Telehealth services are some of the most popular new innovations in the mental health field. After all, it sure does sound like therapy from the future!
Patients can take a therapy session anywhere, anytime, as long as they have an internet-enabled device with a camera. And who doesn’t have a smartphone nowadays?
Imagine how your practice might grow if you could capture the business of potential clients who don’t have enough time to both travel and have a session on their lunch break, or potential clients whose travel from home is restricted for a wide variety of reasons, from physical disability to family care situations.
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But you may have also heard the other myths about offering online therapy, the rumors that might make you nervous more than they excite you. Wild rumors like that offering remote therapy might not be legal, or that it may not even even work!
As I’m sure you know, myths don’t always hold up… So it’s time to put on our inner Adam Savage and see which of these online therapy myths we can bust wide open. (Hint: it’s all of them.)
6 Myths About Offering Online Therapy – BUSTED!
“Online therapy isn’t legal” – FALSE
Of course it is! Just like with in-office therapy, there’s a right and a wrong way to practice. For the vast majority of online therapists, you’ll only need to uphold the same legal and ethical standards that you would for in-office therapy, such as needing to be licensed in the particular state where you’re practicing – just be careful about taking out-of-state clients.
Many legal jurisdictions prohibit therapists from taking clients outside their state, which doesn’t change even when you’re giving that therapy remotely. This can get a difficult when your clients are traveling because they have to be physically present in the state where you’re licensed to practice – not just “calling in” to your state. But the good news? Every state’s laws are a little different, so it’s definitely worth looking further into in case you have even more flexibility than you think!
To get you started, here’s a very helpful article on Telehealth State Laws and Reimbursement by the experts at theraLINK.
Since Brighter Vision is not a legal firm so we always, always recommend double-checking your local laws to be certain about what is and is not outside the law when it comes to your practice. 🙂
“Online therapy costs a lot to start” – FALSE
It probably seems that a service as futuristic as online therapy might require expensive or difficult-to-use equipment in order to get started, especially as a provider. However, this is all it really takes:
• Reliable Internet connection (fast enough for video)
• Set of headphones with an integrated microphone
• HIPAA compliant video platform
Of those 4 things, I bet you already have 3 of them.
Almost every laptop made within the past several years comes with a webcam already built-in so you don’t have to buy a separate one.
A reliable Internet connection is so necessary to daily life in 2018 that it’s almost certain that you’ll already have one where you’ll be practicing (either your home or office).
Maybe you don’t have a high-end set of headphones with a built-in microphone that you purchased specifically for video streaming or recording. However, I bet you have a smartphone. And almost all smartphones come with a set of earbuds that already have a microphone integrated into the cord. Pull those out of your drawer and you’re good to go!
The only thing left that you’ll need to acquire is the HIPAA compliant video platforms (typically in the form of an online subscription service) so that your online conversations with your clients remain just as secure as an in-office conversation would.
“Insurance companies won’t accept online therapy” – FALSE
As its usefulness and effectiveness becomes more and more undeniable each year, an increasing number of insurance companies are accepting online therapy. In fact there are some states that legally require insurance companies to cover telehealth services. To put it succinctly, in most cases insurance is no longer a notable barrier between online therapy and the patients who need it.
“You need to focus on either in-office or online therapy” – FALSE
In-office and online therapy can actually be a wonderful complement to each other within your practice, and it doesn’t have to mean doubling up your work hours.
Have you thought about dividing the time you currently have for client sessions into in-office and online hours?
We all have those days or time periods in the day that you know from experience will be lucky to get booked by one or two clients, let alone more. What if you could avoid commuting across town for only an hour or two of work, and do your sessions for the day in your pajama pants instead? Online therapy isn’t just convenient for your clients – it can make the therapist’s life easier, too!
Or instead of converting your current practice hours, consider adding on a couple online therapy sessions to the end of your typical workday to help accommodate clients with difficult schedules or who are restricted to online therapy for any other reason. A big part of what clients love (and at times, need) about remote therapy is the increased flexibility of hours, and leaning into that selling point can help you capture even more of your ideal clients.
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“Patients will always prefer in-office therapy to ‘webcam’ therapy” – FALSE
The world often changes slowly around us without us paying much attention, until we look up and notice that “all of a sudden” things looks different from what we thought was the norm. Traditional therapy was once restricted to a formal office setting, but the complicated needs of modern mental health patients are forcing the industry to evolve (slowly but surely) into something more accommodating.
Many people nowadays have intense daily schedules – either taking care of family, or working multiple jobs – and being able to take a therapy session in your laundry room or from a parking lot can be a godsend.
Other potential clients may find traveling from home particularly difficult if not impossible due to physical or mental restrictions. Even something as common as social anxiety can keep a patient from showing up at an appointment “out in public.” If these kinds of patients don’t have the money to pay high private session fees to bring a therapist directly into their home, being able to get regular therapy over the Internet while still in their own living room is invaluable.
And of course we haven’t even mentioned your potential clients in rural or other remote areas that are hours away from the nearest in-state therapist’s office.
In a world where most people have easy access to the Internet and our lives are getting more complicated by the day, simply offering online therapy can dramatically increase your pool of potential clients.
“Online therapy doesn’t work” – FALSE
We know that even typical in-office therapy isn’t effective for everyone (sometimes for the reasons we just listed). In a very similar way, online therapy isn’t always the right choice for every patient – or every therapist.
However, recent studies keep coming back with results that support the idea that online therapy works just as well as in-office therapy for a wide range of conditions. The studies run have tested patients dealing with a variety of conditions, from eating disorders to OCD and even PTSD.
What won’t surprise you is what seems to make the most difference in a patient’s experience: their bond with their individual therapist. No matter what method you use to give therapy sessions, it’s kind of nice knowing that at the end of the day you are the thing that makes the most difference to your clients.
If you’re hungry for even more information on how to start, grow, and market a telehealth practice, we’d highly recommend watching or listening to these Brighter Vision webinars:
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