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What you need to know about Telemental Health

With folks being confined to their homes, unable to maintain their normal routines, there is a global heightening of anxiety and extreme isolation. Now more than ever, improving and/or maintaining our mental health is an urgent matter. I know firsthand how hard therapists all over the country are working to ensure that their current clients and new clients have access to these must needed services.

What is Telemental Health?

Telemental health is the provision of remote mental health services (typically done via video. but can also be provided through text, email, or telephone.)by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Historically, the platforms that services are provided on, had to be HIPAA compliant. Given the sudden halt to services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, associations and insurance panels have allowed more flexibility to the platforms that therapy can be provided on. What that means for you, is that sessions can be conducted on platforms such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Your therapist will provide you with an informed consent discussing the limits to confidentiality when sessions are conducted on a non- HIPPA compliant platform in addition to other logistics that will ensure a productive therapy session.

Who can receive Telemental Health Services?

The short answer to this is Everyone. You can be an existing client or a new client. You can be seen as an individual or as a couple or family. There can even be group sessions provided using this medium. In my own practice, I have used video sessions for individual therapy and couple’s therapy, and although it may take some getting used to, everyone adjusts a few minutes and the sessions deliver the same value as when they are face to face.

Why should you try out Telemental health?

The reality is the whole world stands in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty about our health, our finances, and our futures. This level of uncertainty can spiral someone into a very unhealthy space. Additionally, there’s no playbook for surviving a pandemic so we are all novices at this. Having a space that is carved out to process feelings and learning healthy coping is essential. There is a multitude of positive coping strategies that can be implemented, resulting in emerging from this devastating time more resilient than when you entered it. There are equally a number of unhealthy and destructive ways to get through this Pandemic. We do not have control of much of our external world, which speaks to the importance of understanding and managing our internal world even more. Therapy is the space to learn how to do just that.

Signs that you may benefit from continuing or starting therapy via Telemental Health.

I believe that we all can use mental health services as I view therapy as another form of preventative health care, however, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or exhibiting these behaviors, I would recommend that you 1) not cancel your sessions with your current therapist or 2) Find a therapist now that is offering telehealth services.

  1. Extreme isolation
  2. Increased Anxiety
  3. Inability to manage negative thoughts
  4. Constantly checking the news.
  5. Soothing with unhealthy foods or alcohol
  6. Overwhelm
  7. Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  8. Irritability/anger outburst

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of video therapy, I would highly encourage you to try it out at least a couple of times before writing it off completely. Many people have been pleasantly surprised in the experience and appreciate the convenience of it. Imagine a couple’s therapy without having to find a babysitter! (Post kids’ bedtime of course). Just like traditional face to face sessions, you as a client have the right to try out as many therapists as needed until you find a good fit.

Lastly, keep in mind that most private practice therapists are also small business owners, they depend on their clients showing up to sustain their livelihood as well. Please keep that in mind before you cancel your session. In this season we all need to support each other.

How to find a Telehealth Therapist

Honestly, most therapists, like myself, have either exclusively gone to telemental health services or have it as an option. I would recommend looking at Psychology Today, entering your zip code, and finding a clinician in your area that matches your needs. Many have done a COVID-19 update that will let you know if they have taken sessions online. Also, if you think that you will continue with the telemental health post-Pandemic, you can use any therapist licensed in your state.

To navigate this tumultuous time we have to step up our mental, physical, and spiritual health. I encourage everyone to utilize all of the resources available to you. Sending you all so much love and light!

Saudia Turney, MA, LMFT- Supervisor is the co-owner of the Friendswood Center for Couples and Families. She has been in practice for 10 years and works with Adults, Couples, and older teens in Friendswood, Texas and the surrounding areas. She is currently accepting new telementalhelath clients in Texas.