Telehealth has been called “distance counseling,” “telecounseling,” “virtual counseling,” “online therapy” and the like. We’re all talking about the same thing- counseling that happens virtually through a tech device. The American Counseling Association defines it as the following:
“Telebehavioral health, or distance counseling, is the use of a digital platform that provides secure, encrypted, audio-video conferencing to communicate with a client in real time.”
Since the arrival of the global pandemic we call COVID-19, you have probably seen more and more people transfer services to digital or virtual mediums. Counseling is no different. But lucky for us, telehealth counseling services have been around for decades (check out more about that on the International Conference on Computer Communications).
The benefits of Telehealth Counseling?
- Convenience– You can have counseling from your house, office or even car (not moving of course!)- all in the comfort of gym shorts.
- Saving time– You don’t have to drive to your counselor’s office, get stuck in traffic, or have to wait three lights to get through that busy intersection. Some even have their session during their lunch hour… not that I recommend that.
- You’ve already got what you need– No need to purchase any new or fancy equipment. Chances are you already have a cellphone, computer or ipad- any of these will do.
- Validity– Telehealth counseling with a professional is legit. Not only has it been around awhile but there are ethics and rights that protect you. Only secure platforms are used and privacy is still a priority.
- Continuity of care– There is less chance of breaking the momentum of counseling. Car problems? Sick kiddo at home? Out of town conference? Counseling can still take place.
The flip side?
- Bad connection– Although you’re connected virtually, you’re obviously disconnected physically. It can be hard to read nonverbal communication and sometimes slow internet speed can make things choppy. Boo.
- Too “new school”– Technology can bring people together to communicate. While it has its perks, some feel it “gets in the way” of human connection. We get it- it can be kinda weird staring at a computer screen.
- Issues with technology– “Can you hear me now?” “Can you see me?” “Can you repeat that?” “Your face is frozen.” “Let’s hang up and try again.” Potential phrases you or your counselor could say.
So, what are my thoughts on the matter?
Telehealth isn’t my first option, but I’m glad it’s an option at all. Through the use of technology, I have been able to remain connected with clients despite global pandemics, unexpected family situations, and times their kid throws up in the car on the way to school. It has helped to bring people together and has helped to provide hope and emotional support through technology, even when things seem bleak. Thank you Mr. Technology, I’m glad you’re here.