Online therapy is just starting to become more widespread. But you aren’t sure you want to try it yet because it can’t really be as good as in-person therapy. We are beings of routine and consistency. Change is very difficult. For PC users, just think about windows updates (or sometimes even more frustrating Microsoft Word updates). You may fight against it for awhile until you “have” to upgrade to the new version of Windows. Then it takes some getting used to. I’m sure those of you who use Macs have similar experiences.
Unfortunately, when we live our lives afraid to try something new, it affects our lives in numerous ways. We may lose out on something exciting. We may not learn how much we like something. We won’t grow in ways we otherwise would.
The downsides to this include regret, loss, potential conflicts as others may want to do the new thing. Not only does living life with the fear of trying something new affect us emotionally, we start to exhibit other problems such as intense anxiety leading to isolation or other concerns with going out or being with people – all because of the potential “what ifs” that get in our way.
What would have happened if the first person to try berries and other naturally growing plants died and thus people thought they were poisonous and never ate them again for fear they were all poisonous? What would have happened if everyone decided it was just too risky?
What about air travel? What if every time someone thought about this as a cool thing, they second guessed themselves and decided it was too risky?
At the time these people may have felt justified and safe, but we would we be with our cooking (and health) without berries in our diet? Can you imagine what life would be like without air travel? Some of you may never have been in a plane, but you still know that getting to the other side of the world in less than a full day is possible. Unfortunately, all that happens when we don’t do something new is prevent growth and movement forward. The ability for our species to think of ways to evolve and move forward is unique to humans.
Eventually, if we don’t try new things, we wind up in a place of stagnation and boredom. This being said, it is completely normal to have a fear of new things. Unknowns could mean death or harm. The brain is set to survival and if there is any possibility of harm, the brain fights against it. It’s ok to fear new things. It’s actually a good thing to be anxious about new things.
It is true that you may be skeptical of online therapy and therefore don’t want to try it. However, when the unknowns become knowns, the anxiety decreases and interest peaks. When we learn more about something we don’t understand, it is entirely possibly to be excited about online therapy.
Keep reading for the top 10 questions to better understand the benefits of teletherapy
Unknowns equal fear, anxiety, and lack of motivation
The biggest downside of not knowing what to expect is losing out on the opportunity which may be a life-changer (think about those berries and air travel). Inaction due to unknowns has led to many lost opportunities that people later regret.
At the very least, you find yourself second-guessing your decisions and beating yourself up over lack of decision making or commitment. Living this way is extremely frustrating. The amount of time wasted on beating yourself up could be put to better use.
Fear and anxiety are our brain’s way of telling us there is potential (or real) danger and to be ready in case you need to fight or run away from that danger. Remember how I mentioned the brain is set to survival? The amygdala is responsible for this. It is our brain’s alarm system and alerts us to potential danger even before we are fully able to survey a situation to determine if it is dangerous. (Those split seconds the brain would waste by allowing a full survey of the situation before setting us off into anxiety and worry could mean the difference between having the energy to fight or run and not and thus surviving or not if the situation is not safe).
Excitement, anticipation and hope cause some of the same physiological responses in the body that anxiety does, but it is different in that we do not fear. The physiological responses of not being able to focus, some shakiness, rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing – these are all the same responses when we are anxious and worried. The difference comes in how we see what is about to happen. If we are excited about it, the brain does not see a threat. If we are questioning it, the brain sees a threat.
Knowns equal excitement, anticipation, and hope
Although you struggle with anxiety and worry regarding trying online counseling, you have the potential to have a truly invigorating and helpful therapy experience in a way you never thought possible.
When you see the answers to the top 10 questions you may feel more knowledgeable, excited and hopeful. You have the opportunity to make an informed decision about online versus in person counseling in order to choose the option you really want and see your life in a whole new way.
Imagine the life that you really want. Imagine getting that life without having to spend valuable time in the car getting to and from a therapist’s office, finding childcare, dealing with weather issues, and other life situations that get in the way. Online counseling does have many benefits and many clients find that they reach their goals faster because they are more comfortable than in an office.
Check out these 10 questions to better understand telecounseling
Question 10: I’m not very tech-savvy. Should I see someone online?
Answer: There are relatively few reasons you would not be able to do online counseling even if you are not tech savvy. Many people have used skype or facetime. Online counseling is very similar in that it uses your computer’s camera and audio to speak with another person.
Question 9: What does telehealth really mean?
Answer: In short, telehealth is just the provider “seeing” you through a telecommunication platform. This can mean phone, text, email, or video. Text and email would be considered asynchronous forms of telehealth because there is a delay in responses when you and your therapist communicate. Video would be considered synchronous because you and your therapist are communicating together at the same time. Phone can vary as you may need to leave a message or your therapist may leave a message or the two of you may be talking together.
Question 8: Can I see a therapist in another state if they seem to be the right fit for me?
Answer: In short, yes. That is why telemental health is a great medium to work on your goals. Generally speaking, the therapist needs to be licensed in their state as well as the state you reside in. There may be some exceptions to this, which makes the answer more detailed.
Question 7: What kind of results can I expect to see?
Answer: Because you can see a therapist anywhere in your state (and even outside your state), you have access to a wider range of counselors. This allows for you to see someone who specializes in what you are looking to achieve or what is holding you back. Because you can see someone who is an expert in their field of therapy, you are more likely to see quicker and longer lasting results. Additionally, many clients achieve results faster with online counseling than in person because they do not have to take time out of their day to travel or find child care, and they feel more comfortable in their own home versus in an office.
Question 6: What equipment do I need as a client?
Answer: There are several HIPAA compliant web based platforms that therapists can choose from. Due to this, there may be plug-ins you need to install. However, the only thing you absolutely need is a computer with a working camera and microphone with working audio. As telecounseling is a web-based service, you will also need an internet connection. WIFI works as long as your signal and the therapist’s signal is strong enough. Different platforms will need a different amount of bandwidth, so it is advisable to talk with your therapist about doing a trial run with your therapist for a couple minutes to ensure you have enough bandwidth.
Question 5: What is there is a technical issue on either side?
Answer: This will depend on what you set up with your therapist. When you and your therapist decide to do online therapy, you will discuss potentials such as this. Power outages do happen as well as other unforeseen technical issues. For this reason, it is good to have a backup plan. It can feel unsettling for a client to be speaking of something bothersome just to have the therapist cut out. Did they hang up on you? (Likely not, but this is a thought that does go through some people’s minds). Therefore, having a backup plan will help ensure that if anything does happen, you and the therapist will be able to reconnect quickly.
Question 4: Are therapists professional and credible?
Answer: Yes. A therapist who practices online must still adhere to the state and national legal and ethical mandates of their field.
Question 3: Will insurance cover telehealth?
Answer: In most states, yes. Tele-therapy is still gaining credibility and not all insurances cover it in every state. It is advisable that if you want to use telehealth, that you check with your insurance benefits to ensure there will not be any problems. Additionally, it would be beneficial for your therapist to do the same so they do not run into problems with billing.
Question 2: How does it work?
Depending on the platform your therapist uses, there may be some initial setup that needs to take place. Once everything is set up and you are given instructions on how to get into the therapist’s online “waiting room,” all you do is sign into the waiting room. The therapist will be able to see that you are there and can click on you to “open the door.” The computer will usually connect to your camera and microphone automatically; if not, you may see a bar across your screen asking for permission to use your camera. Your therapist’s computer will do the same on their end. Then you will be able to see your therapist and they will be able to see you face to face. Some platforms can be used across all types of electronics, others are not yet available for mobile use. At that point, the therapist will conduct the therapy session. Every therapist conducts their sessions differently, just like every therapist conducts their in person sessions differently.
Question 1: Is Telehealth legal and ethical?
Answer: Yes. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and other associations geared towards furthering counseling have all agreed that conducting sessions via video is not only appropriate, but often a more effective medium for providing therapy to clients. Whereas it is also legal in every state, there may be some legal issues that the therapist has to be aware of such as licensing requirements. In addition, some states require that the first session be done in person. Ethically, it is important for you to understand that not all issues are appropriate for online counseling and if your therapist informs you that they will see you in person, but not online, this does not necessarily mean that you will never be able to do online counseling, just that at this time you are more appropriate for in-person sessions. This happens often with actively suicidal clients, but there are other reasons the therapist may opt to see you in person for awhile first.
Achieving full confidence in online therapy before doing one session may not happen. However, now that you have the top 10 questions answered, I wonder if you have any that were not answered. Send me an email with your question(s) and I will answer them as well.
Here at Meg Young, LCSW, it is my goal to keep you fully informed about everything we do together. No question is taken lightly and all questions will be answered. Click here to learn more about online therapy with me and call me to schedule your appointment. 941-462-4807