So What is Teletherapy All About?

Technology is here to stay; be it good, bad or indifferent; whether you choose to embrace it or restrict it. We are constantly bombarded with information, new applications, new iPhones, new ways to organize our lives, share our information and get medical assistance.

Teletherapy ensures that clinical care, medical education and monitoring, as well as provider consultations are available anytime, anywhere and for nearly anyone.

Teletherapy is often used to describe videoconferencing where your therapist is in her office on her computer and you are in your home or office on your computer. You are using a private, secure program that protects your confidentiality and you are having your psychotherapy session over the computer or sometimes by telephone in your own home.

Many insurances are now covering teletherapy as part of the national initiatives to introduce telemedicine to the public. Teletherapy has long been a part of the government sector and has been gaining visibility in the public sector every year. Legislation has been moving forward at its own pace, in each state, to widely varying degrees.

Teletherapy is often used interchangeably with telemedicine – “Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.” (American Telemedicine Association, TMH includes terms such as telepsychology, telepsychiatry, and telebehavioral health.

I am a Clinical Social Worker with a private practice and I’ve seen many changes over the course of my career. But, the most outstanding and possibly momentous change has been that of teletherapy and its widespread use over multiple medical and behavioral health venues. It seems to have exploded….building momentum first within the tech-community and then the innovators and entrepreneurs jumped at it, developing new ways to provide services for the wider community at large. Now, there isn’t hardly a day that goes by without reading about some very creative adaptation of telehealth to change our daily lives and those of our clients.

In my opinion, this could be a win-win situation. It will provide yet another modality for clients to engage with therapists, opportunities that will provide them with a deeper menu of options open to them. Would they like a videoconference or perhaps a phone call? Do they need more frequent text reminders (once we discover how to keep these HIPAA-secure!) Or, perhaps it will be a consortium of all these options mingled together to form a solid relationship.

Will it replace the traditional face-to-face treatment? Not likely. At least not for a long time to come. Especially as our world heads into technology overload, most people of this generation may still long for that quiet, undisturbed hour of sitting with someone who cares and can attend to them as they talk out their hopes, dreams, and fears. The clients may especially relish the quietness of the room, without the chimes of incoming texts, without the various music associated with incoming phone calls. This will be the solitude they have been wishing for, if only for a little while.