The Top Benefits of Teletherapy...I want to explore some of reasons my clients like using online video sessions.
1. Low Barrier to Entry: How does telehealth make attending a session comfortable? An easy way to describe it is this—all those things you hate about your dentist waiting room? They apply in therapy as well. Finding the office, sitting, anxiously counting down the time, waiting for your name to be called. With teletherapy, it’s almost always in the comfort of your own home. You can have your cozy blanket, your special mug, all the things that make you feel at ease. What better start to therapy and opening up than in your safe space?
2. Privacy: While this can certainly vary depending on geographical location and the diversity of clients that I see, teletherapy ensures maximal privacy every time. As one who specializes in students at Sonoma State University, I have found more than once that my SSU clients manage to know one another. I have walked in (and out of my office) on more than one occasion witnessing awkward small talk between these clients who knew each other in class or who dislike one another. With social media anymore, everyone is connected. While I have often managed to help these students find the silver lining of running into acquaintances (we all have issues, therapy is normalized), teletherapy removes this concern altogether.
3. Efficiency: Time is perhaps our most precious resource. As such, commutes can be frustrating and stressful for my clients who are already prone to anxiety. Unexpected traffic closures often lead much anxiety about being late or missing any part of scheduled therapy time. In one scenario I had a client get into a car accident on the way over to see me. Needless to say, our conversation that session wound up focusing on something entirely different than what we had intended. With enough on your brimming plates, the last thing you need to worry about is one more place to be. And for that matter, one extra cost if parking tickets or accidents are involved.
4. Flexibility: Relatedly, teletherapy allows for maximal flexibility for my overworked and overcommitted clients. Having worked with many high achieving populations who are at the verge of mental breakdowns, those who need services the most often have the least time. Being able to reschedule and integrate emergency sessions impacts the therapist and caseload at large minimally. Although of course high severity patients should rarely be seen in outpatient situations without extra staff support, for clients with severe anxiety that is otherwise well managed, the ability to schedule an emergency check-in can be invaluable.
5. Safety: Across much of the nation, severe winter weather can put a kink in plans. In California, overwhelming torrents of rain can make travel hazardous, it can wreak havoc on scheduling. Such concerns are eliminated in teletherapy. Further, there is no expectation that clients leave their homes in dangerous weather, there are no late cancellation fees, or consideration of what school districts are opened or closed. With teletherapy, the show can go on, each time.
6. Illness: It is not uncommon for students with heavy workloads and many pressures to repeatedly succumb to illnesses. I have had clients with severe flus and viruses (often actively contagious) come in which puts me and by extension my other clients at risk. Further, illness often can cause additional last-minute cancellations while mood plummets. The ability for my clients to continue working with me, especially when ill, can be highly impactful. Teletherapy makes it safe for both of us.
7. Client Timeliness Improved: When sessions begin at the click of a button, timeliness is certainly improved. Without the concern of a traffic jam, getting lost on their way to the office, or running low on gas, it is a no-brainer that timeliness is significantly improved when my clients are always in reach of their devices.
8. Streamlined Communication: One of the most integral components of my practice is my online scheduling which also offers teletherapy directly via secure link. Clients can opt for a reminder text, email, or both and all the information regarding their appointment is at their fingertips. While this unfortunately sounds like advocacy for the takeover of robots, the truth is these programs simply don’t make errors but for exceedingly rare glitches. Having everything in one place is beautifully simple and fits in with the general ethos of teletherapy. In rare times when two patients have shown up for the same session, I have always felt terrible sending them home again when I know they rushed to get there. With teletherapy, when these rare errors occur, there is no harm, no foul.
9. Access Facilities, Food, Drink, etc.: As a therapist to many students who are often rushing over from school or other activities, I have more than once encountered a ravenous and therefore grouchy young adult. While I don’t encourage eating for the full duration of therapy, a satiated client whose basic needs are met is certainly important. As such, one of the benefits of teletherapy is access to any of the needs that may come up for a client, down to a bathroom with no line (or worse, risk of running into the therapist in the next stall over!).
10. Access for Remote Patients: More times than I can count, I have done a double-take when I have reviewed a new client’s file and seen their home address listed in a city about an hour away. In one case, it was a teen living with an elderly grandmother who would drive through wind and rain and on windy dangerous roads to get to my office. It was dangerous for them and frankly unnecessary. When we switched to teletherapy, the therapeutic relationship was maintained, the therapy continued effortlessly and there was no disruption for this family. If anything, the switch likely saved some harm to the teen and the driving grandmother whose vision had been slowly deteriorating over time.
11. Access for College Students: The fact that college counseling centers are more and more swamped is hardly news to those who have worked in such settings. Further, not all colleges are in towns with access to private providers, nor do all college students even have cars. Enter the beauty of access to a provider without any transportation hassles. As previously discussed, my earliest work in teletherapy came out of necessity for Sonoma State University students who either could not be seen at the college counseling center or who did not feel comfortable walking into the center and being seen by friends.
12. Access for Disabled Populations: In many scenarios, those who are bedridden, have chronic illness or otherwise can be major beneficiaries of online treatment options. There are times when clients suffering from IBS, Crohn’s, or other diseases may experience shame or embarrassment at their need for leaving to use facilities. In an online context, some of these concerns can be diminished significantly. Further, wheelchair accessibility can be a significant barrier with populations as well. While ideally, more locations will be ADA-accessible, the unfortunate reality is that in older locations, historic buildings, and so forth, making these changes can take time and in other cases be impossible.
13. Wait Times Reduced: Finally, perhaps obvious but well worth stating is the benefit of near-immediate access. That is one of my favorite parts of my solo practice.. With virtually all aspects of my practice being paperless and electronic, I can send paperwork to my client via secure connection, have it filled out, and sent back to me within the day. Most often I can accommodate clients within a week, if not within 24 hours depending on how quickly we can get things going. For clients who are in need to talk to someone urgently, or perhaps finally mustered up the courage to see someone, often waiting weeks can lead to unnecessary appointment cancellations or clients left in dire situations.