Five years ago, most of us would have never imagined an appointment with our mental health therapist taking place in our own living space via a computer screen. The recent isolation of the pandemic broke down the hesitations of video-based connection and catapulted the world into an onslaught of video-based appointments that included coffee chats with friends, online university classes, book group meetings, and yes, therapy.
Where access to mental health therapy has increased world-wide with the aid of tele-health sessions, quality of online mental health therapy can vary. With the uptick of stress and isolation in recent years mental health has been more widely sought after by individuals from all cultures. In addition, a variety of reasons that make attending in-person therapy difficult (living rurally, living in another culture, physically challenged with chronic illness, or even dense urban environments with long commutes to the therapy office) make the online options so much easier in our fast-paced, over-scheduled lives. Larger companies have profited on this recent phenomenon by forming large network agencies of online mental health services. Unfortunately, these larger companies lack the quality of therapeutic care for clients, providing only a surface level of support that is focused on problem-solving over connection, care, and treatment planning aimed at lasting change for clients. In addition, the therapists involved in providing services in these online agencies are often not provided the proper support or supervision while balancing a heavy caseload of clients causing stress and burnout which in turn impacts the quality of client care.
The low quality of care in tele-health mental health support from the large online mental health agencies is not necessarily a reflection of tele-health mental health services in general; in fact, online therapy sessions with a quality therapist who is credentialed can be incredibly effective. In your consideration of tele-health therapy choosing a therapist that is in private practice or working from a smaller local agency will likely result in a high quality of care over the larger online therapy agencies. This is in part due to better support and training for these mental health professionals. In addition, be aware that tele-health has ethical policies and practices that are specific to mental health therapy online and can vary based on your providers location and credentialing board. Mental health providers and therapists in recent years have had to seek additional training to learn the ins and outs of providing safe, ethical, and effective tele-health mental health sessions. Asking your provider or therapist directly if they have done this additional training in tele-health therapy will ensure that you are working with a therapist who has a sound background in navigating therapy sessions online.
Online therapy through the services of tele-health with a qualified provider can be as good as in-person sessions; but considerations for whom you choose as your provider and how they facilitate their online sessions with clients is important. In addition, how the client engages in online therapy will also impact the effectiveness of the therapy. In the next blog article, I will address ways in which you can engage in your online therapy sessions that will cultivate a foundation for therapeutic change and set you up for better, more quality experience with your mental health provider.