What is Teletherapy?
Goode and Shinkle (2019) created the following definition of teletherapy:
“Teletherapy is the online delivery of speech, occupational, and mental health therapy services via high-resolution, live video conferencing.”
Teletherapy, also known as online therapy, e-therapy, or video therapy, is therapy delivered through a virtual platform via a computer. If you’ve ever used FaceTime or Skype, it’s essentially the same thing – except more secure and with a qualified psychologist, therapist or counselor at the other end instead of a distant friend or relative.
While it has grown in availability over the last few years, teletherapy has been around since the 1990s in the United States and is considered a highly effective method for therapy delivery.
Who is Teletherapy For?
Teletherapy is beneficial for a range of people, for a diverse set of circumstances or experiences, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health therapy.
It has been used for regular one-to-one therapy sessions but also used in group therapy sessions to support aging individuals diagnosed with HIV. Another way teletherapy has been used has been in the delivery of behavioral training to caregivers of young people with ADHD.
How Do Online Therapy Sessions Work?
Teletherapy sessions work much the same way as traditional therapy sessions with only one significant difference – the therapist and the client are not in the same room.
Sessions are scheduled at an appropriate and suitable time and day for each party, who then log-in via an agreed, secure video platform. The therapist and client can see and hear each other in real-time during the session via the use of webcams and headsets. Through this virtual environment, they can interact with each other, and the therapist uses the same traditional techniques and activities they would use in a face-to-face therapy session.
As with face-to-face therapy, a client may only seek out the therapist for one session to deal with a current life situation, or they may agree to on-going sessions.
Are Teletherapy Sessions Private?
Therapists are ethically and legally bound by privacy laws to not share details about their teletherapy sessions with third parties, just as with face-to-face sessions. Therapists must ensure they are in a private and secure room before engaging in any teletherapy sessions. Sessions should not be recorded or shared, unless with explicit agreement from the patient.
From the patient end, it is also down to them to ensure they conduct their end of the session in an equally private area to ensure their confidentiality.
Some therapists have argued that teletherapy is more private than traditional face-to-face sessions, where patients who know each other have the potential to bump into each other on the premises where therapy takes place.
In terms of the security of the software used, therapists utilizing teletherapy must use specialized software that is fully encrypted, offering a high level of security and privacy. Any software that therapists use for telepsychology must be approved by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This is legislation that ensures data privacy and security for safeguarding medical information, including therapy.