Teletherapy: Exploring the Current Frontier in Mental Health Counseling

Stress, anxiety, and low mood are frequent problems, especially now in times of social distancing and socioeconomic uncertainty. Because of recent social distancing measures, few people are now able to use or access traditional face-to-face psychological services. The research shows that while equally effective as traditional face-to-face therapy, few people access teletherapy due to novelty alone and because they perceive it as less effective than face-to-face services. In the last decades, hundreds of meta-analyses, systematic reviews and robust clinical trials have supported the effectiveness of teletherapy (e.g., Andrews et al., 2018; Newby et al., 2016; Hedman et al., 2014; Hedman et al., 2013; Hedman et al., 2013; Mewton, Wong & Andrews, 2012; Metwon, Smith, Rossouw, & Andrews, 2014; Olthuis et al., 2016; Primer & Talbot, 2013; Williams & Andrews, 2013; Titov et al., 2018). 

Rather than having you sort through hundreds of meta-analyses and clinical trials, let me summarize some of this research for you. This extensive research conveys four important messages:

  1. Teletherapy services increase access to mental health services. Compared to face-to-face therapy, teletherapy offers greater flexibility in terms of scheduling, requires no travel, and can connect those living in rural with a therapist from urban centres.
    • Teletherapy ensures effective care and treatment despite social distancing measures.
    • Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Sweden have all successfully implemented teletherapy services. These teletherapy clinics have allowed people to connect and receive treatment services regardless of location and requiring no travel. 
      1. The most notable example is the Mind Spot Clinic, located in Sydney, Australia, which had served more than 33,990 Australians from all across the country as of 2016. 
      2. Another example closer to home is the Online Therapy Unit located in Regina, Saskatchewan, which has helped connect people all across the province to receive mental health care, even those located in rural and remote areas. As of January 2020, 5,503 clients had been enrolled for treatment services with the Online Therapy Unit.
  2. Telepsychotherapy is safe and confidential 
    • Technological advancements in the last 20 years now allow clinicians to offer teletherapy that is both safe and confidential. 
    • Therapists can monitor and ensure a client’s progress even from a distance, whether through online questionnaires or frequent clinical contact. 
    • New video conferencing technologies ensure that information transmitted virtually remains private and confidential. 
  3. Teletherapy is as effective as face-to-face therapy
    • Research on teletherapy has shown that it’s as effective as face-to-face therapy for treating issues such as depression and mood disorders, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, chronic pain, sexual functioning, grief and loss, substance use as well as overall wellbeing, and interpersonal functioning. 
    • When offered as video sessions, teletherapy has also been shown to be as effective as face-to-face therapy for dealing with couples and families.  
  4. Assessments services can be done via teletherapy
    • Just like for therapy, teletherapy research has supported its efficacy in providing assessment services. 
    • For example, the MindSpot Clinic mentioned had provided assessment services to 25,469 Australians. 
    • Video sessions and questionnaires administered online allow clinicians to assess clients just like face-to-face sessions.

When to Seek Help

In this period of social distancing, stress, low mood, loneliness, anxiety, and scarcity have been increasingly challenging to manage. If you find that recent events have heightened the intensity of difficult feelings and thoughts or that they have been present for more than two weeks, seeking help can be your very courageous next step. 

The Centre for Interpersonal Relationships offers teletherapy services. Secure, confidential, and compassionate clinical services with registered psychologists and psychotherapists are accessible by video or phone from home. We’re staying connected! Visit www.cfir.ca to learn more.

Dr. Miguel Robichaud, C.Psych. is a psychologist (Supervised Practice) at CFIR Toronto’s location.  During his graduate studies, Dr. Robichaud’s work involved establishing the Telepsychotherapy Unit founded in 2016 and located at the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick, www.etherapies.ca. The Telepsychoptherapy Unit develops, studies, and implements self-guided online therapy programs to help adults deal with low to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression.  His work at CFIR is supervised by Dr. Rylie Moore, C.Psych. and Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych. 

Accessibility, Comfort, Flexibility & Consistency – What You Need to Know Now About Teletherapy at CFIR

Within the past few weeks, so many of our realities have entirely changed. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are working from home and choosing to practice social distancing. This new realm may have interfered with your weekly or biweekly therapy sessions. For others, you may be finding yourself struggling with new or familiar troublesome thoughts, feelings, and memories. 

Right now may be a time when you are looking for support.

Right now is when video and telephone therapy are great options to explore. 

Some of the benefits of video and telephone therapy include:

Accessibility

ideo and telephone therapy is easily accessible to everyone that has a phone, computer, or tablet and an internet connection.  

Comfort

You can have sessions from the comfort of your own home which may make you feel more comfortable because you will be in a familiar setting

Flexibility

There is more flexibility in terms of scheduling your sessions

Consistency

These sessions work much in the same way that face-to-face meetings do. If you are used to coming into your therapist’s office, there will be minimal difference when switching to video or telephone sessions. 

Clinicians at CFIR are offering secure video and teletherapy sessions during this time, to ensure continuity of care. Reach out if you would like to have safe, confidential therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home.

Natalie Alexov, B.Sc. is a counsellor at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) under the supervision of Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych., and a Masters of Education with a concentration in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa. She supports individual clients to overcome a broad range of difficulties, including depression, anxiety and stress, the impact of traumatic experiences, and relationship problems.

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