Teletherapy, doing therapy via phone or video, has been a well respected method of providing therapy for over 20 years. Many people are new to the idea, thanks to the current need for social distancing. Let's review some of the common questions.
Is meeting with my therapist over the phone or by video really effective?
What life or mental health problems can be dealt with in teletherapy?
Most problems can be dealt with during phone calls, or video sessions, with a trusted therapist who is versed in conducting therapy via telehealth.
What ages and types of therapy can be done via phone and video?
The person must be old enough to hold at least a brief conversation via phone/video. (Parents of children who are too young to do this should consider parenting sessions where the therapist coaches the parents what to do with the child at home to address the problems.) Individual, family, couples and parenting focused sessions can all be successfully accomplished in teletherapy.
What certifications should I look for in a therapist who does teletherapy?
There are no degrees or certifications for teletherapy. However, there is advanced training in therapy that focuses specifically on doing teletherapy. All the therapists at Arizona TherapyWorks (my office) have training in teletherapy.
How do I know if my therapist is competent in teletherapy?
The same way you know if you were meeting in person: You feel you can trust them and the problems you and your therapist are working on are getting better.
What are some tips to make teletherapy go smoothly?
1) Pauses in therapy are normal (i.e. people are thinking, getting ready to ask a question, managing strong emotion). Though a quick glance is often enough to non-verbally cue the listener into what is going on, in telehealth it is helpful to make some statement that communicates why the pause in talking (e.g. "I'm just thinking about what you said.")
2) Occasionally, people feel like it takes longer to get into a flow with therapy. Therapy is a marathon and patience with one's self and the therapeutic process are necessary. At the same, talking with your therapist about your feeling can help focus therapy and give you important feedback about the work being done.
What technology is necessary?
Most people have access to the technology to do teletherapy; a phone. For video sessions, you also need a camera and microphone. Many cell phones and computers have this technology built in, ready to be used. The specific method that is used to do therapy (e.g. phone, Zoom, Go To Meeting, etc.) are set up to use this technology easily by both patient and therapist.
Is teletherapy truly private?
There are two parts to this answer.
1) Ethical and legal guidelines govern the level of security that a platform (e.g. Go To Meeting) must have to ensure your personal information stays private. This means that not all telecommunication platforms can be used for therapy. Your therapist will tell you which secure platform they use and help you feel comfortable using that application.
2) Privacy is also about location. Your therapist will be somewhere where the conversation cannot be overheard by others and they can focus on you. Likewise, patients should find a quiet place, where they won't be disturbed, where they won't be overheard and they can relax into the conversation with their therapist.