Telehealth is a term for virtual or phone-based medical care. It wasn’t new when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, but it did become rapidly more utilized because of social distancing and stay-at-home measures. Even without social distancing, telehealth is valuable because of the flexibility and convenience it provides to both patients and providers.
In a recent survey, 81% of mental health professionals reported an increase in their clients’ mental health symptoms. Staying connected to mental and physical health care is essential during COVID-19, and the importance of doing so can’t be overlooked.
The Benefits of Telehealth for Mental Health
Some of the benefits of distance mental health therapy, particularly right now, include:
- You can stay connected even if you can’t or don’t want to attend in-person appointments because of COVID-19. If you’re high-risk for COVID-19, being able to receive care from home could be especially important.
- Many people are experiencing isolation due to the pandemic, and teleservices for mental health care can create a virtual support network.
- No matter where you live, including if you live in a rural place far from your provider, you can still receive mental health services.
- There’s flexibility that comes with the use of telehealth. You can make appointments on your time and when it works for you.
- With telemedicine, you don’t have to worry about inconveniences like finding childcare during your appointment or missing work.
- Some people have anxiety about going to a therapist for different reasons, which could be a barrier to them receiving needed treatment. The risk of this is reduced with teletherapy.
In many ways, teletherapy has become a way to bridge gaps with traditional care, even outside of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, if you live far from an addiction treatment program, your follow-up care care and appointments may be delivered via telehealth. Medication management and chronic illness management can also be facilitated via telehealth services.
Is Telemental Health as Effective As Traditional Health Care?
There’s growing evidence that telemental health is just as effective as traditional mental health care. For example, a study in 2014 found that online treatment was just as effective as face-to-face treatment for depression. A 2018 study found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered online is an effective and acceptable form of care. The study found that online CBT was as effective as face-to-face treatment for social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and major depression.
Telebehavioral Health in Central Florida
There are quite a few reasons that people in central Florida might prioritize the delivery of telehealth services for mental health. First, central Florida and the entire state have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Florida has had nearly 800,000 confirmed cases and tens of thousands of hospitalizations.
The Recovery Village recently conducted a survey of South Florida residents to take a closer look at the mental health effects of the pandemic. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said COVID-19 has significantly affected their mental health. Sixty-nine percent of people responding reported experiencing depression or loneliness, and these mental health symptoms were new for 60% of survey respondents.
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, Florida also faces the opioid epidemic and high rates of drug and alcohol abuse. There were 4,698 drug overdose deaths in Florida in 2018. Opioids were involved in 68% of those deaths. In Central Florida, COVID-19 and its effects are being blamed for what’s described as a historic increase in drug overdoses. In Seminole County, reported opioid overdose deaths are up 65% this year. In Orange, overdoses are up 46%. The AdventHealth hospital system saw 18,500 patients identified as having a substance abuse problem.
Florida Telemental Health Providers
In response to coronavirus, many health insurance providers and state legislators are working toward expanding telehealth coverage. For example, some of the country’s biggest insurance providers offer coverage for telephone and virtual services. Due to these efforts, many mental health care providers in Florida, including Orlando Recovery Center, are now often in-network with many of these insurance providers.
While many major insurance companies are expanding coverage, you will need to check with your provider specifically to know exactly what your plan covers in terms of telehealth and teletherapy.
Finding Telemental Health in Florida
We know that COVID-19 is impacting the mental health of Floridians. To help meet the needs of our community, Orlando Recovery Center now offers a range of services that can be provided virtually including teletherapy for mental health conditions.
As coronavirus cases surge, many people may continue to practice social distance or choose to stay home more. While these practices can help stop the spread of the virus, don’t forget to take steps to also protect your mental health. Resources, including teletherapy, are available and you don’t have to postpone getting care for your physical and mental health.
Contact us today if you have any questions about teletherapy and how it can work for you. We can identify treatment options that could work well for you and help you verify your insurance coverage.
Morin, Amy. “Does Online Therapy Work?” Psychology Today, November 14, 2019. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Andrews, G. et al. “Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: An updated meta-analysis.” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, April 2018. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Wagner, Birgit et al. “Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial.” Journal of Affective Disorders, January 2014. Accessed November 9, 2020.
CBS Miami. “Coronavirus States At-A-Glance.” October 11, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2020.
NIH. “Florida: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms.” April 3, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Santich, Kate. “Covid-19’s latest toll in Central Florida: Rising drug overdoses, mental health issues.” Orlando Sentinel, September 18, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2020.