Growing Your Practice Through the Pandemic & Beyond
COVID has changed the world as we know it, including our approach to therapy. According to The Commonwealth Fund, the pandemic has led to higher rates of telehealth. This includes teletherapy among mental health providers. Here’s what therapists need to know when planning their in-person and online practices in a changing world.
In this article, we’ll discuss the growing importance of teletherapy and how you, as a mental health professional, can prepare to provide this service for your clients.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy is a form of psychiatric treatment delivered through a video conferencing website. Unsurprisingly, many providers have chosen teletherapy during the pandemic. Between concerns about virus contraction, social distancing, and unsafe travel, online therapy lets patients stay safe yet seen.
The onset of COVID also led to the last-minute implementation and lighter regulations. Providers should prepare for upcoming reassessments and increased restrictions. While online counseling is here to stay, standards are expected to change once the pandemic winds down. Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of both in-person therapy and online therapy.
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What is In-Person Therapy?
Traditional therapy offers face-to-face appointments between patients and providers. Despite the recent popularity of online therapy, there are both positives and negatives for this type of therapy.
Pro of In-Person Therapy: Privacy
Some clients prefer in-person visits. Many feel more comfortable expressing their concerns in a private space away from home.
Pro of In-Person Therapy: Focus
Distractions at home can be disruptive. A therapist’s office often doubles as a quiet space conducive to talk therapy.
Pro of In-Person Therapy: Trust
Particularly for new patients, meeting someone face to face goes a long way towards relationship building. Establishing trust by way of in-person visits makes some patients feel more at ease.
Con of In-Person Therapy: Time
Time—There’s no escaping the fact that in-person appointments require a commute. These sessions may take twice as long thanks to travel time.
Con of In-Person Therapy: Associated Costs
The price of therapy is usually the same for in-person and virtual visits. However, associated costs like childcare, parking or travel expenses may sway a patient’s decision.
As a rule, in-person therapy offers many upsides unique to the office environment. Other factors like added time and cost may also play into a patient’s decision.
What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy, sometimes called teletherapy, has become increasingly popular. Here’s what to expect from virtual visits in a clinical setting.
Pro of Online Therapy: Convenience
Scheduling appointments at home is both easy and flexible from a patient perspective. By the same token, telehealth therapy could mean remote work for you.
Pro of Online Therapy: Accessibility
Online therapy is more accessible for patients in the digital age. Better accessibility may put mental health treatment within reach for certain patient populations.
Pro of Online Therapy: Lowered Stigma
Those new to therapy could feel squeamish about an in-person visit. Online therapy serves as a safer introduction for patients new to mental health treatment.
Con of Online Therapy: Tech Problems
Everything from spotty internet to technical snags can stop an online session in its tracks. Having a backup device or connection option could mean saving your session.
Con of Online Therapy: Coverage
It’s fair to say that insurance companies are less likely to cover telehealth than in-person visits. As always, tell patients to check with their providers for the latest in telehealth coverage.
Teletherapy has been very useful during the pandemic. It has provided patients with safer and more convenient options. That said, those with issues such as limited health insurance may have a preference for in-person therapy.
You as a provider may prefer one modality over the other based on your own unique circumstances. Having a general understanding of both may still be beneficial to your practice in a changing market.
Growing Your Services
As you begin to plan online counseling services, remember that nothing is set in stone. Here are a few helpful strategies to keep in mind for the future of your practice.
Understand State and Federal Regulations
COVID continues to change course and so do telehealth norms. While everything seems accessible in a virtual sphere, you’re still bound by state and federal regulations.
Expect Future Changes
Think of COVID as the exception to the rule since this public health emergency won’t last forever. Expect to see new therapy rules emerge once the situation stabilizes.
Await Other Modalities
Many therapists are familiar with video counseling, though virtual therapy can take many forms. Keep your options open to other online options like email, chat, and app support in the future.
Consider A Hybrid Approach
The best online therapy may offer another option, but that doesn’t mean in-person visits are on their way out. The future likely favors a hybrid approach to accommodate the needs, barriers, and preferences of many patient types.
The future of therapy is subject to change, and online counseling services are part and parcel of modern practice. Whether you lean more towards in-person sessions or virtual visits is for you to decide.
It’s important to remember that all change involves growth and potentially some setbacks now and then. If you make the effort to change with the times, your business will be more prepared for the needs of your patients.
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