What is TeleMental Health Therapy?
Telemental health, also sometimes called telebehavioral health, is a new and modern way for mental health professionals to provide services using technology. Similar to how medical doctors now use the internet to communicate with their patients, more and more psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists offer a way to communicate and address mental health concerns through the use of technology, including video calls and online messaging. Since it’s a relatively new development, we are just beginning to learn about the benefits and some of the concerns about using technology in this way. Researchers are beginning to look at whether this technology can help with different mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately because of its new development, researchers know little about what disorders telemental healthy therapy works best for, and how it compares to traditional face-to-face therapy.
Though research on the topic is lacking, there are some benefits to using telemental health over traditional therapy. For people living in rural or isolated areas, telemental health can be a more accessible way to address issues, rather than traveling long distances each way which can be costly and time consuming. Using telemental health can save money that would be spent on transportation and for this reason is also useful for people who do not have their own transportation. Additionally, for people who struggle with agoraphobia, which is intense anxiety that makes it difficult to leave home, meeting with a therapist over a video call is a less overwhelming way to take the first step toward seeking help.
Telemental health is also popular with veterans in the military who might be deployed or living in remote parts of the world. Many veterans are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions that would benefit from therapy, but their location and job makes it difficult to seek help. Telemental health is a beneficial way for veterans to have access to therapy.
While there are benefits to telemental health therapy, there are some important things to keep in mind if you plan to seek these services. Since it is a new area of mental health some of the laws and regulations about it are unclear. If you plan to seek telemental health services you might want to keep the following in mind:
One of the most important aspects of seeing a therapist is knowing that what you say remains private between you and your therapist. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, was a law passed in the 1990’s to protect confidentiality. However, telemental health can complicate confidentiality because while we like to think that what we say or do on the internet is private, this is not always the case. For this reason it is important to talk with your mental health provider about the technology that they plan to use when doing therapy with you.
Psychologists, therapists, and professional counselors are licensed by the state in which they practice. This can create an issue, for example, if you live in Kentucky and your therapist lives in New York. Since the laws about telemental health might differ in those two states, it is important for your therapist to be not only aware of but also in compliance with laws on telehealth.
Paying for Services:
Insurance companies have different policies on whether or not they will pay for telemental health therapy. Some insurance companies do cover it, but require that it is billed differently than traditional face-to-face therapy. Other insurance companies will not cover it at all. If you are looking to use insurance to pay for telemental health therapy then it is best to call your insurance company to find out if it will be covered. If you are looking to pay out-of-pocket then your therapist can talk to you about how to send payments. For more information about Medicaid coverage for telemental health by state you can go here.
Telemental health therapy is a new, innovative, and growing area of mental health treatment. Some people might benefit from this type of service more than traditional therapy. This is especially true for people living in rural areas where therapists might not be available, and for people who feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations. If you think telemental health therapy might be right for you, you can find more information at the following places:
For more information about telemental health see the American Telemedicine Association’s website.
If you live in Canada you can access telemental health services at the Ontario Telemedicine Network:
For more information about telemental health services for veterans see the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website:
TeleMental Health Institute
American Telemedicine Association
The SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions
US Department of Health and Human Services