Hello, everyone! I hope this post finds you well. After some discussion with coworkers, I decided to write a post regarding telepractice and therapy online. I feel many of us have been pushed online to seek out one service or another that we would typically have sought out in person. The era of COVID-19 is leading to various changes including a big push to have more services and materials available online. Pre-COVID-19, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) were unable to bill for services provided online; however, currently, insurance companies are covering many services to ensure people get the help they need without incurring undue risk relative to potentially getting novel coronavirus.
What is teletherapy or telepractice?
Telepractice or teletherapy can occur across various locations including private clinics, schools, and hospitals. Although there are different types of teletherapy, I’d like to focus on synchronous services or services that involve interactive audio and video in real-time with a clinician and a patient. Thanks to technology and various telepractice platforms, providers and patients can effectively interact remotely and share appropriate materials, strategies, and exercises as needed. Teletherapy can be conducted via a smartphone, computer, or laptop using Internet connectivity.
Who is it for?
Teletherapy works for most people if you have the necessary tools (i.e., Internet-capable device, Internet access, and a place to focus/complete therapy sessions). With younger children, teletherapy can incorporate handouts, interactive activities, games, and online websites. It can also utilize items in the home and the SLP can facilitate play between a caregiver and a child. Often, parents will be needed for therapy sessions no matter the treatment method to ensure patients stay on task and stay focused during activities. With older children, teletherapy can incorporate the above-mentioned platforms to address speech-language difficulties in a more structured manner. For adults, handouts and appropriate materials can still be shared and provided online. Additionally, exercises and strategies can still be effectively discussed, demonstrated, and practiced. Technology can be a barrier for some individuals, but most individuals can understand and access teletherapy platforms with relative ease. Certain therapies such as voice therapy may be somewhat harder to manage; however, it can still be implemented effectively online with most people. For individuals with significant behavioral concerns, patients are likely better off attending therapy in-person, so that clinicians can better manage the behavior with more hands-on strategies. Overall, teletherapy is an effective tool for most individuals given the appropriate support.
What are the benefits of receiving therapy online?
With teletherapy, patients can conduct therapy remotely where it is convenient for them. Teletherapy saves time. They don’t have to get in the car and drive anywhere, and teletherapy can incorporate everyday items in their actual natural environment. Being in a more natural environment may also offer additional comfort and relaxation to some patients, which may allow them to be more open and interactive. Activities can often be more readily shared giving the patient or caregiver immediate access to said activity.
My own experience…
As a clinician that is actively using teletherapy with patients and as a person that has personally received medical services online on two separate occasions since COVID-19 began, I have a unique perspective on teletherapy and teleservices overall. From the patient’s perspective, I acknowledge that the level of interaction may be impacted when not doing therapy in-person. You’re unable to see a person’s full body language and body positioning. However, I love the convenience of hopping online at my scheduled appointment time and talking with my provider without delay. I don’t have to go anywhere, and I can participate in the appointment right where I am. The ease of it makes it hard for me to think of ever going back to the old way of getting services. As an SLP, I enjoy providing services both in-person and online. However, during COVID-19, I think it makes a lot of sense to shift services online where appropriate and where possible. I think it is important to acknowledge the potential risks related to COVID-19 for patients, caregivers, and providers. Teletherapy helps to minimize these risks. For my adult and child patients that I see, they are still experiencing benefits and positive changes using teletherapy. Many younger patients seem to participate even better online. Personally, I think it is because they enjoy using the technology associated with teletherapy. I also really like being able to share resources with patients and caregivers immediately as I thought comes to mind or as a question is presented to me.
I feel that teletherapy is the way of the future. I think that more and more people are going to be receiving services online. Teletherapy is appropriate for most people and is definitely at least worth a try to see how teletherapy can benefit you. During COVID-19, teletherapy just makes sense because even if restrictions are put in place, you can still access the much-needed services you want and need. In most circumstances, postponing therapy is detrimental to overall therapeutic progress and development, so please keep teletherapy in mind, keep on working, and keep on improving.