Telehealth improves access to mental health services, particularly for individuals with physical disabilities, busy schedules, or in remote areas, or areas where individuals traditionally are underserved. For example, some clinicians offer their services after traditional working hours, 6 pm and beyond. This allows those who cannot get away from work during the day the opportunity to still seek mental health services and remove the barrier to receiving help. Also, for individuals who are significantly far away from a therapy office, remote services allow them to receive care without traveling significantly for assistance.
Virtual platforms, such as Simple Practice, can enhance patient engagement, leading to more consistent and effective therapy sessions. These platforms allow clients to have their own private and secure login and allow therapists to provide services in a secure environment. Of course, there are technological challenges that may arise during therapy appointments. Some of these include having a poor connection and switching to a less secure platform to complete the therapy session and data security. Though there are always challenges, ongoing advancements seek to address technology issues, fostering a more inclusive and efficient healthcare landscape.
“For some who cannot attend face-to-face services, and also have difficulties securing a computer capable of a telehealth connection, mHealth may provide a secondary outlet for treatment”(Perle & Nierenberg, 2013, p. 27).
Establishing and maintaining a therapeutic alliance between the clinician and the client is vital for successful therapy services. Some clinicians may believe that it is difficult to develop a therapeutic alliance when offering services via telehealth means, however, others have proved that developing this alliance is the same as if the client and clinician were in a physical setting. Video conferencing allows the client and the clinician to have a visual connection; the therapist can view non-verbal cues. Regular check-ins, clear communication, empathy, active listening, and fostering a trusting relationship all contribute to a strong therapeutic alliance in the telehealth world.
“Patients’ reasons for liking telehealth centered around the convenience of accessing treatment from home” (Sugarman, et. al, 2021, pg, 448).
To stay ahead of the emerging technologies and trends in telehealth, clinicians providing mental health care can start thinking about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and wearable devices that offer real-time data for more personalized interventions. For example, for a client who needs to track their sleep, wearables such as a Whoop or an Oura ring can provide 24/7 data about the client’s sleep habits. Integrating data analytics can enhance treatment planning. As always, therapists would need to take into consideration ethics and clear guidelines in incorporating these technologies into therapy.