Virtual Therapy

Bolton Therapy & Wellness offers Virtual Therapy services to clients in appropriate situations.


Virtual Therapy (also called "Online Therapy," "Web Therapy," "Teletherapy" or "Cyber Psychology") allows a therapist to meet with clients "screen-to-screen" using web-based video conferencing technology that is HIPAA compliant. Virtual Therapy provides a convenient alternative to face-to-face office visits. It can be used to supplement existing therapist/client relationships, engage new clients or facilitate new treatment programs.


What types of technology are used to provide virtual therapy?

Virtual therapy may include the use of video conferencing, audio conferencing, email, instant messaging and real time audio chat. Virtual therapy technologies should comply with HIPAA (the 1996 "Health Insurance and Portability Accountability Act") to provide a secure virtual environment that protects patient privacy.


What are some benefits of virtual therapy?

Virtual therapy offers several benefits to clients, including:

  • Provides a convenient, time-saving alternative to in-person therapy
  • Allows clients to obtain therapy services in the comfort of their home, hotel or other chosen location
  • Allows in-person clients who are traveling to make a regularly scheduled session, thereby maintaining treatment continuity 
  • Allows couples and families to come together online when members are in different locations and can't all meet in person
  • Provides access to mental health services for people in rural or remote areas
  • Provides access to mental health services for individuals who are disabled or homebound
  • Provides a comfortable introduction to therapy for people who may be uncomfortable with an initial in-person session
  • Provides access to mental health services for people who are more comfortable with an online environment

What are some challenges of virtual therapy?

Virtual Therapy is a new and growing method of bringing therapists and clients together. While technologies are constantly improving, Virtual Therapy still presents some challenges as compared in-person therapy.

  • Virtual Therapy is not appropriate for individuals who have a history of or have been diagnosed with serious psychiatric illnesses that require direct, engaged treatment. For example, individuals who are suicidal or experiencing major depression are  not suitable candidates for virtual therapy and will be best served by in-person therapy.
  • Virtual Therapy may not allow a therapist to effectively help a client who is experiencing a major crisis situation, such as suicidal thoughts are an unexpected, major personal tragedy. In such situations, a client may need the help of a professional who can provide direct, in-person assistance and support.
  • As anyone who's used technology knows, technology sometimes "acts up" or fails. Technological disruptions can disrupt a therapy session. The therapist and client should have a back-up plan in the event this happens.
  • The use of some technologies does not allow the therapist to see or appreciate a client's facial expressions, vocal signals or body language. This type of information is readily obtainable in person and often gives the therapist a better understanding of a client's feelings, thoughts, moods and behaviors.
  • Even in face-to-face video conferences, a client may experience the virtual environment as less personal and engaging than an in-person meeting. The client may struggle to connect with their therapist. Because connection is a vital part of the therapeutic process, such clients should primarily receive services in-person. 

Is Virtual Therapy as effective as in-person therapy?

Virtual therapy, like in-person therapy, should provide a safe, nurturing, non-judgmental space for clients to discuss and explore issues, as well as learn and practice new skills. A growing body of research indicates that Virtual Therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy, for certain clients seeking help in appropriate circumstances.


If you are a new or existing client who would like to discuss whether Virtual Therapy is appropriate for you, please contact us.


References:

Cherry, K. (December 03, 2018). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Therapy. https://www.verywellmind.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-online-therapy-2795225.

Novotney, A. (February 2017). A growing wave of online therapy, Vol. 48, No.2. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/online-therapy.