With more and more people suffering from mental illnesses or substance abuse, behavioral health services are needed now more than ever. While using standard methods are important, utilizing technology to make it as accessible as possible is now crucial. With communities dealing with intense shortages of these kinds of resources, telebehavioral health will help speed up the whole process.
But what is telebehavioral health exactly? And what are the advantages? Here is a complete guide for helping you understand all you need to know about the future of behavioral health.
Telebehavioral health or telemental health is when the benefits of behavioral therapy are channeled through alternate means of communication such as text-based messaging, video conferencing or phone calls.
Why Is Telebehavioral Health Needed?
America is currently stuck in an endless cycle of people who are suffering from substance abuse disorders or mental illnesses without enough providers to help. Countless people have had to suffer in silence, with no clear way to get assistance. For example:
- Close to 9 million adults have mental health or addiction disorders that are co-occurring.
- In America, 7% of people have major depression
- An estimated 40% of Americans who are dealing with mental illness are getting treatment.
- Around 20% of teenagers from 13 – 18 have severe mental disorders within the calendar year.
- For every 790 individuals, there is only one mental health provider.
- In America, close to 20 million people suffer from substance abuse.
- Approximately 14 million people live day to day with a serious mental illness.
- Close to 18% of adults in America have panic or anxiety disorders.
With numbers like these, it’s easy to see that there is a cycle, and it needs to be broken. The need is definitely there, but how does telebehavioral health truly help solve any of these problems?
What Are The Benefits Of Telebehavioral Health?
Telebehavioral health offers many benefits that can help reduce or stabilize a lot of the issues that patients are facing today. Some of these benefits are:
It Reduces Delays — On average, patients can sometimes be waiting for 25 days to see a counselor once an appointment has already been made. One of the huge advantages of telebehavioral health is that it can significantly reduce the wait times that have been a problem for such a long time. With this new method, patients don’t have to select a counselor from a small pool of providers only to be placed on a list that will have her waiting and waiting. A patient will be able to pick a professional who works remotely, so they can get started right away. Following in Alaska’s footsteps, providers in other states will grow significantly as geographic restrictions are lifted.
Produces Results — A concern that has often been raised when it comes to telebehavioral health and its methods is that it is not as effective as traditional, one on one treatment. Time and time again however, it is being proven that telebehavioral health services are working and are legitimate. With video conferencing being proved as effective as sitting with a counselor in person, the positive results of this method only continue to grow. These new means of providing behavioral health are increasing the options for providers and creating an alternative that is effective for every patient.
Creates More Access — As mentioned above, one of the biggest problems with behavioral health treatment has been its accessibility. If you are in an area where the commute is lengthy, or maybe the weather conditions are intense, getting the help you need can be extremely difficult. The use of telebehavioral health methods finally makes treatment for anyone living in a remote or rural area, a reality. In addition, some states are finally starting to lift geographical bans that previously prevented providers from practicing within their state. Telebehavioral health also opens a door to providing help within correctional facilities where face to face treatment is not as accessible.
Removes Stigma — For a lot of patients, appearing publicly and openly with their struggles can be extremely uncomfortable and in some cases, terrifying. It has been said by some that one of the most difficult walls to get past when it comes to people looking for assistance with substance abuse or mental disorders is the stigma placed around these kinds of issues. Thankfully, telebehavioral health offers options that create a healthy alternative for anyone facing these kinds of fears. Getting treatment over the phone, via text messages, through video conferencing, or other forms of communication over a distance can create an environment where patients are no longer hindered by their fear of what others may think. With this hindrance removed, many patients are now finding customized assistance that can be accessed on their own terms.
Saves Time For Everyone — Until now, getting any kind of behavioral treatment has meant that you need to invest time and resources into commuting to and from scheduled appointments on top of already busy schedules. With telebehavioral health, the need to commute has been eliminated. What was now 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back has now been traded for the time it takes to turn on a laptop or answer a phone call. Using this kind of treatment, patients are also able to set up appointments that are much more flexible to their schedules without having to change their own work or school schedules. These methods also save time for the counselors, which allows them to schedule even more appointments, helping even more people. Telebehavioral health is proving to save time for everyone.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Telebehavioral Health?
While there are many benefits to utilizing telebehavioral health over traditional methods, there are a few disadvantages that need to be addressed. Some of these disadvantages include:
Confidentiality Concerns — In this field, personal information is being exchanged back and forth and recorded for treatment purposes. Because of this, the patient definitely wants to have complete assurance that any information shared or communicated is being protected and secured from the outside world. Because this kind of treatment it utilizing online services, having patient information leaked or hacked into should be a genuine point of concern. On top of that, personal equipment can sometimes break or get stolen, leaving all of your private information exposed.
Insurance Coverage — Depending on where you live and where you work, telebehavioral health is not always covered by insurance providers. If you are forced to pay your appointment fees straight out of pocket, the expense can stack very fast and may force you to look for an alternative means of treatment. Be sure and research your health coverage policy to make sure e-therapy is covered before you pursue setting up appointments.
Miscommunication — One of the things that cause concern among therapists is that telecommunication does not allow you to pick up on subtle signs such as body language, expressions or vocal signals as easily. This kind of communication usually plays a big part in the therapist’s read of a patient and helps them discern behaviors, thoughts, feelings or even sometimes the certain moods of clients. Over long periods of time, not having access to these cues could eventually cause a misreading or miscommunication between a therapist and their client.
Legal Concerns —Because telebehavioral health is mediated through online therapy, there really aren’t any kinds of restrictions when it comes to geographic restraints. This can get blurry when it comes to enforcing ethical or legal codes. Because a therapist can potentially help anyone from anywhere on the planet, treatment guidelines or licensing can differ from state to state or country to country. Be sure and do plenty of research when you find a therapist that you want to pursue. They need to have the proper qualifications before any kind of appointment can be made.
What Is The Future Of Telebehavioral Health?
After looking through both the benefits and disadvantages of telebehavioral health, it’s clear that regardless of negative opinions, it will play a big part in the future of treating behavioral health.
As more and more people are impacted by the shortage of treatment options, this field will continue to grow and improve with great strides, improving the mental health of millions.
If you are looking to pursue this kind of treatment, be sure and check with your local therapist to see what kinds of e-therapy are being offered today!