Have you been considering starting therapy but can only find a tele-health therapist? This is becoming more common. Many therapists let their office leases go during the pandemic and are continuing exclusively with tele-health therapy.
There are a lot of advantages to tele-health therapy. First, it opens up more options. You are no longer limited to your geographic area. However, be aware, most of us can only practice in the state we are licensed in. Second, it saves time on the commute making therapy appointments easier to attend. Lastly, things like inclement weather or a common cold mean you can still be seen.
Have you ever wondered what your therapist thinks of tele-health therapy?
I’ll admit, I went kicking and screaming. However, as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, it brought me back to my basic nursing education. Seeing people in their environment is integral to understanding their health. In undergraduate (RN) nursing education, we do home visits. This yields so much information about people. For example, if the visit is for diabetes, we can check out the pantry. Mental health is no exception. A home visit lets me see how much light your room has, how calm or chaotic your environment is, are there physical obstacles like a ton of stairs that may be hard for you to navigate and leave home? Of course, none of this is to judge and we don’t. Really. It’s to aid in understanding what your experience in the world is.
Covid left us no choice but to do tele-health therapy. I’m now at peace with it but also offer in person for those who prefer it. I was curious what some of my colleagues thought so asked around.
What other therapists say about tele-health therapy.
Brandon Muncy, MS, Ed.S, LCPC, a therapist with New Connections Counseling in Baltimore, MD also felt it increased access to care:
“Admittedly, I was nervous about how clients would experience telehealth. However, I’ve found clients love the ease of access it provides. For many clients finding time and fighting traffic to come to an office during or after work is its own stressor. Telehealth allows them to click a few buttons and see me on a lunch break or from the comfort of their living room.“
Shannon Heers, LPC, LMHC, CAS, ACS, founder of Catalyss Counseling also agrees that seeing people in their homes aides in their treatment:
“There are some things I love about telehealth that I never thought I’d love. I love being able to see my clients’ pets, rooms, and homes that mean so much to them, it really gives me better insight into their lives.”
Jessica Tappana of of Aspire Counseling sums it up nicely:
“I honestly avoided doing telehealth for years prior to the pandemic because I so strongly value human connection and thought it would be missing. But I’ve learned it’s just a different way of connecting. Through telehealth sessions, I’ve supported a client while they did something they avoided for weeks, coached anxiety clients through exposure activities in the moment, learned things about clients I’d never have known otherwise by seeing their surroundings, helped someone who was depressed find motivation to start cleaning their room while we chatted, met my clients pets and helped them learn to use items in their own home to practice coping skills.”
You get a glimpse of your therapist’s life as well.
We intentionally keep therapy sessions about you. It’s your space to process your feelings and thoughts. But, we are obviously humans as well with our own lives. Tele-helath therapy has allowed some often humorous looks into our daily experience. Well, more aptly, our pets’ daily lives!
Brandon Muncy’s cat decided she would try her paw at therapy:
“In the early days of Zoom, I hadn’t figured out the waiting room feature. I usually log into appointments several minutes early. One time I logged in early and left to quickly grab a pen. In the intervening moments my client also logged on early and my cat, Nani, had sneaked into the room. I came back to find her in my chair “holding session” with my client.“
Laura Goldstein, LCMFT, of The Montgomery County Counseling Center in Maryland integrates her dog into sessions:
“The most fun part of telehealth for me is sharing my office with my dog Meeka. Clients love to see her and I love getting to meet my client’s pets. I believe they are family members so it’s nice to see them as part of the session.”
Sometimes, these four legged friends can cause havoc as Kasey Salyer of Salyer Counseling Group found.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was using a new telehealth platform. Unfortunately, if I plugged in or unplugged my computer from power during the session, it would trip the call and disconnect us. I had been very conscious of this for several weeks. I had the habit of having the dogs in the office with me as I was working. My two dogs became very good at meandering around the office and avoiding the power cord. A few weeks into telehealth work, we started dog sitting our friend’s dogs, Coco. I had been connected with the client for maybe 20 minutes when Coco decided she needed some additional attention. Unfortunately, Coco was not graced with coordination, tripped over the power cord, disconnected my computer from the power, and ended the session with my client. I then had to restart the session with the client and explain that my technical difficulties were due to Coco the dog and her klutzy antics. Thankfully it was a very good humored client.”
Tele-therapy is here to stay.
For better or for worse, the counseling world has been transformed. Like any change, some of it is good and some not so much. There are definitely a lot of benefits for both client and therapist using tele-therapy. Fortunately, in person options are reemerging for those whom it is a bad fit. Regardless of how you see your therapist, we encourage you to go. So much has happened over the last two years. We could all use some help processing it.