Telehealth: It’s Not Just FaceTime with Your Mental Health Provider

By Michelle F Moseley, MS, LCMHC, NCC (she/her)

The presence of COVID-19 has brought changes to how we carry out so many aspects in our lives.  Schools transitioned to have students complete the school year from home.  We are confronted with considerations related to social distancing and the effectiveness of face masks.  Video chats connect us with friends and family.  Attendance to religious services or community meetings may be via Facebook Live or Zoom.  At a time when many are dealing with anxiety and loss, it’s important to know that you can care for your mental health by utilizing mobile and online platforms to connect with a mental health professional.

Telehealth – the provision of professional healthcare services such as therapy or medication management via video and/or phone services – allows you to connect with your mental health provider in real-time without the need to be in the same physical location.  Research has shown services provided via telehealth to be equal in effectiveness to in-person services.  The training, skill, and credentials of your provider have not changed, nor has the level of confidentiality your provider ensures.  However, therapy via telehealth is not just FaceTime with your mental health provider.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that you get the most out of your appointment with your mental health provider, both for therapy sessions and medication management appointments.  Most importantly, remember that this differs from video chats with friends in that it is an appointment that you scheduled with a professional.  You can prepare for your appointment by getting out of bed and getting dressed as you would for visiting the office.  Not only can this help you feel more positive about your day, it also creates a mindset that you’re doing something important.

How can you be sure that you are prepared for your session from a technology standpoint?  Be certain that you know how to access your session prior to your appointment time.  This may include a program or app to download or a link to utilize that is provided by your therapist.  For video telehealth, your video and audio clarity will be influenced by your internet connection, so while you can utilize cell data or wifi to connect for your appointment, you are going to get the strongest signal by being directly connected using an Ethernet cord.  Ensuring that no additional browser windows are open and that no one else is streaming over the same connection will also enhance your session’s audio and video clarity.  Using headphones or ear buds will assist with blocking outside noise and reducing audio feedback.

Location, location, location.  This is a most important consideration for having a successful telehealth appointment. Your provider is responsible for providing services from a private area and ensuring your confidentiality on their end. You need to do the same on your end.  This means not connecting to your session while driving in a car or in the check-out line at the store.  You want to find a private place where you can speak freely.  You want to be able to give your undivided attention to your appointment, so avoid checking texts or scrolling on your phone.  If privacy is a concern for you, speak with your provider to determine a plan that will allow you to get the most out of your sessions.  Also, be aware that many mental health professionals are licensed to provide services in specific states, so discuss this with your provider prior to scheduling an appointment while you will be traveling.

As we continue to navigate the changes that COVID-19 has brought to so many aspects of our lives, remember that it’s important to take care of both your physical and mental health.  Telehealth offers another option for doing that by allowing you to see licensed mental health providers for therapy and medication management without needing to go into the office.  With the above tips, you’ll be prepared to experience the benefits of an effective telehealth appointment with your provider.