How To Make The Most Of Telemental Health Counseling
Content Warning: Please be advised that this article mentions topics like suicide, substance use, and other potentially triggering subjects. Read with discretion.
Tele-mental health counseling, often called mobile therapy, teletherapy, or online counseling, can offer various benefits that in-person therapy doesn't offer. As a more modern therapy, it offers clients convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Learning more about how to make the most of this type of counseling can help you get started with a therapist.
Benefits Of Telehealth Counseling
- The convenience of therapeutic services for those without options
- A broader selection of therapists with varying styles or areas of specialty
- More convenience
- Less expense
- More significant continuity of care
- Reduced stigma
Studies have found that most individuals feel most comfortable at home, indicating online therapy's effectiveness.
Tips For Making The Most Of Telehealth Counseling
Below are several tips for making the most of your telehealth counseling experience. If you have further questions, ask your counselor how they prefer to lead sessions.
Note The Symptoms You Are Experiencing
Knowing your symptoms or diagnosis before attending counseling may help determine the type of therapy you want to work with. In addition, your therapist can use their knowledge of your symptoms to develop a treatment plan early on.
If you are suicidal, in crisis, or experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, do not use an online therapy provider or platform. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
Identify The Type Of Online Therapy You Hope To Try
There are various types of tele-mental health services. Determining which of these may most effectively address your concerns may be beneficial. For example, some therapy methods are more effective for specific symptoms or diagnoses than others.
One option is traditional talk therapy via videoconferencing. Results from a 2009 study suggest that this mode of online professional counseling can be particularly effective for treating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders, among other conditions.
In addition, a 2015 study revealed encouraging outcomes for people who experience substance use concerns who were administered a text messaging-based treatment. Text therapy may be beneficial if you want to talk to a provider without seeing or hearing them.
Smartphone apps are another tele-mental health option to consider. According to one study, many clients preferred app-based messaging, phone calls, or videos to in-person therapy or text therapy.
Research Your Options
No two tele-mental health platforms or apps are the same in the therapy services they provide. In addition, it can be crucial to find a platform that offers licensed professionals. Before signing up for an option, ask yourself how effective the app or website may be and how they have your interest at heart.
One way to do this is to read the reviews of other users to understand the pros and cons of any particular platform. You can also familiarize yourself with best practices for elemental services, such as those described by the American Telemedicine Association.
Many platforms offer varying services and price points, as well. Make a budget and look for platforms within it. You can also message any potential therapist to discuss your preferred type of treatment and ask about their treatment approach.
Check Your Therapist's Credentials
Before beginning therapy with any practitioner, confirm they are currently licensed in your state or within the US to practice. Licensing requirements for counselors can vary from state to state, meaning a licensed counselor in California may not be able to provide care to someone in Florida without a Florida state license. The same rule can also pertain to remote counseling, so double-check before meeting with a provider.
In addition, verify that your therapist has experience treating your symptoms or concerns and has at least 1000 hours of clinical training. You can verify a therapist's license by contacting their state board. You can also check the organizations a therapist has been awarded training certifications from and search for their name and business name online to find reviews.
Ensure The Proper Online Therapy Tools
If you are attending therapy online, check ahead of time that the tele-mental health counseling platform runs smoothly on your computer or mobile device, and be sure to download any necessary software or plugins requested. For example, some therapists may use a video chat platform like Zoom for sessions, which can require a quick setup.
If you plan to use a tele-mental health service with multiple devices, download and enable the service on each device you plan to use, ensuring the devices sync up with one another. You may also need to test your internet speed to ensure it can hold up with a video call. Internet speeds under 10mbps may be too slow for therapy. However, you can do a test with your therapist or through your chosen platform before the session if you need.
Use A Private And Safe Connection
In addition to confirming that a particular tele-mental health platform uses safe, enciphered technology, use a safe Wi-Fi connection or smartphone plan such as 4G. If you are attending therapy on a public network, it may not be safe.
Be Upfront About Your Needs
When interacting with a new therapist, it may be helpful to think of yourself as a homeowner paying for household services, where your body is your home and therapy is the service. If you were hiring someone to clean out old boxes from your attic, you might look for someone who respects your wishes in approaching the project, handling the boxes carefully, and leaving the attic in better shape without judgment. You might expect the same from a therapist.
Online therapists should be respectful, caring, skilled, and non-judgmental. If you feel you aren't receiving support, be upfront about your needs. Let your therapist know if you're interested in a different approach or feel disrespected. They may be able to change their approach or recommend a new type of therapy.
Many types of online therapy are available to clients, including private practice or platform-based services. If you're interested in removing barriers to private practice or in-person treatment, a platform may suit your needs. With an online platform, therapy costs can be significantly lower, and you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist.
In addition, one study on online therapy platforms found that 71% of participants preferred them to in-person types and felt more comfortable with their therapist. They also reported greater levels of effectiveness in reducing symptoms and an increased reported quality of life. If you're interested in trying online therapy, you can sign up for a platform like BetterHelp for a vastly growing database of counselors with experience in various areas of care.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few frequently asked questions on the topic of tele-mental health counseling.
What Do Mental Health Counselors Do?
The role of mental health counselors varies depending on their license and degree. Some counselors also have a particular type of therapy they practice or a mental illness they specialize in. However, most counselors aim to help clients address various concerns, including mental illness, substance use, distressing symptoms, coping skills, and life challenges. You don't have to have a mental illness to go to therapy.
What Is The Difference Between Therapy And Counseling?
Therapy and counseling are professional careers in the mental health realm. Counselors may offer more short-term, broad approaches and often have a master's degree. Therapists may be psychologists with a doctorate or individuals who work with clients for longer-term treatment. However, the terms "therapy" and "counseling" are often used interchangeably, and there may not be many vast differences between the two.
Is Being A Mental Health Counselor Stressful?
The role of a professional counselor can be stressful for some. Counselors may support distressed clients and learn challenging details about their lives. Some counselors will go to therapy themselves to learn techniques for handling these concerns.
What Is Tele-Mental Health Counseling?
Tele-mental health counseling is a type of counseling delivered remotely. Remote delivery of mental health services and counseling can look different for every therapist, platform, and client. For some, tele-mental health counseling is done over the phone, in real-time, using a safe line. For others, sessions are delivered over Zoom, FaceTime, or other video conferencing software. On some platforms, live chat messaging may also be an option.
Remote counseling differs from standard in-office treatments in several ways. For example, the therapists providing services may work from a home office or remote location, and because they might not rent an office or pay for travel, they can often offer cheaper session costs. Although the therapy methods can be similar or the same as in-person therapy, the online format may offer more reachable resources in real-time, such as journal prompts, webinars, or printable worksheets.
How Do You Become A Board-Certified Tele-Mental Health Provider?
The first step in becoming a board-certified remote mental health provider may be ensuring your licensing and continued education credits are safe and up-to-date. If you have an up-to-date state license and a degree in counseling, you can apply for platforms or register as a private practice LLC.
Before providing online therapy, you may want to take courses on the tele-mental health field and how it can differ from in-person therapy. For example, if you practice specific types of therapy that are often practiced in person, like EMDR, you may want a specialized education in how to perform it online.
You can also consider taking an exam to become a certified tele-mental healthcare provider. Some licensing boards offer this option. Check with your state licensing board to see the rules around practicing online.
What Is The Best Tele-Mental Health Platform?
The largest tele-mental health platform is BetterHelp, which offers over 30,000 online therapists throughout the US, available to anyone worldwide. BetterHelp's sister platforms can also offer benefits, including:
ReGain for couples
PrideCounseling for the LGBTQ+ community
TeenCounseling for teens aged 13 to 19
What is telehealth mental health?
Is often called telehealth and telemental health?
What are the benefits of Counselling?
What is the most important thing in counseling?
How effective is teletherapy?
Why do people use teletherapy?
What are the types of teletherapy?
What are the challenges of teletherapy?
What are counseling and its purpose?
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