supervisors and support staff took time and effort. And while they miss seeing their clients in person, our therapists have found that therapy over the internet has challenged them to become creative in delivering therapy and in connecting with clients. Eventually most therapy will be conducted at the clinic but we anticipate many of our clients and some of our clinicians will prefer teletherapy well after the COVID19 crisis has passed.
And a word about reimbursement. Most, if not all, insurances are reimbursing for teletherapy. Some insurances such as BCBS of Michigan and Aetna are also discounting and/or eliminating out of pocket expenses at this time. And, many clinics offer low to no fee services for those who have lost employment and benefits. The Hope Portal https://www.mihopeportal.com/find-a-provider/ is a good way to find a therapist to fit your needs. The Psychology Today Website is another recommended source https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists. And of course, we would be honored to serve you at Partners in Change. Our number is 989-832-2165 and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.