A while back there was a very funny television show starring Lisa Kudrow (ditzy Phoebe from Friends) called “Web Therapy.” It was an improvised show and Lisa played a therapist who treated her patients over the Internet. Hence the title of the show.
Well, back when the show was on, the idea of treating mental health patients via a webcam seemed ludicrous. And the show did a great job at poking fun of Lisa’s character and her “wacky idea” of web therapy.
Fast forward 12 years after the show’s debut, and web therapy is now “a thing” thanks to telehealth technology. Yes, psychotherapy appointments can be held between therapist and patient while one is in one building, state, or country and the other is somewhere else entirely.
Benefits of Telehealth
Even before the coronavirus shelter in place orders, teletherapy was gaining popularity. Why was web therapy a joke 12 years ago but now gaining in popularity? The shift is most likely due to the growing popularity of tech solutions in general. There’s also something very attractive about the ease of telehealth; of not having to leave your house to get the help you need.
As younger generations have become accustomed to using apps to have food, beer and groceries delivered right to their door, they expect these same conveniences from their health providers. While it may take a few more years before telehealth becomes truly mainstream, indicators suggest that push is more than likely to happen.
Many therapists are saying the adoption of telehealth should have come sooner, but support and guidance on telehealth are finally coming from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological organizations. And most insurance plans cover telehealth as they would traditional psychotherapy services.
Not Everyone is Eager to Try It
Many therapists find that the traditional face-to-face setting is the only way they are comfortable providing therapy. For some, the subtle difference that will be present when therapist and client are sitting in front of their computer cameras can be unsettling.
One of the most significant barriers to giving it a try is the discomfort so many of us feel when seeing ourselves on camera. I used to worry that I would be distracted by my own appearance. To my surprise, the experience of telehealth is not that different than a regular in-office session. It is easy for me to solely focus on the client in the session and not even notice my image during the session….we’re just having a conversation. However, some clients do choose to cover up their own picture during the session – the perfect use for post-it notes!
As therapists providing telehealth services we are continually cognizant of the perspective of the client. So we set the stage – make sure the lighting is right, privacy is evident, and other environmental interruptions are non-existent. Just like in the office!
Thanks to the coronavirus/Covid-19, social distancing became a socially responsible decision for the therapists at PeoplePsych and many therapists in general. Today no one is laughing any longer at the idea of web therapy. Instead, both therapists and clients are embracing telehealth technology as a means of engaging in psychotherapy without increasing exposure to the coronavirus.
PeoplePsych therapists use a web-based HIPAA compliant secure video conferencing platform doxy.me for video sessions. All that is required for clients to prepare for the session is to make sure that they are in a comfortable space, with a good internet connection, where they can speak freely without concern of others hearing. We make sure that the experience is as similar to a face to face session as possible.
The issues that brought you to therapy still exist just because social distancing has become the norm. And for many, the isolation and uncertainty are adding a significant heaviness. We are continuing to provide our regular services at this time, its just a different setting. Teletherapy really can help, even today in the age of coronavirus, and does not need to be postponed until things return to normal.