What’s Teletherapy—and Is Video Therapy as Effective as In-Person Therapy?

Let's examine the advantages and disadvantages of teletherapy, as well as how online therapy works, what equipment is needed, and what research says about online counseling’s effectiveness.

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Jun 27, 2022 UPDATED
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Teletherapy (also called video therapy or online therapy), telepsychiatry, and behavioral telehealth sessions with therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists have become far more common as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

And the American Psychological Association (APA) 2021 survey of psychologists found almost all (96%) clinical psychologists are continuing to provide remote telehealth video appointments.

Is online therapy as effective as in-person therapy?

Have you tried telehealth video therapy yet? 

If not, you may have questions like:

How do I prepare for telehealth therapy?

Is online therapy as effective as in-person therapy?

What are the disadvantages to teletherapy?

Can online therapists diagnose you?

How much does video therapy cost?

We’d like to help demystify how teletherapy works and what equipment is needed to access telehealth.

Read on for information on how much telehealth video therapy costs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of teletherapy, and whether telehealth video therapy is as effective as in-person therapy sessions. 

Finally, we’ll go into more detail into how the Monarch Directory helps Americans find licensed therapists and book in-person therapy sessions as well as telehealth video therapy sessions with SimplePractice’s HIPAA-secure platform.

What’s the difference between telehealth and teletherapy?

Telehealth is the general practice of offering medical care via remote technology.

A Monarch original illustration of a therapist meeting with their client via teletherapy, sharing the definition of telehealth, sourced from Mayo Clinic.

In a telehealth appointment the healthcare professional—such as a doctor, medical specialist, nurse, or clinician—is in a different location than the patient, offering the patient the opportunity to get medical care without leaving their home.

To access their telehealth video appointment, the patient connects with the physician or healthcare professional via secure video conferencing using a computer, tablet, or smartphone and an online internet connection.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there are several types of telehealth care including:

  • Speaking with your doctor or healthcare professional via video chat.

  • Sending and receiving messages from your doctor using secure messaging, email, secure messaging, and secure file exchange.

  • Using remote monitoring so your doctor can check on you at home. For example, you might use a device to gather vital signs or other vitals to help your doctor stay informed on your progress.

Telehealth is the general practice of offering medical care via remote technology.

In addition to the devices you use at home to connect with your provider—such as your computer or mobile phone—telehealth also includes the technology your doctor uses in their office to manage your health, including electronic medical records, health apps, and patient portals.

As a type of telehealth, teletherapy—also called telehealth video therapy—uses digital technology to provide the opportunity for virtual face-to-face online therapy sessions without the need to leave your home. 

Teletherapy and telepsychiatry enable therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to provide remote mental health care, diagnosis, support, and counseling.

Video therapy sessions are similar to in-person sessions. Your therapist will ask questions and take notes just like in person visits. 

Teletherapy uses digital technology to provide the opportunity for virtual face-to-face online therapy sessions without the need to leave your home. 

In fact, some therapists even offer interactive sessions such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy via telehealth video. 

In the U.S., any licensed therapist, psychologist, or counselor offering teletherapy must have the same education, training, and certifications as mental health care providers offering in-person sessions..

The Monarch Directory can help you find licensed therapists who offer teletherapy through SimplePractice’s HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform. 

Does teletherapy work?

Good news: Research suggests that, depending on the patient, teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy sessions. 

A 2019 review of 24 studies found sufficient evidence that teleconference and video therapy is as effective in treating certain conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and adjustment disorder as in-person therapy sessions. 

Teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy sessions. 

Another 2021 meta-analysis of 27 studies revealed that—among veterans—phone and video therapy had success similar to in-person therapy sessions in treating PTSD, depression and anxiety.

A Monarch original design of a young boy, a couple, and a man use teletherapy over a mobile phone, an ipad or tablet, and a laptop.

How do I start an online therapy session?

For teletherapy sessions, both the patient and therapist need reliable access to the Internet or Wi-Fi signal and a digital device with video capabilities such as a computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

Monarch makes it easy to connect with licensed therapists who offer telehealth online therapy through SimplePractice’s fully-secure and HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform. 

You can browse therapists who accept your insurance, and book a telehealth video counseling session, an in-person therapy session, or a free 15-minute initial consultation.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of teletherapy?

Teletherapy has several benefits when compared to in-person therapy sessions. 

Importantly, teletherapy may help to make counseling more accessible for certain groups of Americans. 

For those who are disabled or homebound, those without reliable transportation, and people who live in remote areas—online video therapy opens up appointment and care options for mental health support and counseling. 

For many others, teletherapy saves on travel time, reduces stress, and can sometimes be less expensive than in-office therapy.

Teletherapy also provides the flexibility that patients often need.

For example, you can choose to have your teletherapy sessions at home, outdoors, or in a conference room at your office–making it easier to comply with scheduling regardless of where you’re at 

Since processes like billing, messaging and gate-keeping are computerized, and not handled by people, automated communications are faster, timelier and more streamlined. Telehealth technology can also remove some administrative and payment stresses for both therapists and clients, between patients and counselors. 

There are also some disadvantages to teletherapy. 

Most notably, security and privacy can be an issue with connecting to medical and mental health professionals online.

Providers take steps to ensure their connections are as safe as possible. For example, SimplePractice (and the Monarch Directory) offers clients and therapists a fully-secure HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform. 

Online video therapy sessions may enable more opportunities for distractions for both the patient and the therapist, such as background noise from children and pets or the temptation to multitask on mobile devices or engage in household chores during the session.

Though teletherapy can make therapy more accessible to some Americans, as mentioned above, there is still an accessibility disparity for people who are hearing or vision impared or who do not have the technology at home. 

A Monarch original infographic chart of the benefits and drawbacks of Teletherapy

According to a 2020 report in Health Affairs, the leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research, Americans face “three overlapping barriers to accessing telehealth: the absence of technology, digital literacy, and reliable internet coverage.”

As David Velasquez and Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., associate professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School write, these barriers comprise “the digital divide, which disproportionately affects older people, people of color, and those with low socioeconomic status.” 

In 2022, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) points out: “About 15% of American households don't have one smartphone and at least 10% lack access to the internet beyond cellular data.”

More than 41% of older Americans who are Medicare patients lack access to a desktop or laptop computer with a high-speed internet connection at home.

A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) investigation found that telehealth care quality suffered among older patients who were less adept with technology, had limited access to video calls, and had minimal support. Similarly, patients with low socioeconomic status, limited health literacy, hearing impairment, or who were non-English speaking faced greater challenges engaging via telehealth. Patients of color were less satisfied with telehealth, many expressing mistrust in virtual interactions, unable to gauge whether the clinician was understanding their concerns.

Older Americans who are Medicare patients are still at a significant disadvantage for being able to access telehealth and teletherapy. 

According to a 2020 JAMA Internal Medicine report, more than 41% of older Americans who are Medicare patients lack access to a desktop or laptop computer with a high-speed internet connection at home, almost 41% don’t have a smartphone with a wireless data plan, and more than 26% didn’t have access to either.

Additionally, up to 20% of older adults in general lack access to telehealth and teletherapy due to being “unready” for a visit. 

Book a video therapy session

The Monarch Directory makes it easy to find therapists and counselors who offer teletherapy through SimplePractice’s fully-secure and HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform. 

You can browse therapists who accept your insurance, and book a telehealth video counseling session, an in-person therapy session, or a free 15-minute initial consultation.

READ NEXT: Which Type of Therapy Is Right for Me?

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Need to find a therapist near you? Check out the Monarch Directory by SimplePractice to find licensed therapists and counselors with availability and online booking near you.

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Article originally published Jun 10, 2022. Updated Jun 27, 2022.

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