Going the Distance: Telepsychotherapy
Telemedicine for Mental & Behavioral Health Care
Recently, more therapists have turned to electronic means for treating patients by distance. This practice is now named Telehealth, and more specifically for mental health, Telepsychotherapy.
According to Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.
Technologies utilized include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications. The term “telepsychotherapy” is used to describe the use of Telehealth methods to deliver psychotherapeutic services.
Technology is Providing Solutions
Until recently, the preferred method for psychotherapy has been face-to-face; however, technology has progressed in ways that provide alternatives to delivering effective therapy for patients in remote areas or otherwise challenged with attending therapy at a physical location.
The Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy (SAP) reports that studies are showing technological services as effective as face-to-face. Favorable findings are shown in delivering telepsychotherapy in areas of pain management, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Studies also show that, in most cases, there are little or no differences between face-to-face and electronic delivery of services.
Are There Contraindications?
SAP further reports that telepsychotherapy is not for everyone. It is recommended that telepsychotherapy not be a substitute for all in-person therapy and should not be used only for the sake of convenience.
Donna Koger is currently the HIPAA Compliance Officer and materials developer for software training and support at Smoky Mountain Information Systems, home of PIMSY EHR. Ms. Koger is also a regular contributor to the PIMSY EHR Blog.