What We Already Knew About Telemental Health Before the Pandemic


What We Already Knew About Telemental Health Before the Pandemic
written by Tiffany N. Smith, MS, LPC-S, LMFT-S, NCC  July 2020

As COVID19 graced us with its presence, many practitioners in the mental health field became instantly practicing using a virtual platform. At the same time, most clients may not have been used to this type of practice. Telemental health is not a new concept for counselors. Telemedicine itself has been practiced in the medical field for over a hundred years (Strehle & Shabde, 2006). Therapists working with children have been providing parent consultations via telephone to improve case management for numerous years. The advancement in technology has allowed live video conferencing to become a way to work with families by simulating face to face sessions. Scheduling conflicts, traffic, and overall time commitments that can be barriers to family therapy are significantly reduced using a video platform. Families can obtain the treatment necessary from the comfort of their own home. Mental Health professionals have been utilizing video platforms to help families in rural and underserved populations (Nelson & Patton, 2016). Additionally, counselors have been using telemental health with clients who have been unable to attend face-to-face sessions due to travel, medical issues, or relocation.

What We Already Know
As virtual platforms allowed providers to reach more people, the use of telehealth grew. There have been researched studies on the clinical effectiveness of telemental health. Families report increased satisfaction with telemental health due to the convenience of the meetings taking place in their own homes (Wade, Wolfe, & Pestian, 2004). Parents and children report the same strong relationship with the therapist using telemental health as in a face to face session (Wade, Wolfe, & Pestian, 2004). Even in severe cases, families still made progress in receiving counseling using a virtual platform. Results from online family psychotherapy with children who had experienced traumatic brain injury revealed similar results to those previously conducted in face-to-face sessions (Wade, Wolfe, & Pestian, 2004). Child psychiatrists can provide an accurate diagnosis, and families report high satisfaction using telepsychiatry (Boydell et al., 2014). The use of telemental health is just as effective as face to face sessions with children and adolescents (Boydell et al., 2014). The studies on telemental health report that younger participants are more open and comfortable with the use of virtual platforms for treatment (Boydell et al., 2014) Treatment goals for families can be achieved using telemental health platforms (Nelson & Patton, 2016).

How to Improve Your Telemental Health Appointment
Therapists can help families by discussing rules for telemental health sessions such as troubleshooting technology issues, best devices to use, best location as well as items to have handy during a telehealth session. Placing your device on do not disturb is important as incoming messages, emails, and notifications can interfere with the video feed. If you are doing a family session, setting up an environment where all family members attending the session can be seen on camera is essential (Nelson & Patton, 2016). Finding a location that is private and using headphones is also important to maintain confidentiality. If there is something you feel is missing from your telehealth appointment, talk with your therapist about how you are feeling. This allows both of you to attempt to help the telehealth environment seem more natural.

Boydell, K.M., Hodgins, M., Pignatiello, A., Teshima, J., Edwards, H., & Willis, D. (2014). Using technology to deliver mental health services to children and youth: A scoping review, Journal of Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,23(2), 87–99. doi:10.2196/12229

Grady, B., Myers, K. M., Nelson, E.L, Belz, N., Bennett, L., Carnahan, L. et al. (2011). Evidence-based practice for telemental health. Telemedicine and E-Health,17(2), 131-148. http://dx.doi.org.ezp.twu.edu/10.1089/tmj.2010.0158

Nelson, E.L. & Patton, S. (2016). Using videoconferencing to deliver individual therapy and pediatric psychology interventions with children and adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 26(3), 212-221. https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2015.0021Strehle

E.M. & Shabde, N. (2006). One hundred years of telemedicine: does this new technology have a place in pediatrics? Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91, 956-959. doi: 10.1136/adc.2006.099671

Wade, S.L., Wolfe, C.R., & Pestian, J.P. (2004). A Web-based family problem-solving intervention for families of children with traumatic brain injury, Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 261–269. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03195572