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Although many non-essential businesses are now reopening, the COVID-19 continues to be a major health concern for many professionals and parents alike. Even if workplaces have been permitted to reopen, some business owners are continuing their work-from-home measures until later notice — and Americans are still being recommended to stay home as much as possible in order to keep flattening the curve. So it’s no surprise that many of the 11 million meetings that take place each day throughout the U.S. are still being conducted via video conferencing.

Of course, these meetings aren’t limited to communications between coworkers. The rapidly growing popularity of telehealth has allowed patients to receive the care they need without making the physical trek to their doctors’ offices. And although only 17.2% of all Americans were covered by Medicare in 2017, many major health insurance providers have expanded their coverage to include telehealth offerings. This move has made safe and affordable medical treatment a reality for many of us, especially in the midst of the coronavirus.

But did you know you can do more than receive a medical diagnosis or get a prescription refilled thanks to this technology? Many medical teams are now offering teleconference options in order to see patients without posing any kind of transmission risk. That includes a host of mental health professionals who are equipped to provide therapy sessions via video chat. If you or your child is having a tough time handling these drastic pandemic-related changes, you may want to consider scheduling a session. But how do these sessions work? And how do you know if it’s time to reach out? We’ll answer some of those questions below.

What Is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy involves speaking with a mental health professional — like a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor — remotely. There are a number of different tech methods used in teletherapy, including video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and texting.

Teletherapy isn’t actually new, as it’s been around in some shape or form for over 20 years. But it’s certainly become more popular since the pandemic hit. Talkspace, one of the more popular online therapy platforms around, has reported that live video sessions have increased by 250% and its users have doubled year-over-year since mid-March. That’s partially thanks to the relaxation of HIPAA guidelines, which occurred that same month and now allow therapists to help patients in other states and to provide services via Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts.

Do All Therapists Offer Video Sessions?

One question many ask is whether or not teletherapy is actually effective. Research suggests that teletherapy can be just as effective (or sometimes even more effective) than in-person therapy. That said, it may not be ideal for all patients; some do struggle with this format and certain conditions can be better managed with in-person sessions. Of course, there are also physical privacy issues that some clients face. If they don’t live alone or have access to a private space, it can be more difficult for them to feel comfortable opening up. And if you don’t have access to reliable WiFi, that can certainly disrupt a session. Additionally, experts suggest that you properly vet therapists before meeting with them remotely.

The good news is that more and more therapists are now offering this option. It can be a great way to serve patients during an especially stressful time and allow the therapist to continue working. And since healthcare coverage has been expanded to cover teletherapy in many cases, it’s within everyone’s best interests to offer it when possible. That does involve investing in the proper technology, but most mental health professionals find that investment is well worth it.

Could My Child Benefit From Teletherapy?

As a parent, you might have already attended therapy sessions in the past or have become familiar with your own mental health struggles. But it’s also possible that your child might benefit from meeting with a therapist in this fashion. For example, approximately 827,000 divorces happen every year; whether your separation is new or your custody arrangements have been interrupted due to the pandemic, your child may need some extra support.

Addtionally, you may want to seek out teletherapy options for your child or teen if they show signs of sleep disruption, increased moodiness, appetite or activity level changes, pronounced aggression or isolation, lowered grades, lost friendships, frequent arguments with loved ones, or detachment from beloved activities.

How Can I Help My Child Get the Most Out of Teletherapy?

Attending therapy sessions in an office setting is a much different experience from meeting with a therapist remotely. For your child or teen to get the most out of a session, you should establish a private and quiet place for their sessions where they can feel free to talk openly. While some therapists may encourage parents to attend sessions if their child is young, you should only do so under certain circumstances (like family sessions). You can and should, however, check in at the end of the session to hear about any important updates. You may want to supply your kiddo with some supplies, like pencils and paper, for any exercises your child’s therapist may ask them to partake in during their session. Of course, you should always check your internet connection before your child’s session to ensure no interruptions will take place.

Engaging in teletherapy might feel strange at first, no matter how old you are. But the benefits of meeting with a licensed mental health professional can outweigh any awkwardness or apprehension you experience. If you or your child is having trouble adjusting to this “new normal” or previously scheduled in-person sessions are now off the table, having sessions through video conferencing technology can provide some much-needed support.