Guest Columnist

Teletherapy has many benefits for Iowa patients

Tanager Place on 5th Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wed. Feb. 24, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Tanager Place on 5th Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wed. Feb. 24, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Mental health services have traditionally served clients with in-person appointments for medication management, therapy services, psychiatry evaluations, etc. Recently, a transformation known as teletherapy has taken place within mental health services that has shifted the client experience. Teletherapy allows clients to meet with providers via internet while remaining in the convenience of their home. Teletherapy appointments are just like regular appointments. Clients may inquire about medication needs or psychiatry consultations and receive therapy.

Whenever there is a change or shift in the way we are used to doing things, benefits and challenges result. Consider these teletherapy benefits:

• Expanded service to clients who are unable to meet in person due to disabilities, geographic location or scheduling barriers.

• Elimination of transportation barriers for clients.

• Allowing for settings where clients are most comfortable.

• Flexible appointment options.

• Increased parent/guardian involvement.

Some challenges include:

• Accessibility of internet services.

• Potential for internet/Wi-Fi connectivity issues.

• Limited knowledge of how to access services.

• Format may not be suitable for all clients.

While drawbacks and barriers exist, they are manageable, assessed and improved as teletherapy services become more popular.

My personal experience with teletherapy has been eye opening. What I felt was going to be a huge hurdle to overcome was actually a pleasant change in how I interact with my clients and meet their needs. I have noticed teletherapy encourages increased engagement in the sessions from parents and guardians, which has led to improved relationship interactions and overall communication within homes. Teletherapy services also allow providers to observe clients existing naturally in their home setting, which increases insight into the client’s “world,” something not easily observed during in-person sessions.

Teletherapy may seem foreign to some but, when used effectively, wonderful clinical work can occur and serve diverse client populations. It is important to remember the reality we live in, which recognizes change is constant in everything we do. Our society is fast-paced, and more and more systems (ways to do things) are becoming streamlined, condensed and evolve daily. If members of society choose to stay in our routine, then we tend to fall behind and miss opportunities that make a difference in new and exciting ways. If you have not considered teletherapy as a treatment option, please do so. It could open up a completely new world for you from the comfort of your own home.

Robin Hoffman, LMSW, is a clinician supervisor/therapist with Tanager Place.

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