The use of telepsychology as an alternative to in-person psychotherapy has grown exponentially as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the height of the pandemic, a high percentage of psychotherapy occurred through videoconferencing. Although some clients refused because they still wanted solely in-person treatment, most went along with the change. Many therapists, including myself, went exclusively to video-therapy, here called telepsych0logy, because they deemed it safest for patients and therapists alike.
Telepsychology is indeed coronavirus safe. It is also very flexible in its use. On a mutually agreed upon time, a licensed psychologist and a patient in Indiana can access each other anywhere and anytime as long as they have a secure internet connection and private places. Also, HIPAA compliance with Security and Privacy Rules are offered by specific platforms, including the one I use, Doxy.me.
It is reassuring that research supports the benefits of telepsychology. Calkins (2020), in the Monitor on Psychology, reviewed research that has confirmed the effectiveness of this delivery method as compared with in-person therapy. This review reported on a large meta-analysis comparing the two types of clinical interventions, and it found similar outcomes between the two methods. Even more recently, the Monitor on Psychology shared the results of a meta-analysis in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy that again suggested telepsychology should be every bit as effective as the traditional in-person method. This study included 103 studies with 5,245 subjects. It showed that telepsychology patients made significantly more improvement than control subjects who had not been treated. Moreover, those who had had either telepsychology or in-person treatment showed the same degrees of benefit.
Because data support the similar effectiveness of telepsychology and in-person psychotherapies, I am doing both at this point in the pandemic. I am offering a choice between in-person work to those who prefer it and telepsychology to those who see it as having advantages. However, if COVID-19 continues to spin out of control, I will go back to telepsychology only.
Yet an important question remains. Will the States and insurance companies continue to support telepsychology after the pandemic? Only time will tell. But it is hoped that individual providers, their patients, and professional organizations like the American Psychological Association will advocate fully for it as a valuable contribution to psychological treatment.
Calkins, H. (2020). Online therapy is here to stay. Monitor on Psychology, Jan./Feb., 78-82.
In Brief (2021) Video-based therapy is effective. Monitor on Psychology, Sept, p. 17.