Does Teletherapy Work? | Benefits and Applications
Telehealth has been an option in healthcare for several years. Recently, and particularly in the time of COVID-19, remote sessions have become more popular among providers and patients. Teletherapy provides a safe option when care is needed during the pandemic. Does teletherapy work? Recent research shows the benefits and applications of teletherapy.
In 2013, a randomized trial was conducted of web-based videoconferencing for substance abuse counseling. The study found that web-based videoconferencing can improve access to substance abuse treatment by allowing patients to receive counseling services in their homes.
Participants exposed to the study conditions had similar rates of counseling attendance and drug-positive urinalysis results and reported similar and strong ratings of treatment satisfaction and therapeutic alliance. These results support the feasibility and acceptability of web-based counseling as a good method to extend access to individual substance abuse counseling when compared to in-person counseling for patients that are able to maintain a computer and internet connection for reliable communication.
In 2020, more people have access to a computer or other electronic device as well as to an internet connection, enabling them to access teletherapy more easily and safely. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) states that the use of telemedicine and remote care services are critical to the safe management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine spans a continuum of technologies that offer new ways to deliver care including:
- Real-time, audio-video communication tools (telehealth) that connect providers and patients in different locations.
- Store-and-forward technologies that collect images and data to be transmitted and interpreted later.
- Remote patient-monitoring tools such as blood pressure monitors, Bluetooth-enabled digital scales and other wearable devices that can communicate biometric data for review (which may involve the use of mHealth apps).
- Verbal/Audio-only and virtual check-ins via patient portals, messaging technologies, etc.
The benefits and applications of teletherapy include the ability to conduct a session remotely while the patient remains safe at home. Teletherapy can be conducted via email or phone but is typically done via video chat.
The therapeutic process is similar to in-person therapy. It usually begins with a few initial sessions during which the therapist and client get to know one another and discuss treatment goals. After that, the therapist may dig more deeply into the client’s issues, make recommendations for behavioral changes, and encourage the client to reflect on their emotions.
The therapist may ask the client to take steps to ensure confidentiality. These might include:
- Logging on from a private network
- Keeping their computer locked to prevent others from viewing the session
- Accessing therapy via an encrypted therapy platform.
Telehealth and Substance Use Disorders
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications found that telemedicine applications offer innovative approaches for treating and reducing the effects of substance use disorders (SUDs). Researchers determined that telemedicine technologies could alter substance use disorder (SUD) treatment service delivery patterns and outcomes.
Texting, videoconferencing, mobile apps, web-based treatment supports, telephone-based support, and use of virtual worlds have all been applied in SUD treatment settings. Web-based computer and mobile device-delivered treatment supports have demonstrated superior outcomes to traditional care, while treatment delivered through videoconferencing has resulted in similar treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction when compared to traditional face-to-face care.
The benefits and applications of teletherapy include the fact that telemedicine services increase access to service and can provide valuable support when patients are outside of the therapeutic setting and making decisions to use or not use addictive substances.
Teletherapy and COVID-19
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) emphasizes that using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic offers numerous benefits that apply across the continuum of addiction services including outpatient, office based opioid treatment (OBOT), residential settings, and opioid treatment programs (OTP).
These benefits include but are not limited to the following:
- Promotes the practice of physical distancing to reduce viral spread – shifting visits and initial patient evaluation to a modality that does not require in-person and face-to-face interaction and thereby limiting the physical contact between staff and patients.
- Addresses COVID-19 and other epidemic situations by limiting exposure to infection for vulnerable populations and health care workers.
- Expands the reach of resources to communities that have limited access to needed services.
- Allows monitoring of patients to identify potential and confirmed cases without person-to-person contact.
- Enables quarantined clinicians to continue to safely treat patients remotely.
- Reduces the risk of spread in high-volume/traffic areas such as waiting rooms by reducing the number of patients requiring face-to-face visits.
- Enables clinicians to continue patient engagement while reducing potential for exposure for those who are considered most vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Reduces the likelihood of patients participating in activities/behaviors outside of the clinic that could increase risk of exposure, such as use of public transportation to attend appointments.
Contact R&A Therapeutic Partners for Confidential Teletherapy
The professionals at R&A Therapeutic Partners are experienced with providing quality telehealth services. We have adapted our proven approach to an online platform, ensuring that you receive the highest level of care, confidentially, during your teletherapy sessions. We also offer online therapy to keep you safe and healthy. Please contact the Miami therapeutic consultants Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno to learn more about the services R&A Therapeutic Partners offers. Call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.