Practical Teletherapy

Practical Teletherapy

Telepsychiatry and telepsychology are becoming widespread in the world of mental health. We’ve discussed telemedicine a few times in these posts, but I specifically wondered: how could it help my close peers? Most of my friends are in their 20’s and 30’s living hectic lives. Mental health often falls by the wayside. Able bodied, otherwise healthy adults are busy stuck in gridlock, working long hours, and pursuing countless endeavors. Stigma plays a subtle role… “Don’t pay attention to those problems, my mind is fine. Plus I don’t have time and therapy is for the mentally ill.”

Can modern young professionals be enticed to seek help?

Rural populations, the elderly, the immobile, prisoners; all these groups have a clear necessity for telemedicine. Not just for mental health but for all kinds of health. However it doesn’t just benefit those with literally no way to see a doctor in person. Distractions abound in this bustling city of Miami. The daily reality for my friends and I is one of hurrying to the next task. Sure we could make it to the doctors office but then band practice would be cancelled and that hot date needs to be postponed and – aw shucks, forget it!

It seems counterintuitive how modern life might increase the likelihood of an average Joe starting therapy. Regardless, I believe it can and the main reason is technology. We already gain so much from our laptops and smartphones by way of convenience. Apps inspire us to engage in activities we may never have considered before smartphones. “10 Percent Happier” delivers mindfulness instructions straight to you. “Duolingo” puts learning French (my longtime dream) within reach even though my days are booked. A myriad of fitness apps will count your steps and your calories, reliably encouraging users to exercise or diet.

I’ve seen these apps assist friends and family in building healthy habits.

I said something almost identical in a previous post but it bears repeating: people want to better themselves but life gets in the way. Technology empowers individuals by bringing treatment to them rather than the other way around. As convenient as it is though, a few points should be made to ensure one gets the most from teletherapy.

One factor is the will to cooperate with professionals. Take ERP (Exposure Response Prevention) for example. As an OCD sufferer I can report the grim challenge of touching “dirty” things and not compulsively hand washing afterwards. Of course it was one of the first things asked of me. It sounds simple…but for me it was torture. I had to ramp up willpower not to shirk my “homework.” It was difficult for me in person, so the distance provided by teletherapy might further beckon patients to skip treatment activities. My proposed solution is this. Before teletherapy I recommend cultivating the intention to participate wholeheartedly. Perhaps take time to look over resources which reinforce the importance of mental health.

Here’s another factor: too much ease during therapy in one’s bedroom/office/car/etc. Added comfort may catalyze open conversations with a doctor. Still there is a line to be drawn: I’ve heard psychiatrists’ concerns about patients attempting teletherapy while driving a car or at home in their boxer briefs. While both these scenarios are inappropriate for different reasons, they’re both inappropriate indeed. The attire and setting for sessions must show respect for one’s self, the doctor, and the safety of others.

A few other considerations come to mind. It might be obvious but a good internet connection is necessary. Local hospitals or doctor’s offices provide an effective plan B in the case of bad or no connection at home…which brings us to the idea of basic privacy. All videoconferencing technologies used must be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant to electronically guard patient information. But it is also wise to choose the setting itself carefully – away from nosey friends or family members.

Finally, trust is a big factor. It can be difficult for some patients to find a psychologist/psychiatrist they can talk to in person, much less on a computer. Some individuals with specific disorders find it actually helps – but the disconnect can go both ways. It’s important to feel comfortable with the doctor administering teletherapy so the most can be gained from sessions.

I’ve come to the conclusion that teletherapy has a bright future for not only isolated patients but anyone who finds it convenient. As we’ve seen previously, studies find that telepsychology/telepsychiatry is equally as effective as in person treatment. Not only can it give us more time to live but it offers treatment with the same level of quality as traditional sessions. If that’s not convenience in the modern age I don’t know what is.

Note: For assistance with behavioral health issues, contact us at 305-740-3340 or schedule an appointment with BregmanMD.

References:

Sanyal, Shourjya (2019, January) How Is Telepsychiatry Revolutionizing Care. Forbes. Retrieved on March 20, 2019 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/shourjyasanyal/2019/01/28/how-is-telepsychiatry-revolutionizing-care/#5dddd79e124d

Sayeed, A. & Pastis, I. (2018, June) Using Telehealth to Enhance Access to Evidence-Based Care. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved on March 20, 2019 from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/special-reports/using-telehealth-enhance-access-evidence-based-care/page/0/5

Whitbourne, Susan Krauss (2011, August) 13 Qualities to Look for in an Effective Therapist. Psychology Today. Retrieved on March 20, 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201108/13-qualities-look-in-effective-psychotherapist