Diana Kelly Levey

The Rise of Virtual Therapy During COVID-19

man using talk therapy on phone

September 2, 2020 | Categories:

When towns and cities across the country shut down for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, so too did most therapists’ offices. Luckily, many practitioners quickly pivoted to virtual treatments for online therapy, allowing their patients to conduct their sessions either online or through their phones. That may have opened the doors to all sorts of virtual-therapy options.

Online services have skyrocketed in popularity—the therapy app Talkspace reports a 250 percent increase in live video sessions since
March 2019—and are drawing clients both for their accessibility and affordability (many are much less expensive than in-person visits).

But logging onto a website and seeking treatments can look and feel a little unnerving. Here, a few guidelines to follow to help you get the most out of your experience.

How to Make the Most of Telemental Health Services During the Pandemic

Establish a Connection
And we’re not just talking your Wi-Fi. “The most important part of therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist,” says Rachel O’Neill, PhD, director of clinical effectiveness for Talkspace. “It’s important to find someone you feel connected to, someone who you feel comfortable sharing with, and someone you feel really understands you.” If you can’t do that, ask to switch to someone else associated with the practice.


Keep It Consistent
Set up a regular schedule like you would with in-person appointments. The good thing is that there are a lot fewer roadblocks when
you just have to log on. “Compliance is so important with therapy—and with telehealth, it’s much easier to show
up,” says psychiatrist Nina Vasan, MD, founder of Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation.

Create a Safe Space

Although it’s a win for convenience, one challenge of tele-mental health is that you’re talking about your problems at home. If you live with someone, there’s a potential for them—or neighbors in apartments—to overhear your private conversations. Some people may have concerns about privacy, or they may feel invaded upon when you’re viewing them on a camera in their home, says
psychiatrist Margaret Seide, MS, MD. Find an area that you feel free to talk and freely express your feelings.

Look Around
There are several options available to patients, and more are likely to come soon, as telemedicine in general gains in popularity. Both Talkspace and BetterHelp offer around-the-clock options as well as texting and chat services. The website 7Cups has free live help from volunteers 24/7. And the service MDLive also provides access to a psychiatrist if you need prescriptions for treatment.

This article originally appeared in Centennial Publishing’s Mental Health magazine. See the PDF here.

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