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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Demystifying the World of Telehealth

Psychotherapy has been at the forefront of the virtual revolution.

Not all byproducts of the pandemic have been bad. Case in point: the proliferation of “telehealth,” or the ability for patients to see healthcare professionals from the comfort of their own homes via safe, secure, HIPAA-compliant systems, not unlike Zoom—or simply, via their smartphone. What used to be a long, drawn-out headache of a process for patients, which included appointment cards and waiting rooms, has quickly become the height of convenience. And April Arnold, a licensed psychotherapist, has been enjoying it for quite awhile: It was part of her practice long before COVID hit in 2020.

Most importantly, telehealth has become the great democratizer, allowing patients to be seen at all times—sometimes within a moment’s notice. Though Arnold’s main psychotherapy practice is based in Naples, FL, she’s planning to open a practice in Saratoga Springs in the near future. We asked Arnold to key us in on the telehealth phenomenon and help us demystify it for prospective patients, who might be unfamiliar with the format.

Telehealth Is Old Hat for Therapists
I’ve been doing virtual sessions for about four or five years now. I do have an office where I was seeing clients in person, pre-COVID, but because our board actually states that patients have to be masked for in-office visits now—and not all of them want to do that—virtual offers them another option. Virtual sessions offer more confidentiality, too. And they’re a time-saver. I’ve seen people, virtually, in their garages and cars.

Therapists Can Now See Patients at the Point of Crisis
I’ve had patients pull off on the side of the road and text me, “April, I need you. Are you available?” In those emergency situations, I think it’s the best. My child clients, ages 6 and up, will text me that they’re under their bed and want to talk. And if I have a minute, I will stop what I’m doing and call. Especially when it comes to children, sometimes I feel like they just need someone. Even if it’s for 15 minutes.

What Newbies Should Know About Making Telehealth Appointments
If you’re looking to do psychotherapy for the first time via telehealth, find a therapist who is comfortable with the format, and someone, obviously, who is qualified. I do an initial free consultation. Some people feel comfortable with me and some don’t. And that’s fine. I often refer patients to another therapist if it doesn’t work out.

Why Telehealth Is Here to Stay
I think that more people are willing to get counseling now because of telehealth; that’s just my sense. It’s easier to pick up the phone.

April Arnold, BS, BA, MSW, LCSW
April Arnold, BS, BA, MSW, LCSW
April Arnold, BS, BA, MSW, LCSW, is a Naples, FL–based psychotherapist.

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