Teletherapy has been a concept on the rise in psychology and behavioral therapy for years now. Like a lot of remote care options, it has been propelled in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has many therapists interested in starting an online teletherapy practice or taking their existing teletherapy practice to the next level.
Today, therapists around the world are adopting teletherapy solutions to try and continue meeting the needs of the patients who rely on them. Though optimizing the effectiveness of your therapy practice and ensuring that patient’s needs are fully being met, we are going to have to ask and answer some important questions.
What Is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy is a general term used to describe the online delivery of traditional therapy using audio & visual or digital technology to communicate with a patient, rather than in-person visits. While it has existed in different forms in the past, it has exploded in popularity with patients who have been isolated by the global pandemic.
Though even outside of the confines of a pandemic teletherapy can also be a preferred method for patients who are in remote locations, as well as those who might not be able to make a scheduled appointment due to inclement weather. Whatever the reason is, teletherapy’s popularity is taking off and stands to persist long after pandemic concerns are in the rearview mirror.
Reasons Why Patients Like Teletherapy
There are several reasons why patients like teletherapy. Some of them are also beneficial to providers and the important consistency of the revenue stream.
It has only been in recent years that the stigma surrounding mental health has started to deteriorate. In the past, one of the common barriers that clients had to overcome to get the mental health therapy they needed was accessibility. This might include things like income level and affordability as well as ease of finding a therapist or mental health professional that was a “Good Fit” for the patient’s needs and preferences.
Teletherapy makes it possible for patients to connect with therapists at a distance, without the cost and time lost to travel. It lets therapists treat patients who live in remote areas, as well as those who have travel challenges due to other medical conditions or a lack of easy transportation.
For individuals with travel restrictions, a mental health professional who offers teletherapy tends to be the preferred provider. Taken in this light, offering teletherapy can be a great way for you to both meet the needs of your existing patients as well as attract new patients who have travel limitations. Especially if you happen to be offering a specialty service.
The overall convenience of a teletherapy practice is also very attractive to patients with or without travel restrictions. While an in-office therapy session might only take 50 to 60 minutes for you as the therapist, the patient may need to spend double or even triple that amount of time getting ready as well as traveling to and from your brick & mortar office.
With teletherapy as an option, the patient can log or call in moments before the visit and get services remotely. It is especially popular and convenient for busy individuals, as well as those who might live or work on the other side of the city from your office.
Comfort Which Translates In Care
Some patients are simply uncomfortable in a clinical office setting. Especially those who are early in the treatment stages of aversion conditions such as agoraphobia. At the same time, even a patient with no aversion condition is still likely to feel more comfortable sitting in their own home on their own couch talking to you. This can help facilitate an air of openness in the talk therapy portion of the process.
The Potential For Reduced Rates
Many small mental health practices and solo practitioners who embrace teletherapy as their primary mode of interacting with patients find that they can downsize their physical location. This might mean forgoing a brick and mortar office environment or transitioning to a co-working office space which reduces your overhead costs. Being able to then pass these savings on to your patients opens up their willingness and access to care. It can also translate to you being able to treat more patients in a given week.
How To Transition My Mental Health Practice To Teletherapy
Simply having an internet connection and a Zoom subscription isn’t enough to operate a thriving and compliant teletherapy mental health practice. The following details need to be addressed in the process.
Eligibility & Licensing
A licensed therapist needs to be eligible to offer online therapy services. If you are not already a licensed mental health practitioner, you will need to obtain your license before you can offer professional teletherapy services at any level.
Different states have different laws and regulations pertaining to how a provider is required to conduct business. These regulations have been updated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before starting a teletherapy mental health practice, you should check to make sure you can be compliant with all state and local regulations.
The Start-Up Costs
While teletherapy is generally much less cost-intensive than offering in-person mental health services in a brick-and-mortar clinic, there are still some basic start-up costs that need to be taken into account when it comes to the technology as well as the cost of your intended location.
For some mental health practitioners the technology cost and training can be prohibitive. This includes things like a new computer, a high-resolution camera, and audio equipment. As well as high-speed internet and unlimited data plans. Not to mention a licensed software subscription-like Zoom.
You then have to train yourself on how to use all this technology seamlessly as well as making sure you have effective backup plans in place in the case of a power outage or a failure in the internet service provider’s network. Backup batteries and surge protectors as well as a smartphone that can launch a hotspot at a moment’s notice all need to be included on your technology check-off list.