The Benefits of Telehealth
Over the last several years, many people have been hesitant to engage in therapy via telehealth. Why? Because it is a new concept and some fear that it will lead to feeling disconnected from their provider and their treatment goals. Others may fear that their therapy will be less effective if conducted via telehealth. However, I have been providing telehealth mental health services since prior to the pandemic. Not only have I felt equally connected to my patients, but also I have witnessed equally effective and focused treatment via the telehealth modality. This is, in part, because I provide evidence-based, often manualized care. What exactly does that mean? It means that I am often using a structured guide or tool, such as a manual, worksheet, or specific activity/exercise, to ensure that your treatment is effective and supported by research, no matter where you are sitting. Here at Oakheart we value using evidence-based approaches for this reason. When providing evidence-based care via telehealth, treatment has remained highly effective for several reasons and many of my patients have reported the following benefits of completing their treatment virtually.
Time and emotional energy: Patients save time commuting to sessions and therefore they do not need to reserve as much time for sessions if they are conducted via telehealth. If you can carve out exactly 1 hour for your mental health every week, you can engage in effective therapy. After sessions, you can quickly return to your busy life.
As noted earlier, evidence based and/ or manualized treatment can be completed anywhere. Most of the time, you will have copies of the worksheets or handouts I am referencing or we will be working on skills application, thought challenging, or homework planning together in sessions. I will ask you to complete many assignments and most practicing will take place outside of the session. In part, this is because each session is only one hour of each week and permanent psychological, behavioral, and neurological changes are only possible if some of the other 168 hours in the week are utilized for practicing skills learned in treatment.
If you are participating in exposure-based treatment with me, we will sometimes use the treatment time for completing exposure work, much of which is more effective outside of an office space. Exposure work consists of gradually and repeatedly approaching feared situations, thoughts, memories, sensations, etc. in order to overcome the fear. Many feared situations are present outside of my office space. Therefore, telehealth has allowed me to help my patients with an exposure that required situations in their home or in another space beyond my office. I believe this is why telehealth has actually been a better option for many of my patients with anxiety disorders or OCD, as I have been able to more effectively assist with the exposures.
Service access: I work with patients who reside all over Illinois. As long as you are in the state of Illinois, you can access any telehealth provider in Illinois. As a specialist in trauma disorders, anxiety disorders, and OCD, I am able to access so many patients who need specialized care who typically would not be able to work with me due to the location barrier.
Flexibility: Wherever you can carve out an hour that aligns with your provider’s availability, you can schedule your session. Telehealth has allowed me to be much more flexible as a provider as well, as I can also work remotely, as needed. Also, when someone needs a session more immediately, I am often able to find a time for them to be seen quickly.
Effectiveness: Many patients worry that treatment will be less effective if completed via telehealth. However, my experiences as a provider and research suggests that evidence-based treatments remain highly effective via telehealth, including cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders (Karpov et al. 2023) and depression (Komariah et al, 2022), exposure and response prevention treatment for OCD (Feusner et al., 2022; Rees et al., 2016), and cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD (Bisson et al, 2022).
In sum, if you are considering telehealth services at Oakheart or with another practice or hospital, your hesitation about this new modality is remarkably valid. However, it appears that telehealth may be the best fit for many patients and that the research corroborates my hypotheses in its effectiveness. It is my commitment as an evidence-based provider to ensure that the modality of treatment I am using will not compromise the care of my patients and I believe that telehealth will remain a fantastic option for effective and expansive mental health services for all individuals in need.
If you are interested in counseling, call OakHeart at 630-570-0050 or 779-201-6440 or email us at Contact.OH@OakHeartCenter.com. We have counselors, psychologists, and social workers available to help you at one of our locations in North Aurora, IL, Sycamore, IL, and/or via Telehealth Online Therapy Services serving Kane County, DeKalb County, Dupage County, and beyond.
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Feusner, J. D., Farrell, N. R., Kreyling, J., McGrath, P. B., Rhode, A. R., Faneuff, T., Lonsway, S., Mohideen, R., Jurich, J. E., Trusky, L., & Smith, S. M. (2022). Online video teletherapy treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder using exposure and response prevention: Clinical outcomes from a retrospective longitudinal observational study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 24(5), e36431. doi: 10.2196/36431
Karpov, B., Lipsanen, J.O., Ritola, V., Rosenström, T., Saarni, S., Pihlaja, S., Stenberg, J., Laizane, P., Joffe, G. The overall anxiety severity and impairment scale as an outcome measure in internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: observational study. (2023). J Med Internet Res, 25, e45362. doi: 10.2196/45362
Komariah, M., Amirah, S., Faisal, E. G., Prayogo, S. A., Maulana, S., Platini, H., Suryani, S., Yosep, I., & Arifin, H. (2022). Efficacy of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and anxiety among global population during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic review and meta-analysis of a randomized controlled trial study. Healthcare (Basel). 30;10(7), 1224. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10071224
Rees, C. S., Anderson, R. A., Kane, R. T., & Finlay-Jones, A. L.(2016). Online obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment: Preliminary results of the “OCD? Not Me!” self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy program for young people. JMIR Ment Health, 3(3), e29. doi: 10.2196/mental.5363