You don’t have to struggle alone. Telemental health is here!

The Corona virus outbreak has turned our society upside-down overnight. From the isolating effects of social distancing and stay-at-home orders to the renewed job security concerns and financial uncertainty from the stalled global economy, the need for mental health support is greater than ever. Luckily, it’s possible with modern technology to maintain access to mental health services via telemental health. Telemental health is simply put the utlization of technology to meet mental health needs across a distance. This can take many forms and with the quick advancements in technology that we have today many HIPAA compliant platforms already exist for this purpose.

While it’s understandable that there are some fears associated with adding another layer to an already stigmatized service, there is a lot of very positive research around telemental health that can help soothe these concerns. Studies have shown that participants view telemental health as being equal to or better than face-to-face sessions in terms of intervention effectiveness and general satisfaction with therapy. In fact, some studies report up to 95% satisfaction with telemental health for individuals, couples, and families. Several factors contribute to the high satisfaction ratings, including quicker experiences of comfort and vulnerability (due to being in the safety of your own space), easier access to services (due to not having to figure out transportation), and increased feelings of confidentiality (due to not having to sit in a waiting room where you could run into someone you know). In addition, most children and young adults have not known a time without screens and, as a result, are perhaps even more comfortable participating in telemental health sessions than face to face.

Telemental health does require a reliable internet connection or phone service, however, your therapist can have back up plans in place, such as having a phone number to call if the connection fails so that the session can be completed over the phone. It is the therapists responsibility during these sessions to help safeguard confidentiality as well as their client(s) general well being. Therapists working in telemental health are required to have precise knowledge of their client’s location and a direct connection to an adult who is in the vicinity while working with children and adolescents. So, while there may be some uneasiness around certain aspects of online sessions, your therapist is trained to help you navigate these concerns and find a sense of comfort within this online forum. With such strong evidence that telemental health works, it may be worth giving it a try to see what it’s like before shutting the door on addressing your mental health needs for the time being. Especially given how great the need for services likely is right now.

By Tracy K. Lehman, MA, LMFT
NFCC’s Outreach Counselor