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How does teletherapy work?

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

As our society continues to embark on a "new normal", you may be wondering: should I start therapy? Or more specifically: should I start online therapy?

What is teletherapy?

There are many names for it (teletherapy, telemental health therapy, teleheath, e-therapy, online therapy, virtual therapy, etc), but for simplicity sake I will call it teletherapy. Teletherapy is essentially therapy that is conducted via a virtual platform on a computer. It's similar to Skype or FaceTime in that you and your therapist can see each other "face-to-face" through the video platform.

How does it work? Is it secure?

Teletherapy works very similarly to in-person therapy. You typically schedule an appointment ahead of time with your therapist and are then given a link to a secure video platform. At the time of your appointment you and your therapist join the video and meet for therapy. The video platform is secure and HIPPA-compliant, meaning the sessions are completely private and confidential (just like they are in-person). Essentially the therapy works the same as it does in-person, but you and your therapist are physically in two separate locations.

How does teletherapy compare to face-to-face therapy?

Though it has recently become more popular, teletherapy has been around since the 1990s and research has been conducted around its efficacy for certain circumstances. So far the research has shown very promising effectiveness for teletherapy. Overall, findings show that teletherapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy for a wide variety of conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic, addiction, and eating disorders (PESI, 2020).

It is important to understand that one of the most important factors in making therapy successful is having a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist. This is absolutely possible via teletherapy. However, for individuals who find it difficult to form relationships or engage in social interactions, it may be more beneficial to seek in-person therapy. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what kind of therapy is best for you and your personal goals.

Benefits of teletherapy

  1. Flexibility. Life is busy. Between family, work, school, relationships, or whatever else is going on in your life, it can feel pretty difficult sometimes to squeeze appointments into your day. Teletherapy saves you time as it allows you to attend appointments exactly where you are (as long as you are in a safe, private space). No need to worry about taking the bus, driving, parking, etc.

  2. It makes therapy more accessible. Many people live in rural areas or don't have access to convenient transportation. This can certainly create a roadblock to getting care. Teletherapy makes it possible for more people to access care when they need it.

  3. It makes therapy more approachable. Therapy can be intimidating for a lot of people. It requires being vulnerable with someone and sharing difficult pieces of your story. On top of that, traveling to a new environment and sitting in a waiting room can feel particularly stressful and anxiety-provoking. Connecting with a therapist via teletherapy can alleviate this stress as you can remain in the comfort of your own home.

  4. You can grow in your "natural environment". Some people enjoy the process of going to a therapist's office; feeling safe and comfortable for an hour as they work towards their personal goals.This can certainly be nice, however, it can also be extremely beneficial to be able to work towards your goals in your "natural environment" (your home, office, or wherever you are doing your sessions). This allows you to do your healing work and create a safe space in the very places where you are actually living your life! We are creatures of association, and when we are able to do therapy work in our natural environment we will continue to be reminded of our abilities to heal and grow as we move forward and live our lives.

A therapist's perspective

As a therapist, I started offering teletherapy because of COVID. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised by its efficacy. Just like in-person therapy, when you have the motivation to show up and work towards your goals, it really can work. Therapy is an incredibly personal process, and it is up to you what you want to get out of it. Some people prefer teletherapy and some prefer face-to-face therapy. There is no right or wrong, there is only your desire to grow and evolve into a more aligned version of yourself. If you think teletherapy may be a good fit for you, please feel free to contact me to learn more. This is your journey and I want you to know that you have options available to you!

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