Is Tele-Mental Health a Viable Alternative to Traditional Therapy?

Updated on March 19, 2019

Adequate mental health services can be difficult to receive. There are many people whose insurance does not cover mental health services or if they do there are limitations. It may be prohibitive with a high co-pay or in the number of sessions allowed. There are also issues in regards to where people live. In more rural areas, there are minimal mental health services. There are even towns with 150,000 people who do not have many options for services. While towns of that size may have plenty of counselors, some of those areas only have one psychiatrist. There are often limitations in those less populated areas for quality mental health care. With the limitations some people experience like cost and location, utilizing tele-mental health can provide a viable option.

Tele-mental health can be a great option for some of the issues mentioned above. It can open up the door for people to seek adequate treatment rather than being limited and having fewer options. For example, compared to the number of therapists, there are fewer psychiatrists. In more rural areas, that number may be even smaller. Not only are those towns being affected, but even the smaller towns in the surrounding areas are being affected as well. Having the ability to speak with a psychiatrist and receive medication can be huge for people. Rather than not receiving any medication or having to wait months on a waiting list, individuals could receive the help they need more immediately. The cost can also be more affordable in some cases whether it is through insurance or private pay options.

Individuals can even receive a greater variety of services or seek more specialized treatment. People can have more options for group accountability and support or other counseling related services online. For example, a person in a smaller town specifically looking for someone who treats Borderline Personality Disorder while utilizing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy might not have that option. With tele-mental health, there is a better chance of them finding someone who can provide that specific expertise using that specific modality. Tele-mental health has the potential to provide specialized treatment for those who have limited resources.

There are a few things to keep in mind when seeking viable tele-health. With a professional, it is not a bad idea to do your homework before scheduling an appointment. Make sure the person is licensed and credentialed. Explore their website to make sure they have the knowledge and expertise you are looking for. There are more licensing boards requiring providers to have continuing education specifically on the topic of tele-mental health. It could be helpful to find someone with experience specifically in providing online mental health services. From the client’s standpoint, it will be important to consider internet connection or cell reception. There are some rural areas where finding that might be more difficult. Thinking ahead of time will be helpful when planning to work with someone online. It is also important to consider privacy. You might be able to receive adequate internet in the local coffee shop, but would that give you the privacy you need? Finding solutions to some of these potential issues can help make tele-mental health a viable and sustainable option.

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