• Christen Murphy, LMFT

Let's Talk About Teletherapy

So, if you're reading this and you're in the least bit up to date on world, local, or even Facebook news, you know how deep we're all in this Corona-virus (COVID-19) stuff.

Don't worry, this isn't another post about Corona-virus, but this is a post about how mental health professionals are working to make sure that your mental health needs are addressed and cared for during this whole virus thing because if we're being really honest, we don't know how long this will be impacting us.

For those of you that know about my practice already, you know that I've offered teletherapy since day one. It's really the future of the medical field and many of you have probably been offered similar experiences with a tele-doctor system from your insurance company or medical doctor. I know personally it's made my life much easier during times of having a sinus infection, needing some simple antibiotics, needing to work, and not wanting to take time off to visit the doctor's office. One simple call into the tele-doc and my prescription was called in for me!

Teletherapy works a little different, but the premise is the same. I use a system that is very secure and HIPAA compliant, which basically means that your information is protected and that our session together is protected. Other systems such as Facetime or Skype don't have that same protection. Once your teletherapy session is booked, I will email you a secure link and you'll use that to access our secure session at our designated time. You'll also receive an email reminder with the link just in case you happen to have forgotten or lost it. Teletherapy is super easy to use and during times like corona-virus can keep everyone safer than meeting in person.

Here are some common questions I get asked about teletherapy:

Q: What do I need to access the session?

A: All you need is a device (computer, tablet, phone) and internet connection. If you choose to use a tablet or phone, there is a mobile app you'll have to download ahead of time. It is usually beneficial to ensure that you select a time that you'll be in a quiet, safe location to have your session.

Q: Can I switch back and forth between teletherapy and face to face sessions?

A: Of course! Currently, my practice is strictly teletherapy due to the corona-virus pandemic, however I am happy to transition to face-to-face sessions once the pandemic is over.

Q: Is teletherapy as effective as face-to-face sessions?

A: The dynamics are often very similar with face to face and teletherapy, especially once the "new" wears off of talking to someone on a screen! There are times I've found that people are more open on teletherapy than face-to-face, however largely I find that progress is very similar across both platforms.

Q: When do you recommend teletherapy over face-to-face sessions?

A: Teletherapy sessions can be extremely beneficial across a variety of situations. Here are some common examples:

  • if you need to have session over your lunch and the drive time is too long to and from my office,

  • if either of us has a cold,

  • if you are an NC resident but are located outside of town from my office,

  • if you are a college student and travel back to your hometown over summers or school breaks,

  • if you have a high-status career and don't want to be seen in the waiting room,

  • if your immune system is compromised and you want to protect yourself from public areas,

  • etc., etc., etc.

Q: How would I complete my paperwork and pay for my session if we use teletherapy?

A: Paperwork would be sent to you electronically and completed ahead of time so that we could use our full session time to discuss your treatment needs. Payment would be made using my electronic health system and your credit/debit/HSA card. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please address this with me prior to scheduling your session.

Q: I have concerns about teletherapy not being as personal as face to face therapy is. How do you address this and make sure it isn't a problem?

A: I completely understand how this can be a concern. Therapy is meant to be personal and personable. You come to therapy and you get a relationship with your therapist. You get encouragement and a real person who cares deeply about the self that is you. I make sure that no matter what means we use for our therapy, you get the same level of attention, compassion, and empathy that you would get from me in my therapy office. I maintain eye contact with you. I work to pick up on your body language. I work to understand the self that is present during our time. I will also check in with you to make sure that you are feeling heard, understood, and that you are getting what you need from our time together. I deeply encourage you to be honest and reflect on any pieces that you feel might be missing from our sessions, if any, and communicate those with me early on so that they can be addressed.

Q: What are the potential down-sides to teletherapy?

A: Teletherapy can obviously have some downsides. Connection issues can and do happen. I do my best to test and ensure that my connection is good before my sessions for your convenience. If this happens during your session, we will try to disconnect and try again. If for whatever reason it isn't working, we can elect to try another available time.

**Something else helpful to note about teletherapy is that a provider can only offer it in the state(s) in which they are licensed in. So, Hope for the Journey and myself can only offer teletherapy to NC residents located in NC at the time of the session.** The cool thing about this is that even if you move to another town, go on vacation to the beach, or visit your grandparents several counties away... as long as you are in NC, you can still have your session with your same therapist, which is awesome for making consistent progress because who wants to have to miss session over and over and over?

I'm hopeful that this post helps clear up some questions about teletherapy. Above all, I'm super grateful that this resource allows me to continue to work during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to reach out if you have additional questions about my practice or would like to get on the schedule!

Stay well, friends!