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Pros and Cons of Telehealth Talk to a Professional Now

Let’s discuss Telehealth, the pros and cons of how you can see therapist. The first thing I'd like to explain is what is Telehealth. Telehealth is a funny word for seeing your therapist over video, text, email, or anything electronic. Telehealth is about connecting remotely with a therapist or any other health provider. This is not just for therapy. Many other professionals including; medical doctors and psychiatrist are now having client sessions over Telehealth. Nearly every adult in the United States has a cellphone that is a smart phone, so that means everyone has access to a therapist no matter where you are. Not everyone has access to traditional face to face in the office therapy.

Traditional Therapy Sessions vs. Telehealth Sessions

Traditional therapy is where you have to pick a therapist, go into the office, find parking, pay for parking, and figure out where the office is located. You also have to find a therapist that’s available when you are available. Now with Telehealth none of that is a problem because you’re just going to have a phone call or a video session. We’ll talk a little bit later about privacy and how telehealth is impacted by privacy. It’s really, really easy now. The most powerful benefits to Telehealth are ease and convenience; by improving access and convenience Telehealth is a really wonderful way for clients and therapists to connect and get a lot of really good work done without having to drag yourself out, go to the office, find parking, pay for parking, etcetera etcetera. Next I'm going to talk about the some questions that come up around Telehealth and the pros and cons of doing Telehealth.

Common Questions About Telehealth

We’ve talked about what Telehealth is and given some examples of what makes it such powerful and amazing resource that is being severely under-utilized. Some of the questions I get when I’m discussing Telehealth with clients are, “Can I trust it?” Yes you can! We highly recommend not using Facetime or Skype because they not really a trustworthy way to communicate very confidential information and they tend to be kind of glitchy sometimes due to a lack of investment in technology. They didn't put in a significant amount of technology to make those things happen. When you're deciding to use a Telehealth platform, one which I know is excellent is called OOTify. OOTify has put in a significant amount of dollars to make sure that their platform is not glitchy, it's easy to use, and you can trust it because it’s HIPAA compliant. That's the next thing that people often ask: “Is Telehealth Confidential?” Yes if it's done properly. If you are using a platform that is meant for Telehealth, that is HIPAA compliant and it is confidential the chance of being hacked into is significantly less than if you were to use something that's not HIPAA compliant like Facetime or Skype. If you're therapist is asking you to use Facetime or Skype ask them if there's another way that you can communicate with them because they're not HIPAA compliant and do not have your privacy covered.

Another question I get is “Who provides tellehealth? How do I find out who does it? Where can I go to ask?” If you were to search online for Telehealth providers you'll get a ton of results and some of them are going to be companies like Talk Space. Talk Space is super popular right now. From what I know about the providers that provide service at places like these, the level of care you're going to get and the quality of care you're going to get may not be the best. If you want a highly skilled and qualified therapist, you can go into any kind of a private practice and ask if they do Telehealth. Many private practice practitioners will do Telehealth. If you're using a service like OOTify, they actually vet each therapist before they are allowed to use help clients through the service and they will tell you who is available immediately. It will also tell you how much the session will cost, so you can talk to a therapist right in that moment. If you're coming out of an argument with your spouse or partner and you really want to talk to someone right away, you can go on there and it'll show you who's available and you get to pick them based on their profile. In addition, most or many private practice clinicians like myself are very happy to do Telehealth as a compliment to office visits. It’s easy and convenient for you as the client and it's also pretty easy and convenient for me. So, it's a win win on both sides. Another question that I get is “What if I want to see my therapist face to face sometimes? If I do Telehealth does that mean I can never see my therapist in person?” Well if you're using something like Talk Space, yeah, you're never going to meet that therapist. If you’re working with a private practice therapist, certainly you can schedule a face to face visit; the same thing with OOTify. If you want to schedule an office visit you can do that. You just want to make sure that no matter which Telehealth platform you're using you’re aware of what your options are and what that platform can provide to you. Sometimes it's nice to be able to sit in the same room with your therapist, so that you can really take in what they're saying There's something different about being right in front of another person that it feels like they get you. It feels like they’re listening. It feels just a little bit different. So, if you want to see your therapist face to face on occasion depending on how you utilize your Telehealth and who you're utilizing it with you can absolutely do that.

How Do You Pay For Telehealth Sessions?

This varies based on what platform you’re using, who you're seeing and what their office policies are. But typically, if you're doing Telehealth they’ll probably take credit cards electronically so they can bill your credit card for the service. The nice thing here is you don't have to hand anybody a check or hand anybody cash. The beauty of technology is that it's easy. You don't have to hand things over. You don't have to be there in person to get what you need. The other question I get is “How much does Telehealth cost? Is it more expensive? Is it less expensive? How does that work?” Well, it depends on your clinician. Many clinicians charged their regular fee for doing Telehealth just the same as if you're coming into the office. Some clinicians offer slight discounts if you want to do Telehealth session. Some people offer a significant discount if you’re doing Telehealth and some people actually charge a little extra. It all kind of depends, so it’s important to ask questions and find out the specifics. Don't just assume that every clinician is the same. We all practice differently. We all have different fees. We all take insurance or not take insurance or kind to take insurance or do it in a special way. Everyone is different, so please ask the questions. The good news is that the technology is there and it's really cool.

What are the Cons to Telehealth Therapy Sessions?

Now I'd like to go into the cons. First, not every therapist does Telehealth however many do and many more are adding it to their practice every day. Another con is about the communication systems being kind of glitchy or having bad connections. Even though a lot of these platforms invest at ton of money and a ton of effort into creating the best experience possible for their users nothing is a hundred percent, so there might be a glitch here and there. But because the technology is so much better and always advancing that doesn't happen as often as it used to. A lot of it depends on whether or not you’re connected to Wi-Fi or if you are using your phone versus a laptop. Another con is that we need to consider the impact of the loss of body language over some means of Telehealth. It can be challenging to really get the full understanding of the conversation and it's possible my therapist can't fully understand me because they can’t see all of my mannerisms or all of the nonverbal cues that I'm giving. This is totally true if you choose to do your Telehealth session through phone, text, or email. If you're doing video it's significantly better because you could see a portion of the person it's not the entire person unless you want to setup your computer or your phone so that you and your therapist can see your whole body. All of this is an option and it's available to you. The problem of not seeing the nonverbal cues is reduced because of modern technology, but not eliminated.

Another con is that not all situations can be handled via Telehealth. Let's say someone is severely depressed and suicidal. That is something better suited to face to face sessions. That’s not something that can be left to Telehealth. Now again, if the suicidality or the suicidal ideation is well managed then sure Telehealth health could be workable, but it's not always the best course of action depending on what’s going on. Another con is, when you're working with a marriage family therapist, you can do Telehealth, but only if the therapist is licensed in the state that you reside in. You just want to be aware because sometimes people don't consider that they may be thinking their therapist is licensed and approved to work with them, but then you find out they are not.

What are The Pros to Telehealth Therapy?

The pros, this is the part that I really like. The pro of doing Telehealth, the biggest one I've already mentioned is that its quick and it's easy. Access is unlimited. So as a mom, this could be super convenient because you have some time between when you finish your errands and you have to pick the kids up from school, but it's not enough time that you can drive to an office for an hour and drive back to pick up your kids. The great thing about Telehealth is you can drive to your kid's school sit in the parking lot and have your session and it will end right when you have to pick the kids up. That's super cool! That's really convenient! You can schedule Telehealth session with your therapist if you are in San Diego on vacation and you really want to have a session. You can do that and have it over video or have it over phone. It’s super convenient.

Some other pros are that its cost effective in many cases. The cost effectiveness comes from its convenience and its ease. There is less time driving, so you're not paying as much gas. There is no paying for parking. There is the non-tangible cost effectiveness of it’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to squeeze in another appointment that is going to take an hour and also add on travel, so it's very efficient. It’s also HIPAA compliant. The Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Association of Marriage Family Therapist are all saying Telehealth is acceptable. It's private and it's confidential. It’s just like being in the office. In many cases insurance will cover the session cost. Also, as more and more therapists add it to their practices the availability increases.

So far we've talked about the pros and the cons, we've discussed some of the frequently asked questions and we’ve talked about what is Telehealth. Remember, if you want to engage in Telehealth be aware of your own privacy. Just because you're on the phone doesn't mean that it's a good idea to be in the grocery store or shopping at Target while you’re having a therapy session. Please be mindful. Find some space for yourself where you can have privacy even if it's at home. If the kids are around you don't necessarily want to have your Telehealth Session in the living room while the kids are sitting there watching TV or doing their homework. Find some place that's private. Another thing is, please, try not to do it while you're driving. It's very tempting, but to talk about things that might emotionally upsetting, that might get your nervous system into a place where you’re not thinking clearly is not a good idea while you are driving. So please be safe, make good choices and please take advantage of Telehealth. Here at Pacific Marriage and Family Therapy Network we have several therapists that do Telehealth and are very open and happy to work with you. Again there are several apps out there the one that we particularly like is called OOTify. It’s an app, it's free and you get to choose the clinician that is right for you directly from the app.

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