How Teletherapy Revolutionized Behavioral Health

Technology has fundamentally changed the way people shop, eat, and interact with one another. Perhaps it is no surprise that smartphones and widespread access to the internet have also revolutionized behavioral healthcare. Teletherapy is just one of the recent technological advancements in behavioral health, but it has the capacity to completely change the mental health industry for the better.

What is Teletherapy?

In many ways, teletherapy works the same way in-person therapy does. A patient and a qualified behavioral health professional communicate and find ways to improve the well-being of the patient. However, in teletherapy, this all plays out through video conferencing, messages, and other virtual communication.

Professionals who provide teletherapy can still use effective techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Thus, it is often as effective as in-person alternatives. However, teletherapy also brings these services to underserved communities and allows therapists to overcome other barriers to care as well.

Bringing Behavioral Health Services to Rural Areas

More than 115 million people in the United States live in an area with a serious mental health professional shortage of less than one professional per 30,000 residents. Most of these shortages occur in rural counties, which have less infrastructure and resources. Some of these counties don’t have even a single psychologist or psychiatrist.

Since 90 percent of American adults have internet access, teletherapy broadens the number of people who can access therapy, even if they can’t see someone in person. Professionals who live in cities and suburbs can connect with patients in underserved areas to provide much-needed help that would not otherwise be available.

Overcoming Other Barriers to Getting Help

Although the provider shortage is one of the top reasons that people sometimes struggle to get behavioral healthcare, it is far from the only one. Teletherapy helps patients overcome other barriers to care, including:

  • Disabilities: Some people have mental, behavioral, or physical disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to leave their homes. Teletherapy allows these people to access help from home without unnecessary burdens.

  • Lack of Transportation: Even in urban areas with plenty of providers, getting from one part of a city to another can take time and cost money. Teletherapy eliminates this burden.

  • Stigma: Although many people believe that therapy works, they may still worry about getting judged for attending sessions. That can make it difficult to ask for an hour off each week to go to in-person therapy. The flexible and private nature of teletherapy allows patients to keep it secret from those who may not understand it.

Incorporating Teletherapy Throughout the Healthcare Industry

When someone has a mental health crisis, loved ones and professionals may recommend going to the emergency room. After all, the goal is to keep the person alive and safe during the crisis. However, emergency rooms are filled with doctors who primarily focus on physical health, not behavioral, emotional, or mental health. Because there is such a shortage of behavioral health providers in the country, these providers are rarely in emergency rooms.

Teletherapy allows emergency room staff to contact behavioral health providers when it’s needed. Instead of every hospital needing behavioral providers on-call 24/7, one psychologist can provide on-call access to several hospitals at once. This system allows people to get the help they need at a time of crisis by utilizing resources with which they are already familiar.

The Future of Teletherapy

Teletherapy has come a long way in a few short years. Once relegated to crisis hotlines for people in dire need, teletherapy now allows people to get behavioral health interventions earlier and avoid those crisis situations. However, teletherapy still has more growth in its future.

While more and more insurance providers have started embracing teletherapy, there is still room for growth in this area. Furthermore, teletherapy is still limited by state borders. Providers need to be licensed in the same state where the patient is, which creates some barriers. In the future, legislators and behavioral health professionals will need to address these issues in order to continue to rapid growth of teletherapy and the field more broadly.

If you’re ready to see how effective teletherapy can be, request an appointment today.

Disclaimer: The posts on this blog are for informational purposes only and do not replace direct care from your mental health care provider. Contact your mental health care provider for specific questions or concerns about your own mental health. All posts are copyrighted, and the views expressed on this blog are representative of the opinions of Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates (PCPA) as an organization.

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