Helping Give Away Psychological Science/Telepsychology Guide for Patients
This page is intended for people currently receiving psychological services or people interested in receiving psychological services. If you are a clinician looking for information on how to provide teletherapy for your clients, you can find more information on our Clinician Telepsychology Guide page.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals around the world is causing many people to seek out professional help. Telemedicine is becoming more common as a means of providing psychological services as the coronavirus pandemic has made face-to-face services not possible. Whether your current therapist is moving to telehealth or you are interested in starting therapy for the first time, this page provides a guide to finding the best option for you and to help you navigate the technology side of teletherapy while continuing to get the most out of your virtual appointments. We have a suggestion box here where you can drop links, add ideas, and comments. You also can make edits directly on this page by clicking Edit at the top or make suggestions here on the discuss page if you are comfortable with editing.
What is Telehealth and Telepsychology? edit
Telehealth is defined as the use of technological methods rather than traditional face-to-face meetings. The technological services used may include phone, email, self-help materials like blogs and social media, and videoconferencing services services such as Zoom. These services may be in real-time (synchronously) or delayed (asynchronously), allowing parties to respond in their own time. Telepsychology is when psychological services, like assessment or therapy, are provided virtually when it is not possible to see patients in person, such as during the current pandemic.  Health and Human Services has a page with information about Telehealth that provides a helpful overview.
What are the benefits of telepsychology? edit
- Services are accessible even when in-person meetings are not possible
- Remote and rural areas with limited mental health services will now have increased access 
- Increased access to services for those with physical/mobility disabilities 
- Flexible scheduling  and, in some cases, expanded hours beyond typical office hours
Resources for finding a therapist edit
Before you start telepsychology edit
Before you decide to go forward with treatment over video or the phone, you may want to consider the following.
Questions to ask yourself: edit
- Am I comfortable talking about sensitive topics over the phone or video conferencing? Will I be able to be open with my therapist?
- Will I feel connected to my provider or will it make me feel isolated?
- Is there a place I can “meet” with my therapist that is private and quiet?
- Do I have a video-enabled computer or phone? Do I have access to WiFi or an unlimited data plan for my phone? If not, you may be limited to phone (no video).
- Am I comfortable receiving services services if I cannot see my provider?
- Am I comfortable with the technology for video conferencing? If not, is there someone who can help me set it up?
Questions to ask a provider: edit
If already in treatment with a provider:
- Do you use a phone or video (or both) for sessions?
- How should we proceed if we experience technical difficulties
- What type of technology do you use for teletherapy? Is it HIPAA-compliant?
- Will we continue to meet at the same time for the same length of time?
- Will there be any changes to the cost to me?
- How long do you anticipate conducting treatment virtually?
- What forms of payment do you accept? Cash or check sent by mail? Can you charge my credit/debit card?
Additional questions for new providers:
- Will sessions (or can they) continue to be virtual after shelter-in-place orders are relaxed?
- What times are available for sessions? Is this flexible?
- Do you accept insurance? What type?
- What if I don’t have insurance/if you’re not covered by my insurance?
- What is your fee? Do you offer a sliding scale?
- How long are the sessions?
- Do you offer a free initial consultation? How long for the initial interview?
- What type of therapy do you practice?
- Can you conduct evidence-based-assessments and make diagnoses via telecommunication?
- What forms of payment do you accept? Cash or check sent by mail? Can you charge my credit/debit card?
- What is your cancellation policy?
Expect some awkwardness. No matter how many tips and tricks you or your therapist know for making a smooth transition to teletherapy, there are likely to be bumps in the road. This is okay! The best way through these feelings of being out-of-sync is to keep an open line of communication with your therapist - asking questions is a great way to make sure you are both on the same page and feel comfortable moving forward.
Managing technology for your session edit
Phone-based services edit
A few things to keep in mind: edit
- Make a plan with your therapist ahead of time, so that you are prepared for the call and are situated in a quiet, private place. Make sure you know how long the call will last and whether it will be a “typical” therapy session over the phone or something else (e.g., a short check-in).
- If you are using a cell phone, make sure you have adequate reception to limit call disruptions.
- Consider using a hands-free headset.
Video-based services edit
Video is nice for communicating with your therapist because you can see each other and more easily communicate. However, it can come with some added challenges. For example, it can be a little challenging to set-up the video software initially. Additionally, if there are connectivity issues, it can be difficult to have a productive session.
A few tech tips: edit
- If there is a software that you already use to communicate with family or other providers, ask your provider if you can try to use the same one
- Be sure to find out ahead of time which service your provider uses. Practice using it with a friend to make sure it works on your phone/computer and that you understand its basic functions. Here are some video tutorials about how to set-up commonly used software. (Some programs, like doxy.me, are web-based and don’t require any set-up, you just click the link)
- If you want to know more about the telepsychology service your clinician uses, check here.
- If you have any trouble getting set-up, ask for help - either from your provider or from a friend - ahead of time. You don’t want to spend your session time on technical issues.
Preparing for your session edit
Sometimes phone- or video-based sessions seem more casual and people don’t spend the same amount of time preparing. This is a mistake - you want to get as much out of your teletherapy session that you do when you meet in-person.
- Find a quiet, private place in your home. Try to limit potential distractions like the television, other people, your computer, etc… that can interfere with your focus or attract your therapist’s attention. If you don’t have a private room where you can go for your therapy, try to think of other places you could go for your appointment. For example, can you sit in your car or go to a local park?
- Make sure you have access to a strong WiFi connection and/or good phone reception
- It helps if you disconnect devices that are not in use/need of the WiFi during the appointment to ensure there is adequate bandwidth.
- To reduce technical issues for video sessions, clear your browser history (under the History menu for most internet browsers), and close all unnecessary windows and applications before and during sessions
- Plan ahead about specific things you want to talk with your therapist about and consider how the topics you discuss help you progress toward your goals
- Prepare materials you might need ahead of time. For example, it’s always smart to have a notepad and a pen to take notes. If you are doing worksheets or if your therapist sends other materials, make sure you have a copy. If you’re not able to print things, make sure you have the files available on your computer or phone for easy access.
- Complete any homework you committed to before the session, this will help you to make the maximum amount of progress
- Guide for Transitioning to the Telehealth Delivery of Mental Health Services
Telepsychology costs edit
Private insurance: edit
Insurance coverage for teletherapy varies considerably from state to state, and by insurance plan. Check with your insurance company before you meet with your therapist to see if the specific telepsychology service you are receiving is covered under your plan; insurance may reimburse some things (e.g., 45-minute psychotherapy sessions), but not others (e.g., group therapy). It is important to get approval before proceeding with telepsychology services. Questions to ask your insurance provider include:
- Is [your specific service need] a covered benefit?
- Do I need to meet my deductible?
- What would my co-pay be?
- How many sessions are covered and is that per year and/or do I need to be re-assessed to be considered for more sessions if I go over the covered amount?
- What if I find a therapist that I want that is not one of your listed providers?
- Are phone services and video services reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services?
- Can I continue receiving the same services I was previously receiving in-person, over teletherapy?
- Are there any restrictions or requirements around the location of myself or my provider (i.e., do we need to be in the same state)?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services have modified their rules and now cover a wider range of telepsychology services. These rules are specific to the current period of social distancing guidelines and may change, as guidelines are revised, it is wise to check as to whether reimbursement rules have changed.
Therapy Apps edit
Another teletherapy option is to use an app. There are a number of app-based services available. Here are a couple of options:
Before starting therapy, you will complete an assessment, choose a plan, and be matched with a licensed therapist according to your needs. You are able to work with the same therapist each time, unless you request a change.
- Cost: Plans start at $65 a week (Some employers, health plans, and educational organizations may offer this service at no- or reduced-cost).
- Location: The therapist you are matched with is licensed in your state of residence.
- Availability: You can message your therapist throughout the day, and schedule video chats.
- Options:Therapy offered for individuals, adolescents, and couples, as well as psychiatry options.
You will get matched with a provider based on your preferences, objectives and types of issues you are dealing with, but you can change therapists if you request to do so.
- Cost: Prices range from $40 to $70 each week, but billing is on a monthly basis (not covered by insurance).
- Location: Professionals are certified through their state’s certification board.
- Options:Therapy offered for couples counseling, teen counseling and individual counseling.
- You can remain anonymous while receiving therapy but you are asked to provide information for an emergency contact.
- Research suggests Better Help has benefited adults with depression.
Mental health resources edit
- Guide to Coping with Fear and Sadness During a Pandemic - Hofstra University
- Behavioral Activation Techniques while Physical Distancing
- Guide to Mental Health Resources for COVID 19 - Massachusetts General Hospital
- 7 research findings that can help people deal with COVID 19 - American Psychological Association
- Resources for Stress and Coping - Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- 4 ways to cope with the social impact of Coronavirus - Manhattan Psychology Group
- How To Help an Autistic Child During COVID-19 Lockdown - Homeopathic Services
- Fact Sheet: Coping with stress during an infectious disease outbreak - SAMHSA
- Roadmap to Resilience - download book for free
- COVID-19 Resource List - American Psychological Association
- COVID-19 Mental health considerations - World Health Organization
- Self Compassion Medication Guide - Coping with Coronavirus
- Relatives Education And Coping Toolkit (REACT) is an online self-help package for relatives and friends of people with mental health problems linked to psychosis or bipolar disorder.
- The Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research's Online Multi-Media Recovery Resource provides videos, animations, and a Personal Recovery E-Booklet for professionals and those who want to learn more about progress, recovery, and individual experience while living with bipolar disorder and other mental health challenges.
- "Telehealth|CAMAT|University of Miami". camat.psy.miami.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-16.
- "Five tips for a great experience". help.doxy.me. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
- Fleischmann, Madeline; Namaky, Nauder; Teachman, Bethany (2020). Behavioral Activation Techniques while Physical Distancing. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/RH7NT. https://osf.io/rh7nt/.
- "REACT Home Page". REACT. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
- "Recovery-Event". www.lancaster.ac.uk. Retrieved 2020-05-21.