Future Trends in Teletherapy: Innovations and Evolving Practices

Trends in Teletherapy

As long as the demand for teletherapy continues to rapidly grow, there will be more innovation in the various technologies that enable virtual mental health services. Here, we’ll take a look at future trends in online therapy and how advances like AI could play a role.

Growing Popularity of Teletherapy

Everyone wants convenience. This extends to every part of our lives, including the question of how to receive counseling and therapy. When in-person counseling is not available or convenient, individuals who need professional help turn to other avenues to get it. For an increasing number of Americans, this means using virtual therapy or teletherapy.

Most Americans Favor Virtual Therapy

Research by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2021 showed that most Americans welcome the expansion of telehealth. While the APA poll was conducted nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the teletherapy trends noted in the findings, particularly its popularity, have persisted.

Highlights from the Research

Nearly 38 percent of Americans used telehealth services for medical or mental health. Most used virtual therapy (video), while more than a third used the phone.

Of those polled, about six in 10 indicated they’d be receptive to using teletherapy for mental health needs.

Younger adults (66 percent) said they’d use telehealth to receive mental healthcare, compared to 36 percent of older adults. Yet, as teletherapy trends and online therapy advancements have increased, more older people accept this therapy format.

Increased Attention to Mental Health Fuels Teletherapy Trends

As Forbes notes, the skyrocketing popularity of teletherapy reflects certain macro trends that affect supply and demand. These are COVID-19 and increasing discussion and attention to mental health concerns in America. Even among skeptics, most people gravitated toward online therapy due to necessity. Telehealth was the only way to receive their needed help when in-person visits were prohibited.

In parallel, the cultural shift in mental health fueled teletherapy trends. Seeing, reading, and hearing about sports and media celebrities discussing their mental health issues and the devastating effect it has on their lives brought virtual therapy into the limelight. No longer an exotic, foreign concept, teletherapy gained adherents and converts. It is no longer considered taboo to talk about struggles with mental health and to seek help to cope with challenges.

Forbes points out that millennial females comprise the majority of those seeking mental health services through teletherapy. These individuals grew up with technology and feel comfortable and gravitate toward new teletherapy trends.

Teletherapy Trends: Emerging Technologies

In mental health, the most exciting teletherapy trends involve several emerging technologies. This is unsurprising since online or virtual therapy access is increasingly affordable, convenient, and accessible everywhere.

Besides accessibility and convenience, these new technologies that are set to transform mental healthcare offer many ways to provide support that’s highly personalized and data-driven. They are also believed to enhance treatment effectiveness.

Their success will depend on careful leveraging of their full potential. There is no question that as mental health practitioners embrace these technologies, virtual and teletherapy will continue to be recognized as powerful approaches for promoting well-being and addressing mental health issues.

What Are These Advancements in Online Therapy?

Three emerging mental health technologies for teletherapy promise to further revolutionize mental healthcare for millions worldwide. Wherever there is an online connection and secure, uninterrupted connectivity, people who desire expert counseling can receive the help they need. The new technologies that capture the most attention include:

  • Virtual Reality (VR) — Many young people already use VR technology. This technology can supplement traditional counseling with interactive and immersive experiences in mental healthcare. Social skills training and exposure therapy are two potential applications.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) — Today’s technology has limitless applications in many fields. AI promises to support and enhance teletherapy for mental health through virtual assistants, chatbots, and predictive analytics. It isn’t without challenges, however, so individuals considering AI-enabled mental health services should look for trust providers with the highest security standards and protocols implemented.
  • Wearable Devices — From smartwatches to fitness wearables, these intelligent technologies play essential roles in biometric data collection, aiding treatment approaches and providing real-time feedback. Other benefits include biofeedback, stress management, mood tracking, and early intervention.

Engaging Online Tools Promote Faster Acceptance

Among teletherapy trends, one of the most exciting is the development of online therapy advancements designed to engage participants.

For example, since building rapport online can be a problem, a new technology that helps overcome this hurdle is welcome. At the same time, with increasing rapport comes the comfort of accepting virtual therapy and committing to this form of receiving help.

For those in rural areas, accessing quality mental healthcare is often a significant barrier. Teletherapy helps bridge the gap and allows more people to benefit from professional counseling without traveling long distances. Besides, online therapy advancements make scheduling, attending, and interacting with trained therapists convenient, flexible, and affordable.

Existing Hurdles and Challenges

While the surge in popularity of teletherapy is exciting, it is worth noting that this form of therapy has some unique hurdles and challenges:

  • The digital divide is a barrier for some populations. Many people don’t have phones, laptops, or reliable Internet connections.
  • Mental health issues and diagnosed conditions aren’t equally distributed. Young adults are affected disproportionately, along with black and Hispanic populations, individuals receiving treatment for other pre-existing conditions, unpaid caregivers, and others.
  • Building virtual rapport is a hurdle. So is how to remain engaged in the virtual therapy session after working using computers all day.
  • Another challenge is the number of providers to manage the increasing number of individuals seeking teletherapy.
  • Varying guidelines on how to provide remote therapy across state lines are confusing.
  • Not all virtual therapists are skilled enough to handle remote emergencies.

Concerns About Virtual Therapy and AI

There’s no question that advancements in online therapy are rapidly progressing. Yet this gives rise to legitimate concerns about virtual therapy and the evolution of AI. For example, can AI miss things?

What Is the Truth About Whether AI Can Hallucinate?

What about hallucination in virtual therapy? As teletherapy trends evolve, what do we know about whether AI can hallucinate?

What Is an AI Hallucination?

When a large language model (LLM) produces false or untrue information, this is an AI hallucination. The hallucinations from LLMs from AI models powering chatbots (like Google Bard and ChatGPT) can be distortions and deviations from contextual logic, external facts, or both.

The language in the AI hallucination may sound believable since the AI models utilize statistics to populate grammatically and semantically correct language in response to prompts. However, the AI hallucination doesn’t comprehend the reality that the language portrays or describes.

An AI hallucination is also known as a confabulation.

Examples of AI hallucinations include:

  • Contradictions of sentences.
  • Factual contradictions.
  • Random or irrelevant hallucinations.

Why AI Hallucinations Pose Problems

The biggest problem with AI hallucinations is how they significantly erode user trust. In teletherapy, as in all therapy, trust is crucial. Without trust in the therapist, teletherapy users can feel violated and betrayed. The challenge is that as AI becomes more common and users experience AI as more accurate, they may inherently trust it more.

As such, AI hallucinations can be dangerous and thwart progress or healing in virtual therapy. This could result in significant setbacks for teletherapy trends and online therapy advancements.

How to Prevent AI Hallucinations

Experts at IBM recommend implementing protocols to prevent AI hallucinations, including the following steps:

  • Defining the AI model’s purpose.
  • Providing data templates.
  • Limiting responses.
  • Making use of high-quality training data.
  • Continual system testing and refining.
  • Insisting on human oversight for AI data review and validation.

Encouragement to Seek Help

If you experience distress, everyday stress, anxiety, relationship problems, trouble with behavioral issues, depression, or alcohol and drugs, counseling can help. Any problems related to mental health can be addressed through professional therapy. Many people find that teletherapy offers a straightforward, convenient, and approachable way to improve their well-being.

Whether you’re interested in individual therapy, couples counseling, or group therapy, teletherapy may help you address the issues or problems you’ve experienced.

If you’re struggling with work-life balance, stress overload or work burnout, difficulties making decisions, conflict resolution, or concentrating because of myriad mental health challenges, please seek help. There is every reason to be proactive with your mental health and make progress toward life goals.

Contact our professionals at Restore: Mental Health to discuss treatment options. We’re available 24/7 to answer your questions and get you started on healing. Give us a call today. It’s confidential and free.