Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last few months you’ve probably noticed almost every healthcare provider except dentistry is being handled online at this point. With the surge of coronavirus cases recently it will likely be for some time before in-person services become more prevalent.
Let’s look at some of the myths and realities of seeing a therapist online.
Myth: Online therapy isn’t as good as seeing someone in person.
Reality: Studies going back to 2010 show that online therapy has as good and sometimes better outcomes for patients than in-person therapy. Therapists have been working with clients online for over 10 years as high-speed internet has become more accessible and reliable. I know some therapists who only met with clients online before the pandemic. I do not know any who are meeting face to face with clients now.
Myth: Online therapy is not covered by insurance plans.
Reality: Currently many companies that did not pay for online therapy are paying for it while the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring people to shelter in place. You should check with your insurance company to see if they will cover therapy or will reimburse for providers who are out of your network. You will also need to check if your company will alter this policy once shelter in place orders are ended.
Myth: You need to have a laptop and a private location in your home or apartment for online therapy.
Reality: Ideally, you will have a quiet spot in your place where roommates and children cannot interfere with your session or be audibly screaming in the background. However, the flexibility of online therapy means that I have had sessions with clients while they are in a park or their car since you can use most secure video platforms via apps on smartphones. Even if you can’t get to a quiet place. It’s a pandemic and we’re all doing the best we can.
Myth: Therapy must be done on a Zoom-style platform.
Reality: I have some clients who prefer to just do phone sessions or do a combination of video and phone sessions when they feel a little burned out on zoom. Most people feel exhausted after doing a lot of zoom meetings because the video format requires our brains to work harder to process non-verbal information and we feel more obligated to have focused attention than we do when we are meeting people in person. I also remind clients it’s ok to look other places than the screen while they’re talking if it makes it more comfortable.
Myth: Once online, always online.
Reality: Many providers are planning to see clients in person again once it is safe to do so. Discuss this with your therapist so you can understand what their plan is, so you can plan accordingly. Some clients have been surprised by how well online therapy works for them (yes, there are the occasional technical issues) and the flexibility that it offers may lead some to continue online after the pandemic is over.
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