• C. Mead L.C.S.W., L.C.P.C.

Telehealth is a silver-lining opportunity that everyone (guys especially) should embrace.

In this year of disasters, we have all endured and lost a great deal but, there is often some upside or good that results from even the worst events. Everyone (guys especially) could benefit from an unexpected silver lining, the shift to Telehealth. The ongoing pandemic has uprooted most systems, healthcare included, and initiated an emergency jump to Telehealth video conference for providers of all types. The sudden shift to web-based services is an enormously helpful development for consumers of mental healthcare and vastly expands consumer’s outpatient provider options. For guys, it means service on a much more convenient platform which reduces barriers that keep people from getting help.

Although a seemingly small shift, it's actually quite major. What's basically happened is: The counselor, counseling, and therapy can now come to your couch and you can now potentially choose from many more providers than were ever a practical option before. Your provider choices for practical reasons were limited to near where you physically lived or worked. Because unless there are no there options who would want to travel as far as an hour to and from a counselor every week? With web-based rather than location-based services, consumer choice for mental healthcare just potentially expanded massively with options now available throughout your entire state not just your neighborhood, city, or town. That's actually a huge development and advancement that I don't see going away. In the short term, it will be a practical necessity through 2021 and I’m confident as time progresses its’ value will quickly be recognized. Of course, if our leaders fail to take action there may be obstacles ahead.

I think there is a fair argument to be made that much of counseling or psychotherapy lends itself quite well to a web-based platform, especially considering the lack of practical necessity to be physically present with a fair number of people being seen on an outpatient basis. While it may feel strange at first, many have commented on how they were surprised that it felt so personal because on video you appear to be sitting much closer together which provides a very intimate private experience. Even doctors who rely on physical examinations have been able to effectively utilize Telehealth for at least some of their appointments.

Of course, there are caveats. Yes, for some people Telehealth is an unsafe or impractical option; others definitely lack access or funding which is an additional but solvable problem. To be fair, I do believe that in-person counseling sessions are a preferred and at times necessary method that offers valuable and perhaps intangible benefits in general and for specific client groups. I don’t believe Telehealth will ever replace traditional counseling but rather become a very convenient adjunctive option. But I also believe that in-office sessions are not really necessary for quite a few people particularly when we're working on problems in the mild to moderate severity range. It's too early to tell but I think we'll find for a good number of people the benefits are equal regardless of method. More important is the potential expansion of options for consumers that Telehealth offers that can only increase utilization and expand access for under-served communities which is exactly what's needed

Counselors have a practice philosophy that we meet people where they currently exist, which traditionally meant working with people at whatever place there are currently at emotionally, developmentally, intellectually, spiritually, and in many other ways. Now we have the opportunity to meet people where they are physically located as well and that’s a big advancement any way you slice it. Telehealth may turn out to be a major shift for a healthy chunk of healthcare.

Next time, we’ll talk about why men won’t “do therapy”.

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