If you are struggling with signs of a mental health issue, or if substance use has ramped up, you are not alone.
The stay-at-home orders are impacting our mental or behavioral health in a big way, even the most “stable” among us. Results of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that 45% of Americans claim the effects of the pandemic are harming their mental health. Emotional distress calls, suicides, and substance abuse are also on the rise. This unprecedented health event has affected us profoundly.
Over the months that we have been hunkered down in our homes, feelings of isolation crept in. In what feels like a surreal alternate reality, we may feel detached from our usual sources of support or that our options are nonexistent to get the support we need. Fortunately, telemental health platforms have come to the forefront, providing us with timely help for issues ranging from addiction to mental health disorders.
While telemental health may not offer the same in-person experience we are familiar with, these digital platforms have been a huge help at a time when it is easy to feel completely alone and without options. The only tangible difference is the fact that the therapist and client are not in the same physical space. It may mean visiting with an addiction specialist or psychotherapist over a computer screen, but the same professional guidance is there to help us nevertheless.
What is Telemental Health?
The ever-increasing popularity of using technological advances to better our lives has also catapulted telemental health services during the coronavirus crisis. Talking to a mental health professional via a digital platform is now seen as a reliable and secure source of gaining psychological support. In fact, telemental health may even broaden the base of individuals seeking mental health or addiction support for the first time, as it may be less threatening to them than an in-person session. In fact, the physical separation between client and therapist can actually help some to open up sooner than if the session was held in person. Some are much more comfortable sharing if they feel they are in a safe space, such as their own home.
A telemental health therapy session is carried out through an encrypted portal to ensure the system is HIPPA compliant and patient privacy is protected. Basically, the patient schedules an online session with the therapist, which is then carried out via a computer or tablet. Telemental health programs are filling the gap right now during the stay-at-home orders, as therapists are working from home.
Telemental Health Services for Addiction Recovery
Telemental health services allow addiction experts to provide the same types of evidence-based interventions that would normally be delivered in person. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and contingency management (CM). These types of targeted therapies help clients make fundamental changes in their thought patterns and to break free of addiction behavior responses, and are a central focus of addiction recovery.
Telemental health interventions include:
- Outpatient therapy. Outpatient therapy is an excellent continuing care option for individuals in early recovery following residential treatment, or as a step down from an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Individuals in recovery benefit from the 90-minute therapy sessions, either individual and/or group sessions, that provide psychological support.
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is an excellent outpatient treatment for individuals with a mild to moderate substance use or mental health disorder, or as a step down from a partial hospitalization program (PHP). The IOP will include a weekly schedule several hours of therapy per week, including individual and group sessions. Individuals learn new coping skills, as well as relapse prevention strategies.
- Dual diagnosis. Many people with a substance use disorder also struggle with a co-occurring mental health issue, which is called a dual diagnosis. The only way that the recovery can be successfully sustained is by addressing and managing the psychological issue, too. A dual diagnosis program will effectively treat both disorders simultaneously using the online telemental health program.
- Group sessions. Technology also allows for groups of individuals to join in on a therapy session conference call that is guided by a psychotherapist. This format is similar to the same peer support dynamic that live group sessions have, except that everyone is joining from their own residence.
- Online 12-Step Meetings. Although online 12-step meetings do not fall within the telemental health category, these are still a digitally delivered support source for individuals in addiction recovery. Online recovery meetings provide ongoing recovery support that compliments the other aspects of the telemental health rehab program.
It is now pretty much understood that telemental health services are here to stay. Addiction treatment providers understand the value in offering the telemental health option for individuals following completion of a residential program. Where some who complete treatment might skip traditional outpatient therapy sessions, they may make the effort if they can access therapy via a convenient online platform.
Telemental Health Services for Mental Health
Telemental health is standing in for the usual method of receiving mental health services in an office setting during this historic time. While some of the nuances of an in-person therapy session will be lacking, the video online sessions still provide individuals in distress an important source of support during a time when mental health conditions are rising.
While telemental health therapy may be extremely effective and beneficial for individuals with such diagnoses as anxiety disorder or depression, it isn’t as good a fit for more serious mental illnesses. Telemental health therapists can help individuals with the following types of disorders:
- Depression. Many people have lost their jobs in the past few months. This can lead to a deep sense of sadness and hopelessness, changes in eating habits, sleep disturbances, and suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety. People have been grappling with increasing worry and fear over the virus itself, as well as the economic impact of the virus on their financial futures. Anxiety can become disabling when fear is so extreme that it impairs functioning.
- Bipolar disorder. Individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder may be experiencing intensified or more frequent mood swings during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trauma disorder. Individuals with a history of trauma may experience a reemergence of frightening memories, nightmares, or extreme anxiety in the wake of the coronavirus event.
Because many lives have been lost to coronavirus, individuals experiencing difficulties in managing grief and loss will benefit from the availability of telemental health services at this time.
How Can Telemental Health Help During Coronavirus?
The coronavirus crisis is not only about the risk of becoming infected with Covid-19; it has also sparked a mental health and addiction crisis. Deaths of despair due to suicide are now higher than Covid-19 deaths in some regions. Loneliness, boredom, and isolation is fueling substance abuse or leading to those in recovery to relapse.
The advent of telemental health services provides a needed tool for managing mental health issues during the pandemic. People now have the means to reach out for professional help while movement is restricted and many therapists are working from their homes. The sessions are likely covered under the same mental health insurance benefits that an in-office therapy session would be, but it is important to first check with your healthcare provider first.
Why Telemental Health is Beneficial Now
The availability of online therapy telemental health services may have a profound impact on getting people into therapy that otherwise may never have considered it. This is because many are hesitant to seek out the services of a therapist or psychiatrist due to stigma, embarrassment, or fear of a damaged reputation. The thought of just walking into a psychiatrist’s office might be so anxiety provoking that the person simply avoids getting treatment.
Now that therapy services are available from home via telemental health platforms, these individuals may be much more willing to reach out for help. People who may have otherwise sunk deeper into depression or relapsed back into addiction without this life preserver are not able to grab on and find the support they need to get through a major life event life this one. For the first time in recent history, everyone is in danger of experiencing mental health setbacks due to the pandemic and all the uncertainty it has brought to our daily lives. In addition, many who did not have a substance abuse problem before may have developed one in recent months as a way to cope with the anxiety.
Telemental health is a vital tool in helping to connect individuals in need of timely psychological help with the mental health and addiction professionals who can guide them safely through this ordeal and back to mental wellness and good health.
Ken Seeley Communities Provides a Full Spectrum of Telemental Health Services
Ken Seeley Communities continues to provide leading addiction and dual diagnosis treatment during the Covid-19 stay-at-home period. Full service residential addiction treatment is still in operation, with strict safety measures enacted daily to protect all clients and staff members. Outpatient services are currently offered via telemental health video conferencing programs. Our compassionate staff and expert clinicians look forward to meeting with you in our residential center or over a telemental health platform today. Please call us at (877) 774-0502.