Telehealth, telepsychology, telepractice, telemental health or online therapy are all terms for providing therapy or service without being in the same physical location as the patient. A variety of health providers offer telehealth services through diverse mechanisms. Cardiologists can review EKGs and diagnose heart problems from across the country, nurses can provide 24/7 access via help lines and psychologists can hold sessions with their patients via online video.
In contrast to a traditional psychotherapy session where a patient travels to meet their psychologist, telehealth provides a variety of benefits (both obvious and not-so-obvious) to the patient AND the psychologist.
- A psychologist doesn’t need the overhead of a brick and mortar office
Telehealth gives the psychologist the freedom to hold their sessions practically anywhere that they can have a quiet, distraction-free space.
- A patient saves time not driving to an office, finding parking, and sitting in a waiting room for their appointment.
Patients who would otherwise be unable to seek therapy due to time constraints have greater flexibility to meet with their psychologist, providing greater access to care while also decreasing missed or late appointments for the psychologist.
- Psychologists can utilize their particular specialization or treatment focus state-wide.
Whereas in a brick and mortar practice, a psychologist is limited to people in their immediate geographical area, telehealth allows providers the opportunity to see patients who live anywhere in the state(s) in which they are licensed. Furthermore, the development of interstate agreements such as PSYPACT are now allowing psychologists to treat patients across state lines where participant states have entered into that agreement.
- Telehealth has been shown to be just as effective, or in some situations more effective, than in-person therapy
A 2008 study in the Journal of Technology in Human Services, a 2009 review of 148 peer-reviewed publications in Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice and a 2014 review in the Australian Journal of Rural Health all conclude that therapeutic alliance and efficacy in telehealth at least meet the same levels of face-to-face care.