Tele-Mental Health: Wellness on Your Terms

Telehealth isn’t a new innovation by any stretch of the matter. An article dating back to 1879 stressed the need for using the telephone to decrease in-person doctor visits. Nowadays you can send your doctor a picture from your smartphone and they’ll be able to not only diagnose your condition but also write a prescription. The same is happening for tele-mental health. Melissa Douglass, the owner of Goal-Driven Counseling, sits down with BlackDoctor to talk about tele-mental health.

What is telehealth?
Telehealth is the general term used in the health profession where the provider and client are physically located in two separate locations using a HIPAA secure technological means to communicate. The methods of telecommunication include synchronous, real-time, options such as a telephone (audio-only) and video-conferencing; as well as asynchronous, store-and-forward, options such as email and text-based formats. Telehealth spans across disciplines including tele-medicine, tele-psychiatry, and tele-mental health. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and therapist, I will focus on the latter.

Tele-mental health is also referenced as online counseling, virtual therapy, e-counseling, and distance counseling. Research over the last 20+ years has shown tele-mental health to be just as effective as traditional, in-person, therapy. The largest difference is the responsibility of ensuring privacy and confidentiality is shifted to the client within their natural environment.

Why wouldn’t someone want to come to your office?
Seeking mental health support is still heavily stigmatized, which can make it difficult for individuals to physically come into a clinician’s office. Individuals who live with severe social anxieties and debilitating symptoms of major depressive disorder and PTSD may find tele-mental health services more accessible and comfortable than traditional face-to-face counseling.

Mental health clinicians and clients are embracing and utilizing distance counseling as it alleviates some past barriers to accessing services, including transportation concerns, geographic limitations, scheduling conflicts, and