If there’s any silver lining in the current pandemic, it’s probably this:
Telehealth—the digital delivery of health-related services and education via remote technologies like internet-connected phones, computers, or tablets—has expanded rapidly for millions of us around the country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, online therapy, sometimes called teletherapy or telepsychology, is proving to be of the most popular types of telehealth during the unusually stressful and chaotic COVID-19 era.
It’s not hard to see why. Done right, online therapy is convenient, comfortable, secure, and just as effective as traditional in-person therapy visits, at least according to a still-growing body of research. But before you explore online therapy yourself, it’s important to check off some items on the “Is This Right For Me?” list to make sure you’re selecting the best resources for your mental health needs.
3 Things to Consider Before Trying Online Therapy
Is My Therapist Licensed?
Psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and related providers are legally required to be licensed in whichever state they practice, and as a potential client you should have access to that information. For example, you can look up the license number and status of any therapist offering online therapy in New York by searching for his or her name on the York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions website. Most other states offer similar directories.
And by the way:
When it comes to finding a mental health counselor you can trust, licensure really matters. According to the American Psychological Association, working with a properly licensed therapist protects you, since you’ll know you’ll be working with someone who is fully trained and qualified. Working with a licensed therapist also sets you up for appropriate recourse in the unlikely event that any problems come up with your treatment. Plus, licensed mental health providers are knowledgeable about the importance of informed consent, specifically as it relates to online therapy (such as the storage, transfer, and disposal of sensitive patient data).
And believe it or not, just about anyone can claim to be a therapist online even if they lack the necessary qualifications. This is because basic words like “psychotherapist” or “therapist” aren’t legally protected in most parts of the United States. So, before signing up for an online therapy consultation, be sure you’re willing to do a little homework beforehand—that way, you can have greater confidence in the person you decide to work with.
Is My Access Secure?
There is a wide range of companies and platforms offering online therapy right now. But for your confidentiality and security, you need to make sure the company or provider you choose uses a HIPAA-compliant website or app. After all, effective therapy demands that we discuss intensely personal issues without the fear of our privacy and trust being violated. Look for a provider or online therapy company who is transparent about what they’re doing to protect your privacy, such as using anti-malware software, firewalls, and encryption.
As for your end of the bargain, make sure you have access to somewhere that is quiet, private, and safe during your online therapy sessions. You don’t want to risk being interrupted or overheard while discussing sensitive issues.
Is My Therapy Covered by My Insurance?
While the number of insurance companies who are willing to cover the costs of online therapy is growing, this isn’t the norm (yet). Check with your insurance company before pursuing online therapy to find out if your services will be covered.
If your online therapy won’t be covered by your insurance provider, be sure to take the costs of your services into consideration as you shop around for a licensed therapist to work with. Reputable online therapists and companies make it easy to ensure you get affordable care without sacrificing on quality.
As an example, Plushcare offers free first-time consultations as well as affordable monthly subscriptions that work out to as little as $35 to $65 per session—that’s a hugely competitive rate compared to the average cost of an in-person session with a New York licensed therapist. Plus, since you can have your therapy session in the privacy and comfort of your living room couch, you don’t have to worry about transportation, time off work, or childcare costs, either.
Online therapy in New York and other states is changing the modern-day landscape of mental health counseling. By providing people with convenient and confidential access to licensed therapists, previously immutable barriers like lack of transportation, childcare, and social distancing efforts are no longer standing in the way of people who need support. Consider online therapy if you’ve been dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions and would like to get some professional (and digital) help.