Teletherapy for Specific Mental Health Conditions: A Deep Dive

Can teletherapy help with specific mental health disorders

Telehealth services have become increasingly popular in recent years, with nearly four in 10 Americans reporting that they’ve met with mental or medical health care professionals virtually. Additionally, of those with experience in using telehealth services, more than half said they would use telehealth services for mental health care, and about a third said that remote psychotherapy was their preferred treatment format.

While teletherapy has its benefits – especially for those living in areas with provider shortages or who may have difficulty attending or paying for in-person care – it may not be the best option for everyone. Poor internet connectivity, interpersonal disconnection and privacy concerns can impact the overall effectiveness of treatment and make it harder for some clients to achieve their wellness goals. Even so, many people have had success with incorporating teletherapy into their mental health journeys.

Teletherapy for Specific Mental Health Conditions

Teletherapy, which may also be called cyber-counseling or e-therapy, involves obtaining mental health services over the phone or internet. Depending on the preferred forms of communication between the client and the counselor, services may be offered through online chats, text messaging, emails, phone calls and video conferencing.

When they first developed, teletherapy services came with some concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality. However, today, online therapy is held to the same legal standard for confidentiality and HIPAA laws as in-person therapy, making it safer than ever to seek counseling from an online provider.

The efficacy of teletherapy depends largely on the condition it’s treating as well as the experience of the therapist and the client’s level of compliance with their service plan. In some cases, virtual visits prove to be as effective as in-person care for managing certain conditions, while other cases have better outcomes when the client has face-to-face sessions with their therapist.

How Can Teletherapy Help with Depression?

Talk therapy is the gold standard for treating depression, giving the client opportunities to reflect on and share the thoughts, beliefs and situations that contribute to their mental health. Through therapy, the individual can learn more effective ways to cope with their stressors and manage depression symptoms.

As it turns out, these sessions may not need to be in-person to be effective. According to one study, teletherapy for depression is just as effective as in-person treatment. In fact, for someone with severe depression who may be unable to confidently schedule regular in-person appointments, teletherapy may be the most accessible way to obtain care.

How Can Teletherapy Help with Anxiety?

For those living with anxiety, basic tasks can feel insurmountable. They may face a variety of obstacles such as traffic, crowded waiting rooms and challenging parking situations that make it difficult to even think about scheduling an appointment. For some, the idea of talking to someone face-to-face about their symptoms can pose another set of challenges.

Fortunately, in a 2021 study, researchers observed no significant differences in teletherapy services versus in-person care for those with anxiety. Mental health practitioners were able to use the same types of therapy virtually as they did with in-person visits, and their clients saw the same treatment outcomes.

How Can Teletherapy Help with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

About 6% of adults will experience post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, and about 5% of people have PTSD in any given year. Among those, about 36.6% have a serious impairment related to this disorder, meaning that it caused significant disruption to their everyday life. Unfortunately, for many people, treatment is out of reach due to the debilitating nature of the disorder itself, the lack of qualified mental health practitioners in their area or the time and expense associated with treatment.

Telehealth services remove many burdens associated with obtaining PTSD treatment and fortunately, it’s just as effective as in-person sessions. According to one meta-analysis that considered 13 studies, there’s no significant difference in outcomes with teletherapy versus face-to-face interventions.

How Can Teletherapy Help with Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder causes serious shifts in an individual’s moods, taking them from extreme highs to extreme lows. As a result, it can cause significant disruptions to the individual’s life, making it difficult to maintain relationships as well as financial stability.

For most people, managing bipolar disorder typically includes medications such as mood stabilizers and regular talk therapy. In many cases, an individual’s treatment plan includes advanced neuro rehab services, a noninvasive type of treatment that retrains the brain to effectively manage and regulate neural activity.

As is the case with many other mental health conditions, bipolar disorder can be effectively treated with teletherapy. However, this format doesn’t offer access to the same types of treatment that face-to-face therapy provides, which may negatively impact the overall effectiveness for some clients.

How Can Teletherapy Help with Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder is as prevalent as ever, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reporting that in 2022, 16.5% of the U.S. population met the diagnostic criteria for addiction. Of these people, just 6% sought addiction counseling.

When it comes to getting treatment, substance use disorder comes with its own unique set of challenges. From a practical standpoint, job instability, which often accompanies this disorder, can result in financial challenges that put professional treatment out of reach. Additionally, this disorder comes with a stigma, causing many to isolate and avoid seeking life-saving care.

The research on teletherapy for addiction is mixed. Out of eight studies, half showed that individual counseling has the same level of effectiveness whether it’s delivered via teletherapy or in-person sessions. This was based on drug test results, compliance with treatment plans and the client’s level of satisfaction with their care. The other half of the studies observed differences in outcomes. Additionally, a small survey indicated that 45% of respondents believed telehealth services for addiction to be less effective than one-on-one in-person care. When looking at group counseling sessions, 62% believed that virtual groups were less effective than in-person meetings.

Virtual care for substance use disorder can make professional treatment accessible to more people, especially those seeking anonymity. However, because of the complexity of this disorder, teletherapy may be lacking for many people. For those living with serious addictions, an in-person setting may be more effective.

Teletherapy vs. In-Person Therapy: How to Choose

To determine which treatment option best fits your needs, it’s helpful to consider the pros and cons of teletherapy and in-person services.

The Pros of Teletherapy

  • Easily accessible from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection
  • Greater flexibility for those with schedule or transportation considerations
  • It may be a cost-effective alternative to traditional in-person therapy

The Cons of Teletherapy

  • It may be more challenging to build a personal connection
  • It may not be an ideal format for those with short attention spans
  • Technology challenges, such as a poor internet connection, could disrupt sessions

The Pros of In-Person Therapy

  • Immediate feedback with verbal and visual cues
  • Proven track record of effectiveness
  • A more thorough assessment during the evaluation process

The Cons of In-Person Therapy

  • Some clients in remote or rural areas may have difficulty finding a local provider
  • May have a higher out-of-pocket cost than teletherapy
  • Not accessible to those with conditions such as agoraphobia or social anxiety

Teletherapy isn’t for everyone, and in some cases, it can create frustration when an individual isn’t meeting their goals or seeing improvements in the conditions they’re addressing. In some cases, a hybrid approach that incorporates in-person and teletherapy sessions may maximize the benefits of both options while addressing their downfalls. For others, regular in-person visits provide the best setting for addressing mental illnesses and disorders and accessing the treatment they need for rehabilitation.

For those seeking a comprehensive in-person approach, Restore Mental Health has inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that provide personalized mental health services to address a wide range of conditions. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.