Studies are showing that depression and anxiety rates are increasing among individuals in the United States and access to mental healthcare is becoming more expensive and clients are rapidly outnumbering mental healthcare professionals. As a result, telemedicine is becoming more popular in the mental health realm because it allows for easier more convenient access for clients who are in need. Telemedicine is allowing people to have access to mental healthcare in their homes, offices, and cars whenever needed. For some patients with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder, coming into a hospital or clinic creates an extra layer of anxiety and can trigger unwanted feelings and thoughts. Telemedicine delivers therapy without triggering these feelings of anxiety. Telemedicine can be delivered through a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet as long as there is a secure Internet connection. Many individuals who have experienced trauma are not in a place where they want to discuss the specific traumatic event but there are options for people who aren’t ready to revisit the experience but need tools for managing their symptoms. There are certain tools offered through telemedicine where the user can work interpersonal relationships and coping strategies. Users of the tool can also add their therapist or coach. One of the top reasons individuals are not seeking help for their mental health illnesses is due to shame, stigma, and fear of reliving the traumatic experience. Telemedicine allows for more privacy and is an avenue for clients to seek help if they are unable to visit a therapist in person, for whichever reason. Telemedicine works as an outpatient treatment so for individuals who are suicidal, medically unstable, unable to cope, malnourished secondary to eating disorders or undergoing acute withdrawals from substance abuse; inpatient or residential services would be a more appropriate fit for these types of immediate need situations requiring a higher level of care.
What are options other than telemedicine?
Telemedicine is not appropriate for everyone and as a result, treatment centers and therapists may be the only option, especially for acute mental health disorders that require immediate attention. When looking for a treatment center or a therapist it is important to keep the following in mind:
- Is the psychologist licensed and if so in which states and jurisdictions?
- How long has the psychologist been in practice for?
- Does he or she specialize in a certain area? For example many psychologists can specialize in eating disorders, trauma, certain therapies or specific mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or reactive attachment disorder (RAD).
- What type of patients do they treat? Children? Adolescents? Adults?
- What specific therapies do they offer?
- How long is their average session?
- Do they treat individuals with your specific disorder and if not, can they refer you to someone who does?
- Do they have the ability to write prescriptions and if not do they work closely with a psychiatrist who does?
- How much do they charge per session and do they have a sliding scale or a payment plan?
- Do they accept insurance and if so, which type and how much does insurance cover? You most likely will have to call your insurance provider to find out these details.
- Are they members of the American Psychological Association (APA)? Members of this professional organization must adhere to a strict code of ethics and guidelines.
- What type of setting do they practice in? Psychologists can practice in outpatient care, inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization or residential programs or a combination of both. If you initially are placed in a higher level of care such as a hospital then are transferred to outpatient care you may change psychologists depending on which level of care they practice.