The pandemic has had a massive impact on the state of healthcare, and on telehealth in particular. It has also had a massive impact on our collective mental health, pushing more and more people to seek out professional help so they can feel better and be more productive.
During the worst of the pandemic, telehealth services were almost the only means of receiving mental health support. Not only did this allow people to continue seeing their therapists during periods of quarantine, but it also provided important insights into the effectiveness of teletherapy vs. in-person therapy sessions.
So, after a couple of years of increased teletherapy use, what do we know? Which option works best for getting people the care they need? Here’s what we know.
Pros and Cons of Teletherapy
The benefits of teletherapy are obvious. It’s much more convenient for people to access therapy services remotely, especially for those who live in rural areas or people who lack reliable transportation. Teletherapy allows more people to gain the benefits of mental health services and can reach new segments of the population. Even people who are feeling ill can attend their appointments instead of canceling, without fear of spreading illness or having to leave home.
Some people have noted that they feel more comfortable talking about their mental health from the safety of their own homes. They don’t have to deal with the anxiety and stigma of going to a mental health professional’s office and the experience can be less stressful. Teletherapy can also be beneficial for therapists since patients are less likely to be late to their sessions.
The main potential downside of teletherapy is the removal of the in-person connection we feel when sharing space with someone. Many people say that teletherapy isn’t as effective because it lacks this connection element. But does research back this up?
Research on Teletherapy
Although more research has been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic, studies into the effectiveness of teletherapy have actually been ongoing for decades. The results of these studies look very promising for telehealth and its ability to reach and support more people who need mental healthcare.
When it comes to video-based appointments, research indicates that teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for treating a range of conditions, including depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Furthermore, retention rates are higher among telehealth patients than among those who attend in-person sessions.
Studies are less clear on whether or not phone-based therapy is as effective as video or in-person support. While people have gained benefits from phone-based care, not enough research has been done in comparing this form of care to video or in-person therapy to draw any solid conclusions.
Online Mental Health Services On the Rise
Traditionally, people get referrals from their primary care physicians to see a psychiatrist or psychologist. However, this can be a challenging, time-consuming, and expensive process, especially for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
In the past few years, there has been a boom in subscription-based online mental health services, catering to people who want to access professional care without having to jump through hoops or go through insurance. While these services can help people decide to seek help and might break down barriers, they have their limitations. Therapists might not have access to all the information they would normally use to help patients, which can greatly limit their ability to support an individual’s mental health.
Demand for Therapists
With the pandemic and other forces taking their toll, it’s not surprising that more people are seeking out mental health services. Mental health professionals are seeing an increase in new patient requests, and many people are struggling with issues like anxiety and depression.
The good news is that people are taking care of their needs and seeking help. The bad news is that some therapists are becoming overwhelmed, with some unable to take new patients. This trend is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, meaning we will need more qualified psychologists in the field as soon as possible.
Becoming a Therapist
Those who want to work with people and make a difference in the world can be well-suited to a career in psychology and mental health services. An advanced degree is typically needed to provide robust mental health services to patients.
Virtual services aren’t just making teletherapy possible, they’re also making it easier to earn the credentials for becoming a mental health professional. Today, you can earn an online master’s in psychology, no GRE required, and get the education you need to become a licensed psychologist or counselor.
Is Teletherapy Really Better Than In-Person Therapy?
At the end of the day, research indicates that therapy taking place over a video call can be as or more effective than in-person therapy sessions. However, it’s the individual who determines what works best for them. Some people simply prefer the experience of meeting with their therapist in person, rather than over Zoom.
Today, we have more options than ever before for mental health care and support. As more people seek out these services, the stigma surrounding mental illness is falling away, allowing the people who need it most to get the help they need, when they need it.
Image is from Pixabay
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.