By Chandler S. Chang, Ph.D.
3 min read
At this point, you know what therapy is, you’ve seen your favorite tv character go to therapy (Hi Fleabag!), and you probably follow a therapist or two on Instagram. You imagine a nice cozy couch, warm lighting, and a middle-aged man or woman sitting in an armchair with a cardigan.
The gender is fluid, but the “therapist cardigan” is almost always a given. But you may not know about teletherapy. Now, when many of us are stuck at home for the greater good or struggling with a loved one’s illness, is a good time to learn more! Teletherapy works in essentially the same way as therapy in an office. You meet in a HIPAA-compliant virtual “space” with your therapist, whose face appears on your screen. While many sometimes wonder if you can still get to the “work” of therapy while not meeting in the same room, people almost always agree after trying it that teletherapy feels remarkably effective and therapeutic, not to mention convenient and accessible.
Convenience and accessibility are no small variables to consider, as we’re learning during this unique time of social distancing (due to Covid19). The limits that we are now experiencing prevent so many people from leaving their homes and getting the important mental health support they need. And even in normal times, those who may be physically limited by injury or disability can seek important treatment through teletherapy. On a side note, people who live in small towns or rural areas are especially well-served by the growing presence of online mental health support. Not only do these areas typically have fewer or no resources available in-person, those living in rural areas may be more comfortable working on sensitive topics (like sexual taboos or domestic violence) with someone living outside their immediate vicinity. (Please keep in mind, however, that licensed mental health professionals must adhere to state guidelines for confidentiality regardless of where they practice!)
This benefit is also true for those who need therapy provided in a different language or in sign language. Clients may be more likely to find the provider they need if the consider more options via teletherapy. Not surprisingly, there’s a growing body of research highlighting how effective teletherapy can be. In fact, in some cases there are some clinical advantages to teletherapy versus “IRL” therapy. For example, when working with parents of oppositional children, some research suggests that therapy with parents that happens by video in their own home environment helps parents integrate the new skills more quickly and effectively than they would if learning in a distant office environment.
Similarly, I’ve found when working with adults with ADHD, for example, that my insight into their situation is greater when I can take a look at their desk or kitchen table and see for myself how their organization problems are affecting them. It can be so helpful to enter a person’s home with them when helping them gain self-awareness and the skills of emotion management, organization, parenting, etc.!
While there is not currently a central list of providers who provide teletherapy, you can use the most common online directories (like www.psychologytoday.com) to discover whether a provider offers teletherapy.
As you can tell, I wholeheartedly encourage people to try teletherapy. But do please consider these important questions for your therapist before moving forward with teletherapy:
– Are you licensed in the state where I live?
– Will my insurance or Medicaid cover or reimburse for teletherapy, or only for live sessions?
– How do I access the technology? Is the technology you use HIPAA-compliant and secure?
– What should I do if we experience technical difficulties?
– What should I do in case there is an emergency and I cannot contact you?
By Chandler S. Chang, Ph.D. is the Founder of Therapy Lab, Inc. & Psychologist. Using evidence-based treatments and a compassionate approach, Dr. Chang offers expertise based on almost two decades of clinical experience, both in private practice and at prestigious research-oriented psychology programs, including UCLA and NYU’s Child Study Center, and an undergraduate degree from Princeton University. She earned her Ph.D. at The University of Georgia, a program renowned for its promotion of evidence-based practice and clinical research. She has a passion for incorporating science into psychological practice and a mission to train other therapists in this way while providing affordable mental health services for all. Dr. Chang is the owner of two private practices in Los Angeles, including Golden Hour Therapy and Therapy Lab. (California PSY 22092). Book consultation for teletherapy at either practice: www.therapylabinc.com and www.goldenhourtherapy.com
Coronavirus attacking your Mental Health? Check out the below BroglieBox articles:
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The BroglieBox Quarantine Box (pictured above) is the perfect care-package to help optimize your mental health and aid in stress relief! Each box contains items in varying categories like mindfulness, sleep, aromatherapy, gratitude, fitness, and more.
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