So How Does Virtual Therapy Even Work? Everything You Need to Know Before You Start

We're all spending a lot more time inside, away from friends, IRL classes, favorite restaurants, and all the joys that used to make up everyday life. Naturally, medical experts have brought up concerns for mental health, and college students are talking about it too. Nearly half of Americans reported experiencing negative mental health following the outbreak of COVID-19, as reported in a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this month. 

Social distancing has made it harder to seek therapy, because face-to-face sessions are on pause right now. Despite the avoidance of close contact imposing this challenge, professionals and patients alike are trying to make the transition to virtual therapy. But how does "virtual therapy" even work if it's something you want to get started with? Below is everything you need to know about the online service.

 

  1. 1. Virtual therapy is exactly what it sounds like.

    The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) defines virtual therapy as "an online therapy, also known as telemental health, [where] a therapist or counselor provides psychological counseling and support over the internet." Sessions can utilize the following communication channels: email, online, chat, video conferencing, or phone call. Even if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic, telemental health services are beneficial to anyone who normally is unable to leave their home, works irregular hours, or resides in a rural area.

    As states carry out stay-at-home orders, virtual therapy is being offered to individuals to help them get through this unique time. The AADA compiled a list of providers by state and expertise for anyone seeking care. If you're still undecided about whether to start therapy, in the meantime you can also try a mental health app that provides tools for practicing mindfulness, like Flipd.

  2. 2. Different factors come into play when choosing the best fit.

    As you make your decision, remember that this is for you. What works for another person may not necessarily work for you. There are several questions you should ask yourself: Do you prefer messages over video calls? Are you able to find a private space in your home for your sessions? What plan fits your budget? If you're using an app, are you guaranteed to be matched with a licensed therapist? How soon would you like to be matched with a therapist? 

    It's totally okay if this is your first time seeking professional help. Therapy is not as intimidating as it appears—and now that it's become easier to have access, don't hesitate to get help if you're struggling. 

  3. 3. It costs less than traditional therapy. 

    There are key differences between traditional therapy and virtual therapy, especially in terms of cost. According to Thervo, an in-office therapy session can cost as low as $20 with insurance coverage, while it can be anywhere between $50 and $250 without one. Online therapy, on the other hand, can sometimes cost nothing at all.

    Crisis Text Line is giving 24/7 access to a counselor via text or Facebook messenger for free. Lots of other online therapy services are also available too, but just be sure to review different features and pricing. According to Insure, private insurers such as Aetna and Blue Shield are waiving copays as patients switch to online sessions. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also plans to cover some of the costs.

  4. 4. Be ready to identify your emotions and become more open.

    Since sessions will be through electronic communication, your therapist won't be able to make direct observations as they would during a face-to-face meeting. Openly identifying your emotions and needs will be beneficial for both you and your therapist. This will help them work through the situation with you.

We're living through a difficult period in history. As a response, feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and depression can arise. Giving virtual therapy a shot may help ease those feelings. You're not alone. Given the circumstances, adulting isn't very easy right now, but it's important to take care of yourself. Don't feel bad for needing a little bit of help to get through this time. Voice out what you feel and what you need, no matter how small or big.