The 4 Big Questions toAsk Before Starting Teletherapy
We’ve all heard the ads for teletherapy – or the use of video platforms like Zoom to access therapy - which became ever-so-popular in the past two years. “Get treatment for depression from the comfort of your home!” “Easier than traditional therapy!” In fact, research supports the use of teletherapy for many mental health issues, with an American Psychological Association publication (APA Monitor, 2020) citing several studies which show teletherapy is often as effective as in-person therapy.
But if you’re considering therapy, you may still be wondering, is teletherapy really right for me? Consider these four questions before starting:
Is my therapist qualified to do teletherapy? This question might surprise you, as we often assume that anyone who can practice therapy can also do teletherapy. Actually, that’s not the case – and it’s worth asking your therapist what are their qualifications for teletherapy? You wouldn’t let a medical student who hasn’t graduated perform surgery on you; similarly, your mental health provider should have adequate training in teletherapy. They should be able to tell you what coursework, trainings, or continuing education they have specific to teletherapy.
Can I keep myself free from distractions? This is a tough one – most of us are pulled in a thousand directions by text messages, emails, and calls, all demanding our attention right away! If you can’t reasonably dedicate one hour solely to therapy, by setting “Do Not Disturb” or muting Notifications during your teletherapy session, I’d recommend going to in-person therapy appointments, at least for a little while. You will get so much more out of therapy if you give it your full attention!
Do I have a private space with good internet connection? Let me tell you, there are few things worse than having your video freeze or lag while pouring your heart out in session, and hearing your therapist say, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” Similarly, having a private space with a closed door is crucial to be able to fully share with your therapist, and without privacy, you’ll likely hit some “walls” in being vulnerable and open. Having good internet connection and a private space to access therapy make a world of difference - I would even go so far as to call them non-negotiable to teletherapy.
Am I using teletherapy to avoid something? It’s one thing to prefer video sessions because we live too far from the office, or we don’t have time for the commute. It’s something different altogether if we’re avoiding something uncomfortable – like worries that my therapist will judge my body, or anxiety about leaving my house. Talk with your therapist about your motivation for or against teletherapy, and if avoidance is a critical part of the discussion, consider integrating in-person visits, even in a hybrid form!
It's as easy as that – if you answered Yes to Questions 1-3 and answered No to Question 4, you’re likely a good fit for teletherapy! Of course, every individual is unique, and you’ll want to consider other personal factors, but it may be worth exploring teletherapy to address your mental health concerns.
Dr. Chelse Song is a Postdoctoral Fellow at EK Counseling, where she is currently accepting new clients. She holds a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from New Mexico State University, and she was a member of the HRSA Behavioral Health Telemedicine Association (BHTA)’s Community of Practice from 2019-2020, where she learned to train mental health professionals on the appropriate use of teletherapy.