Mental Health and Teletherapy: New Trends in Healthcare


Mental Health and Teletherapy: New Trends in Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the world as we know it. Aside from damaging and changing numerous industries, it brought about changes that will potentially remain and improve certain sectors. Healthcare belongs in that group.

With the spike in mental health-related issues, it was only natural to develop technologies that would simplify receiving care. Virtual counseling was one of the facets of digital health that boomed during the pandemic.

What is teletherapy?

According to the World Health Organization, there was a massive spike in mental health-related issues. A new global trend emerged: anxiety and depression levels increased by 25%. The situation became so dire that 90% of the countries surveyed by WHO reported that they plan on including mental health and psychological support in their COVID-19-related health plans. This new mental pandemic brought significant changes: first, it changed the discourse surrounding mental illness. Second, it allowed for recent technological trends to arise.

Telehealth counseling is defined as mental health counseling conducted through technology. Whether online or over the phone, it encompasses all methods beyond traditional visits to the office and mental care from your psychologist/psychiatrist. Further, new technologies and software created to address these particular issues allowed for different versions of therapeutic sessions, such as:

  • Those conducted over the phone
  • Group therapies through virtual counseling
  • Treatment through instant messaging or email
  • Using different apps developed by vendors and implemented in clinics

This new method of providing mental care allowed patients to reap numerous benefits and side-step many of the stigmas associated with seeing a professional in contemporary society. It is important to note that we are living through a conversation shift regarding mental health: people are becoming more open and accepting about the need to receive services such as telehealth counseling.

Cultural Shift

The rise of mental health issues influenced the technologies necessary to address it and how people think about mental illnesses. Several celebrities and high-profile personas spoke publicly about their problems, providing the support millions of people needed globally.
During the 2020 Olympic games, Simone Biles, an American gymnast, decided to withdraw from the competition because she wanted to assess and treat her mental health adequately. Global teletherapy was clearly on the rise as Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka similarly withdrew from the 2021 French Open, citing her battle with anxiety and depression.

It cannot be overlooked that such high-profile personas contributed to the overall acceptance of treatment related to mental health. However, there are more distressing factors, as well. In June 2020, there was three times the number of people experiencing anxiety when compared only to the second half of 2019. Online mental health counseling allows practitioners to address this growing number of patients in a more manageable way. Still, it also highlights an often overlooked problem: there aren’t enough therapists available. The US is facing a shortage of mental health professionals, and while it remains to be seen exactly how that issue will be addressed, there is no doubt that online platforms for the treatment of mental illnesses will help.

The Effectiveness of Teletherapy

Understandably, some people have reservations regarding virtual treatments. Many prefer face-to-face meetings with their mental care provider instead of having one over a Zoom meeting. Many individuals also choose to conduct their sessions while sitting at home in comfortable clothes and crocs.

According to American Psychologist, traditional face-to-face and online therapy are no different. In fact, in some patients, the study found that some patients showed better results from teleconferencing than in-person, although more research is necessary on this subject.

The number of psychologists who utilize digital technologies for therapy delivery rose from 7.1% to 85%. The benefits of teletherapy undeniably go beyond what has been exacerbated by the pandemic. We can take a closer look at some of the challenges and benefits of this technology.

Who Uses Online Counseling

It is worth noting that, much like the case, younger generations utilize this technology more often. In this particular case, the clients are primarily millennial women. Millennials are more open to using technology, followed by Generation X and Baby Boomers. According to YouGov for Forbes Health and a survey with over 1 200 participants, 21% of US adults have utilized virtual counseling services, compared to fewer older generations.

Teletherapy Stats

This technology’s availability doesn’t mean everyone has equal access to it. Studies show that minorities, such as Hispanics and African-Americans, have more limited access to technology, potentially resulting in fewer treatment options. However, it is worth noting that according to the University of Pennsylvania, the preexisting gaps in health delivery were removed with the onset of the pandemic. Telemedicine and online therapy improved African-Americans’ visit completion rates from 52% to 70% from January to June 2020, suggesting that this technology will address not only medical problems but potentially societal ones.

Challenges of Telehealth Counseling

There are still significant challenges when it comes to the implementation of this technology. Here we will briefly list the non-exhaustive list of impediments facing virtual sessions:

  • Insurance Might Not Cover It
    Much like practicing licenses, insurance companies’ policies vary on this issue, state to state. Inquire as to whether your insurance policy covers this type of treatment.
  • Out-Of-State Providers
    Some states prevent psychologists from providing telepsychology out of state. In cases where your provider isn’t located in the same state as you, they would need to obtain a practicing license for their state and the one you live in.
  • Compliance and Technology
    When dealing with protected health information, it is essential to stay HIPAA-compliant. Providers who utilize digital health must ensure that every aspect of their practice is up-to-code regarding their patients’ privacy and concerns.
  • Ethical Concerns
    Given that virtual counseling transcends geographical restraints, it is imperative to maintain ethical and legal accountability, regardless of the state in which providers or clients find themselves in.

Benefits of Teletherapy

We have already briefly touched upon some of the benefits of this technology. Here, we are going to list some of the most important ones:

  • Online and in-person treatments are just as effective.
  • Treatment using technology helps people with physical impairments that make traveling to their in-person appointments difficult.
  • It is a good option for remote areas in which there aren’t many professionals.
  • Some people prefer this approach as opposed to traditional visits.
  • Insurance companies are becoming more prepared to cover teletherapy as a service.

If you are looking for someone to help you develop and implement software to support this type of service, you have come to the right place. Vicert leverages its decades of experience in the digital health landscape to develop and design a solution that fits your needs exactly. Book a call with us to find out more!