We know that speaking with a mental health professional over the internet can feel a little strange. And that’s totally okay! In this brief primer, we hope to shed some light on the world of telepsychiatry and help you feel more comfortable with this new and exciting technology.
In short, telepsychiatry, telehealth, and telemedicine all refer to the use of audio or video-conferencing software to provide medical services. Within the world of mental health treatment, this includes counseling, therapy, and/or medication management of psychiatric conditions.
Clients seeking telepsychiatry services often do so for the convenience and flexibility that it provides. Appointments can be taken from any suitable location without the need to commute to a provider’s office. So whether you or your provider are away from your typical location, treatment can continue on an uninterrupted schedule.
So, does telepsychiatry actually work?
Telepsychiatry has been studied as a way to expand access to psychiatric care. As you may have heard, many places in the country, including even dense urban areas, do not have enough psychiatric providers. This shortage has led to the development of new forms of treatment, with the goal of increasing provider reach.
Fortunately, studies have found that many forms of therapy and counseling are just as effective via telepsychiatry as they are in person¹. Additionally, medication management of psychiatric conditions is found to be as effective².
What are the drawbacks?
Some clients and problems are better suited for in-person mental health treatment. This is particularly the case if the person is at a high risk for self-harm, or has a disorder (e.g. psychosis) that can cause breaks with reality. Ultimately, your provider will work closely with you to make that determination, so as to keep you on the best path forward.
From a feasibility perspective, clients receiving services from home also need to have a high-quality internet connection and a private, quiet space from which to conduct the appointment. These qualities ensure effective communication between client and provider.
Lastly, some therapists provide services via text message, email, or phone call. Although this can be helpful for brief or urgent concerns, Talking Twenties uses video conferencing to help establish a more personal treatment relationship.
Is it secure?
At Talking Twenties, privacy and security is of the utmost importance. The platforms we use maintain HIPAA-compliance to secure your personal health information, as well as encryption to protect data. This includes the video-conferencing platform, electronic health record, and scheduling/payment software that we employ.
1) Hynes, D. M., Weddle, T., Smith, N., Whittier, E., Atkins, D., & Francis, J. (2009). Use of health information technology to advance evidence-based care: Lessons from the VAQUERI program. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25, 544-549.
2) O’Reilly, R., Bishop, J., Maddox, K., Hutchinson, L., Fisman, M., & Takhar, J. (2007). Is telepsychiatry equivalent to face-to-face psychiatry? Results from a randomized controlled equivalence trial. Psychiatric Services, 58(6), 836-843.
3) Reese, R. J., Mecham, M. R., Vasilj, I., Lengerich, A. J., Brown, H. M., Simpson, N. B., & Newsome, B. D. (2016). The effects of telepsychology format on empathic accuracy and the therapeutic alliance: An analogue counselling session. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 16(4), 256-265. doi:10.1002/capr.12092
4) Ruskin, P. E., Silver-Aylaian, M., Kling, M. A., Reed, S. A., Bradham, D. D., Hebel, J. R., … & Hauser, P. (2004). Treatment outcomes in depression: comparison of remote treatment through telepsychiatry to in-person treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(8), 1471-1476.
5) Tuerk, P. W., Yoder, M., Ruggiero, K. J., Gros, D. F., & Acierno, R. (2010). A pilot study of prolonged exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder delivered via telehealth technology. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23, 116-123.