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Teletherapy: Better than Nothing? Or Worse for Wear?

Woman talking on ear piece with computer

With advances in technology, many of us are grateful that despite being in the middle of a pandemic, we are still able to continue therapy, work, fitness classes, etc., over video. For others, doing things over video can be challenging/uncomfortable and they opt out. Neither one of these things are wrong - it really is a preference. However, lets look at the pros/cons of teletherapy specifically.

Why do people choose to engage in therapy over video or the phone:

  • Accessibility: It makes therapy more available when someone wouldn't otherwise be able to engage in therapy. For example, if you are working in the city and you know traffic will prevent you from being able to see your therapist, being able to just call in can allow you to continue to get support where you would not have been able to do so before. Additionally, if you have a health issue that limits your mobility, or if you happen to be in the middle of a pandemic and are on shelter in place orders.

  • Time/Convenience: For some people this saves time. When you want the support but you can't leave work, you can still have therapy during a lunch break. Or if you can't get a sitter, you have the ability to stay home with your kids and still get support.

  • Comfort: It can feel easier for some people to talk over phone or video rather than in person - especially if they are in their own environment that feels safer.

  • Cost: It can be cheaper to do online/video because you are saving gas driving to your appointment. For most private therapists, the cost of therapy is still the same; however, if you are utilizing a platform with a subscription, you can access therapy at a cheaper cost.

  • Efficacy: Even though there isn't a lot of research out there, many studies do find that teletherapy is just as effective as in person therapy in most circumstances, especially for depression and anxiety. Keep in mind, there are still some circumstances where teletherapy is not appropriate.

Why do people choose not to engage in therapy over video or phone:

  • Not appropriate: For some people, video or phone just isn't an appropriate fit. For example, for some young children, it may be difficult to engage them over video versus in person. Or for some diagnosis that are more higher risk, teletherapy doesn't provide enough support.

  • Discomfort: For some people, having to be in their own environment feels more evasive, and they are more easily distracted. They prefer going into an office where they can better concentrate and feels more confidential, therapeutic, and comfortable. When they are in a different environment, they feel more focused and able to open up and talk about things they may otherwise avoid over video/phone.

  • Limiting: When a therapist sees you in person, they are able to pick up on body language, facial cues, intonations in your voice, etc., that may be able to give them more information about what is going on. When you are over the phone or video (and sometimes people engage in text therapy), your therapist isn't able to pick up on things the same way. While they still are able to help, they may miss things and some people do not want to take that risk.

  • Technology: It doesn't always work. Sometimes it crashes or freeze, and you may miss some or all of your time. However, most therapists have a plan if it doesn't work for your entire session so that you aren't missing out on your time. Despite this, it can still be frustrating and some people prefer to avoid this.

  • Cost: Some insurance companies and plans do not cover teletherapy, and that can be a deal breaker for many people. On the plus side, this isn't an issue during the pandemic, as many insurance companies have increased flexibility due to the circumstances. If you are unsure, definitely call and check with them.

If you are interested in more articles relating to teletherapy, please check them out here:

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