You want therapy, but maybe you don’t want to have to deal with the hassles of fighting traffic, taking time out of your day to drive to and from an office to look for parking, or, as the world is currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe you don’t want to worry about social distancing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Online therapy as well as phone therapy can take away the worry of the potential for infection as therapy by computer or telephone is certainly at safe distance, and it takes away the other factors, too.
You might be wondering how therapy is even done online and whether it is just as effective as in-person sessions, or perhaps, you are concerned that you might not have the appropriate technology or the technical know-how to set things up. You may be hesitant because you fear you will have to jump through a bunch of hoops to set things up and worry about how much time that will take. Of course, maybe you’re wondering if your insurance will cover it and if your privacy will still be able to be maintained through the technology. Let’s start with the first question:
Is Online Therapy is Effective?
While there is definitely a different vibe over the computer or telephone than there is in an in-person session, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance, some people are more comfortable in their own space at home, may feel safer with the buffer of a screen, and may be more relaxed without the rush to travel. These factors can make it easier for clients to self-disclose and to reflect on things with greater focus.
Due to the fact that a person’s voice isn’t traveling across a room but right into a therapist’s ears through earphones attached to a computer or through the telephone, or from a computer speaker, the therapist may actually be able to tune in more to what the client is saying and how the client is saying it, which can build the rapport and intimacy of the sessions. Therapists are also aware that they need to be more intentional about looking for facial expressions and body language when doing sessions by through video on the computer, and this can also lead to a more focused session where the therapist must intentionally ask questions to make sure that he or she is not missing something.
The therapy treatment effectiveness doesn’t change, as the unconditional positive regard and treatment protocols do not change, but merely the means of interaction changes.
Many people wonder if they will understand the technology that online video therapy may require and if their privacy can be assured. So, let’s take a look at that next.
Is Online Therapy Easy to Set-Up? Can Be Privacy Compliant?
There are many platforms available for online video therapy, and often, all you need is a smartphone or a laptop or desktop computer, possibly even just a tablet. You will be provided with a link through which you can connect for your sessions, and as long as you have your computer’s speakers and camera turned on, you are usually good to go. You may have to enter some identifying information at the start, but the computer will offer you prompts for how to do this. Some therapists may ask you to download a safe software that is free to you. They will often provide the information of where to find the download, you go there, and push a button to allow for the download to take place.
Will it Feel Awkward?
You may be wondering if it will feel awkward to do therapy over the computer. The answer is, “Yes.” For the first few minutes of your first session of online therapy, you will likely feel a bit awkward. After all, it is a new experience. However, after those initial moments, most clients find that they forget they are not actually in the room with the therapist, and sessions proceed as normal in-office sessions typically do.
Afterwards, you simply click off of your computer and go about your day as usual.
Will My Insurance Pay for Online or Phone Therapy?
Many insurances do cover online and/or phone therapy at the same rate as in person sessions. This coverage depends upon which insurance you have and individual policies. It is encouraging to note that some insurances that did not previously cover online therapy or phone therapy are now covering it at least temporarily during this pandemic season. In fact, Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield is waiving member's co-pays for telehealth sessions during this time.