Several years ago, many people were skeptical about therapy done online. By the end of this year, however, online therapy has become more common and accepted by both treatment professionals and their clients. COVID-19 has been a game-changer, making remote therapy appointments more relevant and needed than ever before. Telehealth is defined by the World Health Organization as “delivery of health care services, where patients and providers are separated by distance.” Many people use the telephone, but an increasingly popular way to conduct therapy appointments is to use an online meeting program, such as Zoom or Skype. The client and practitioner can see each other and speak in real-time. This simulates the feel and impact of an in-person appointment without the health risk of either person being in direct contact with each other.
Just a year ago, many insurance companies balked at the idea of telehealth. Since then, however, the pandemic has forced many of them to reassess their policies. Patients who were previously denied coverage for telehealth therapy now receive compensation in line with insurance policies for in-person appointments. While it remains to be seen if this new strategy continues after the pandemic, many believe it is here to stay. Just as corporations have learned that their employees are equally productive when they work from home, it is estimated that many insurance companies will embrace telehealth permanently.
Benefits of Telehealth
There are several benefits to establishing telehealth appointments either as a new choice or the only option for treating patients. Offering such appointments opens you up to having hours outside the typical ones provided. Evening and weekend appointments are more convenient for both the therapist and their clients when no one has to leave their home. If the therapist is out-of-town, they can still conduct appointments from whatever location they are in, such as a hotel or rental housing. It is often much more convenient and accessible for patients who live in rural or remote areas. These benefits open up a therapist to increasing their patient load, thus allowing them to help more people. Additionally, they can give potential clients more options to get the help they need.
How To Make The Transition
If you are a treatment professional who is unsure of how to add telehealth to your list of services offered, there are some essential tips to help you make the transition. First, establish an office area that is free of noise, visitors, and other distractions. Make sure you have adequate lighting that is focused on you but isn’t too bright. Continue to dress professionally, but be aware that some clients may dress more casually. If you are not familiar with using on-camera meeting software and apps, ask a friend or family member to test it out with you, so you are comfortable with the new system.
Helping a Client Be Ready
Let your client know they will have the same quiet and private setting they are used to. Inform your clients ahead of time. Tell them which online program you will be using, any costs associated with it (the common ones are typically free), and give them time to download it and try using it. Tell them you both should dress as you would for an in-person appointment. Depending on your state’s requirements, you may need to use consent documentation and get verbal or written consent from your client for telehealth. It’s also essential to establish how payment for services will be made.
Many people are nervous about being on camera on their computers. The anxiety about Zoom meetings may be increased for those new to having therapy online. Reassure your clients at the beginning of the first session that it’s okay to be nervous. If a family member or pet makes an unexpected appearance, let them know it doesn’t anger you. It’s a universal experience, and it’s nothing to stress out about.
Additional Bonuses of Telehealth
There are additional benefits to telehealth besides the ones gained by the clients who use it for their therapy appointments. Social distancing is helpful but does not guarantee to stop the spread of COVID-19. Telehealth keeps the treatment professional and their client physically apart, meaning there is zero chance of one person transferring the virus to another. It also dramatically reduces the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed, which is paramount when so many hospitals and other medical treatment facilities require a significant number of PPE during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has resulted in millions of people beginning to use telehealth options to conduct their therapy appointments. Talking to your clients via online programs is a fast-growing addition to a therapist’s business. Paying attention to how to prepare yourself and your clients for the transition is essential. Sustain Recovery is an adolescent treatment program that offers young people suffering from co-occurring mental illness diagnoses, as well as abuse of alcohol or drugs, a proven way to help them manage their lives and enter recovery. We offer long-term residential programs that include schooling, outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient programs. Located in sunny Southern California, we have a program that can help your family. Call us today to find out how we can help adolescents in need of learning to manage their issues and become responsible young adults on the path to success. (949) 407-9052.