Telehealth is a very effective way to receive psychological services. Research has shown that online counselling is comparable to face to face therapy in effectiveness. It is especially popular with clients who travel a lot for work, live in remote areas, are very busy and want to avoid the commute time to the office, or generally prefer to stay home. Telehealth can easily be used for either individuals or couples.
How does it work?
Generally, video sessions are much like an in-office visit. The main difference is there may be a few extra questions to clarify expressions, changes in tone of voice etc. These sorts of techniques are woven into the session to compensate for any of the non-verbal info that might otherwise be lost by not being physically in the same room together.
Is Telehealth right for me?
Most issues can be addressed effectively using Telehealth. However, there are a few circumstances where face to face services would be best i.e. someone experiencing frequent suicidal thoughts, an emergency or where there are other safety concerns.
Are you someone who is generally comfortable using technology? Are you comfortable doing things like emailing and having video chats with friends, family, or co-workers? Do you use online banking? If you answered yes to these questions you will likely feel comfortable using technology for counselling as well.
You can choose to have your session in the comfort of your own home or from your office at work.
Clients can receive services even when traveling without taking a break.
It makes services available to those in remote areas where access to psychologists may be limited.
For those who have a disability, small children or other commitments that keep them from being able to travel to the office easily it makes counselling possible.
Some people even find it easier to talk and share about difficult topics when they don’t have to be face to face with someone.
Research has found it to be an effective means of treatment.
Like anything else there are pros and cons.
Technology isn’t perfect or foolproof. Occasionally there may be glitches and connection issues that happen. However, these can be minimized by using a strong broadband internet connection.
Security is something to be aware of with Telehealth. It is good practice to follow many of the same precautions you might use if doing your online banking for instance. Things like not using open / unsecured Wi-Fi networks, not use a device that is shared by multiple people, make sure you use a firewall, don’t do it with other people nearby that could overhear the conversation and of course password protect your device.
Can I get a rebate?
Private Health Cover
Many private health cover policies treat Telehealth sessions the same as face to face. So if you have coverage for psychology many of them offer a rebate. Here is a list of some of the companies who have confirmed they will treat Telehealth sessions the same as face to face. Private Health Providers Covering Telehealth
You should confirm the specifics of your policy.
Medicare currently allows a rebate for services by psychologists doing video sessions with certain limitations.
- Rebates allowed for individuals in rural and remote areas for 7 of the total 10 sessions for the year. The other 3 must be in person.
- Rebates allowed for individuals impacted by the Bushfires. These 10 sessions are separate from the regular allowance of Medicare sessions.
- COVID-19 Modifications (as of 20/4/20) have reinstated the ability for clients to receive rebates in the usual way including Telehealth. Sessions can be done via video or phone. Other conditions still apply as they would for regular Medicare sessions regarding number of eligible sessions, and referrals. For more details on the latest amendments here is a link. COVID-19 Psychology Fact Sheet
NDIS guidelines treat Telehealth online therapy the same as face to face sessions. So there is no difference in service delivery or payment processing for NDIS clients.
Feel free to contact me to discuss your eligibility for rebates to assist with your fees.
How experienced are you with virtual therapy?
At the risk of dating myself… I have been working with clients virtually for over 15 years. Initially this was in the form of phone sessions and emails. But once video technology became more accessible I began using that with clients as well. In my experience, I have found it to be very effective for clients who typically come in the office but happen to be traveling for work etc. as well as those who start off virtually and receive all their sessions via video. I am a Board Certified Telemental Health Provider (BC-TMH).
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