Telehealth, telemental health, or “distance counseling” refer to counseling sessions that are conducted through a secure video format rather than in the office setting. Sessions take place through HIPAA-compliant software dedicated for this purpose.
Traditionally, counseling is best experienced “live and in-person.” There are elements of holding common space together, experiencing the atmosphere of a healing environment separate from the chaos of normal life activities, and seeing one another’s nonverbal communication that are irreplaceable. However, we have to acknowledge the reality that sometimes there are barriers to accessing treatment in the office:
- transportation problems
- distance, such as living in a rural area with few available providers or specialists
- chronic pain or conditions which may limit mobility, or risk of illness due to compromised immune system
- frequently moving back and forth between towns, such as college students living on campus
- preventative responses to public health emergencies, such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic requiring the practice of “social distancing”
For these situations, telehealth is an alternative solution to receiving needed mental health services. The level of care and professionalism is the same as you would expect to receive “in person.”
There are some limitations to telehealth, however. For instance, the technology needs to work like it’s supposed to! You might miss out on some of the nuances of nonverbal communication that are important in therapy. It’s not a great fit for those having a very difficult time with their mental health symptoms or who are in a crisis: in-person support is best for that. You have to be able to ensure and protect your own privacy on your end. That means using public WiFi, or logging in while sharing a small apartment space with other family members, would not work.
Here are the logistical “must haves” to use telehealth services:
- You must be physically located within the state of Connecticut due to licensing laws.
- Health insurance plan that covers telehealth services*, or a private-pay fee arrangement
- Computer, laptop, smart phone, or tablet with camera, microphone, and speakers and latest update of Chrome, Firefix, or Safari web browser.
- SECURE Internet connection with at least 10mbps speed
- A location that has good lighting and comfortable seating, that is private, where you cannot be heard by others. Typically, this means being home by yourself, or in a room with a door that closes. Tip: a great way to mask sound is to place right outside the room door a fan, speaker with music, or “white noise” playing on another device.
- Other people cannot be in the room! If others are present without prior agreement, or enter the room during session and don’t leave, the session must end.
- Before session, you must check in and provide your physical location address, emergency contact, and a phone number where you could be reached if the technology disconnects.
If these elements are possible for you, and accessing the office is not, telehealth services could be a good fit for you. Scroll down to learn how to get started!
*Health insurance plans with which I am in network which allow telehealth include Husky (approved as an emergency measure during COVID-19), some Anthem plans, and Cigna. Check with your insurance to make sure the services you receive will be covered.
How Do I Start?
After reviewing the requirements above and deciding that this could work, follow these steps:
- Read and sign the Consent for Telemental Health.
- Note: Consent is available for e-signing in the Client Portal (optional). If you don’t have a Client Portal account and would like to get set up, let me know. Email is required for Client Portal access.
- If you are using a smart phone or tablet, download the free “Telehealth by Simple Practice” app from the App Store or iTunes Store. Review the tips for a good call on this FAQ article provided by Simple Practice.
- Set up a trial call with me to test the connection and learn to use the video. You will receive a reminder email 10 minutes in advance with a unique link to join the session; if you do not have email, I will send this by text.
- If everything works and you feel comfortable, we can proceed as scheduled.
- At every call, you will be asked to “check in” with your current location address, phone number in case we get disconnected, any changes in emergency contact information, and verifying that you have a private location and secure Internet connection.