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What Limits Does Telemental Health Have?

Telemental health can allow therapists and their patients to connect digitally, allowing them to access mental health services regardless of physical location. There are some limits that should be considered while looking for a therapist. 

The Types of Services Provided 

Online health services provide counseling, such as psychotherapy and crisis intervention, via video conferencing, telephone, and other digital communication platforms. Calling your therapist when you need mental help without having to drive to a clinic can be beneficial. However, physical and psychological testing are services that you need to be physically present for so that someone can examine you. 

These services may also not be suitable for people who need more intensive care or constant surveillance due to complex mental health conditions. 

Accessibility 

Telemental health is dependent on a stable, reliable internet connection. If your connection is spotty, you may experience technical glitches like distorted audio or a frozen screen. This can make it hard to communicate with your therapist effectively. 

Clients may need to know how to download, install, and use digital communication applications, fill out online forms, and handle emails. The need for technical knowledge can limit accessibility to teletherapy for those people who aren’t comfortable with technology. 

Privacy and Confidentiality Risks

Digital communication platforms should have policies to protect user information, but software malfunctions resulting in information leakage can be risky with any digital technology. Steps can be taken to protect the information, so ask about this when looking for a telemental health doctor.

There are other privacy issues to think about as well. With the many stigmas surrounding mental health, some patients may be uncomfortable discussing their needs if they can’t find a quiet space to talk to their therapist. This is also true for trauma patients living with family members who trigger their emotional issues. They may be reluctant to open up in an unsafe environment.

Insurance Coverage 

Health insurance providers in some states may not cover telemental health, making it expensive. Some online mental health service providers may not accept insurance as payment for their services. Covid-19 did encourage some insurance providers to start covering teletherapy. Check with your doctor before getting telemental health services. 

While insurance may be an issue in some cases, there are some benefits as well. Therapists who only treat patients remotely have fewer overhead costs since they don’t need an office. The reduced operational costs translate to lower service charges. This makes teletherapy more affordable to pay for out of pocket. 

Emergency Response

Since therapists aren’t with the patient during teletherapy sessions, they may not have direct assistance in case of crises like threatened suicide or a threatened relapse. They can still reach out to find you help, but knowing that someone is close by could benefit you more.

Telemental health can provide patients with more flexible appointment times, which allows them to reach out to their therapist faster when they need urgent help. No matter where you are, you can quickly schedule a call with your therapist and get the assistance you need. 

Interstate Practice

Many state licensing laws prohibit online therapists from practicing out of state. Should you choose an out-of-state telemental health practitioner, they must be licensed in both their home state and yours. When hiring a therapist, check their credentials to verify their legal status in your state. 

Some states may allow therapists to provide mental health services to out-of-state patients for a limited time each year. If you need regular telemental health services, work with a therapist who is always available in your area. 

Personal Connection

The physical presence of a therapist can make it easier for some patients to build a connection, trust, and engagement with their therapist. Telemental health may not suit you if you need direct involvement with people.  

Some patients who find physical interactions stressful may feel more comfortable opening up to their therapists in virtual sessions. There can be a reduced sense of urgency with teletherapy. 

Boundaries

Without predetermined session times, it can become difficult for therapists to set professional boundaries. Some therapy-client relationships can suffer from over-messaging, leaving the affected party feeling harassed. Setting specific times for your therapist and staying within those lines can help both you and your therapist.

Choosing a Telemental Health Service

Telemental health can provide an invaluable resource for those needing mental health services. New limitations have arisen with introducing this technology that should be considered. Understanding and finding ways to address these limits can allow you to access the mental health care you need for better overall well-being.

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