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Teletherapy: What Is It and What to Expect - By Tad Lusk, LPC

If you’re wondering about teletherapy, what it is and what to expect from it, you are in the right place.

In this blog, I’ll be explaining what “teletherapy” means, what the process is like, teletherapy vs. in person therapy, possible advantages and disadvantages, and what you can expect from the process.

Therapy in the Era of COVID-19

It probably comes as no surprise that therapy—like so many other experiences—has changed fundamentally during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fortunately, the therapy business is alive and well. The essential importance of mental health has now become even more apparent and those who need support can still get it—albeit in a different context.

As a therapist—and someone who also sees a counselor online—I can speak to both perspectives. So let’s take a look at what teletherapy is and what it entails.

What is Teletherapy? 

Quite simply, teletherapy is therapy done at a distance. Instead of meeting with your therapist at their office, you meet on a secure video chat—similar to Zoom, Skype, et al. however with some potential differences I’ll discuss below.

“Teletherapy” can also mean therapy by phone call, but currently most teletherapy—including what I’m providing to clients—is video.

As you can imagine, there are pros and cons to this, so let’s take a look!

Advantages of Teletherapy

Here are some of the advantages of teletherapy: 

  • From the comfort of your home. For some clients this can be more comfortable than the office setting that may feel more formal. Likewise, if you struggle with anxiety or nervousness about the process, you may find it easier to connect remotely in an environment that feels safe, familiar and comfortable for you.
  • No commute. You can save time, effort and hassle when you don’t have to fight traffic to get to your appointment. (Personally I love this one!) 
  • Easier scheduling. Additionally, no commute time means appointments can be easier to schedule at a convenient time for you and your therapist.
  • Convenience. All of the above add up to convenience and convenience can sometimes make therapy more accessible. And that can make the difference between committing to bettering yourself through the therapeutic process, and putting it off. One of the biggest barriers I see clients encounter with therapy is just being able to make it enough of a priority alongside their other commitments to stick with it and get great results. So if that’s the case for you and teletherapy will make it easier, go for it!
  • Right now, it’s safer: During the COVID-19 pandemic, when leaving home potentially exposes self and others to risk of infection, it’s simply safer to stay at home and utilize teletherapy right now.

Things to Consider 

  • Focus. As much as being at home can be a real advantage as discussed above, it can also present possible challenges. For instance, finding a quiet, private space where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Pets, children, or other family members might mean noises, distractions or simply not allow you the privacy you’d like—especially if you live in a small home or apartment. In addition, some clients prefer coming to the office as they find it helps them get into a focused, intentional mindset and routine for therapeutic work.
  • Connection (the internet kind). While most home internet connections seem to handle the live video chat format of teletherapy sessions just fine, occasionally there are freezes or dropouts that can interrupt the flow of your sessions. While this doesn’t happen too often in my experience, it still happens sometimes, and can be frustrating and take up valuable time. Similarly, if you’re in a remote location with poor or spotty Internet, teletherapy might not work.
  • Connection (the personal kind). Personally, I’ve continued to have meaningful and productive sessions as a therapist and a client while doing teletherapy. However, some people might find it a little harder to feel that personal connection you get when sitting with your therapist in person. It’s worth considering whether this might be an issue for you. Sometimes you won’t know until you try!

What to Expect

In many ways, a teletherapy session is very similar to a traditional session. Typically sessions are between 45 – 60 minutes and follow a similar flow to an office therapy session. 

Your therapist can still share visual or written material or “homework.” Specific forms of trauma therapy, such as EMDR, can look different, however, in most cases there are adaptations that can be made to virtually any form of therapy to make things applicable in a video context.

Common Questions

Is it private/secure?

Yes, depending on the platform your therapist uses. I use a secure app called Spruce that is completely compliant with HIPAA, so you can rest assured that your privacy and health information is kept completely secure. Similarly, if you choose to seek teletherapy through a website such as BetterHelp or TalkSpace, these sites maintain HIPAA compliant platforms. However, some common platforms like Skype or FaceTime are not HIPAA compliant. 

How frequent are the sessions?

I treat frequency of sessions the same as when I see clients at the office—usually once a week, or once every two weeks.

How much does it cost? 

I charge the same fee for teletherapy as in-person sessions. Generally though, therapists in private practice each set their own fees, so you can always inquire. Likewise, with a site such as BetterHelp, you pay a monthly fee rather than paying your therapist after each service.

Does my insurance cover teletherapy?

Because teletherapy is becoming more and more common, many insurances cover teletherapy. However, if you’re planning to use insurance, you should check with your insurance plan to make sure they cover teletherapy, and what the benefits are. In addition, as with any form of therapy, if you want to use insurance rather than pay out of pocket, you’ll need to check with your prospective therapist to see if they take your insurance.

Should You Do Teletherapy?

Ultimately, deciding whether teletherapy—or therapy in general—is right for you is a completely individual choice.

Here are some questions you can reflect on to help guide you:

  • What are the ways I could benefit from therapy?
  • How long have I been thinking about going to therapy?
  • What are the pros and cons of doing teletherapy for me personally?
  • What are the possible costs of waiting? 

If you think teletherapy might be for you, or even if you’ve been considering seeing a therapist in general and aren’t sure, I would encourage you to at least give it a try. For the time being, most therapy is being conducted online. And while I plan to return to the office when it’s safe and responsible to do so, as of this writing, we don’t know when that will be.

Where to Start?

Most therapists are now offering teletherapy. But if you’re unsure where to start to find the right therapist for you, check out my FREE guide, “Finding the Right Therapist Checklist: 7 Essential Steps to Find a Therapist Who’s Right For You.” This guide will walk you step by step through the process so that finding a therapist has never been easier! Click here to download it for free.

If You Want to Work With Me

If you’re interested in working one-on-one with me, good news: I’m still accepting new clients for teletherapy and coaching. *For therapy (aka psychotherapy or counseling) you must be in Colorado, due to regulations. However, for coaching (aka life coaching, mentoring) you can be anywhere in the world! For more clarification on the differences between “counseling” and “coaching,” click here and scroll down to FAQ.

In Colorado and want to book a teletherapy session with me today? It’s easy. Just click here and then click on “Request Appointment” to schedule yourself right on my calendar!

Interested in coaching instead? Contact tad@tadlusk.com

While teletherapy may be different than what you’re used to, don’t let fear of the unknown stop you—there’s never been a better (or more important) time to reach out and get help & support during these trying times.

Stay Well, my friends!

~ Tad