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Types, uses, and costs of virtual therapy

Virtual therapy is counselling conducted over the phone, through an app, via video chat, or even through a virtual reality device.

These virtual therapy solutions allow people to receive treatment from the comfort of their own homes, rather than needing to travel to a therapist’s office.

Virtual therapy comes in a variety of forms, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Continue reading to learn more.

Definition

virtual therapy

Telemedicine includes virtual therapy. It encompasses any treatment obtained through the use of an electronic gadget.

The following are some examples of virtual therapy:

  • talking to a practitioner via videoconferencing software
  • using an app to access therapy
  • phone- and email-based therapies, such as when a physical therapist suggests specific exercises via email
  • the use of online devices to assess clients or patients remotely — for instance, when a speech therapist uses online tools to measure progress

Types

Virtual platforms can theoretically be used for any treatment that does not require physical touch or laboratory tests.

The following are the most common types of virtual therapy:

Virtual psychotherapy

Virtual psychotherapy, also known as telemental health or telepsychology, uses video chat, email, phone, text messaging, or email to treat people with mental health concerns, relationship or sexual health problems, or considerable stress.

A licenced therapist conducts traditional treatment through a new platform in most virtual psychotherapy sessions. A client may express their emotions, seek insight into their relationships, and request assistance in making lifestyle adjustments.

Apps or coaching are used in a contemporary form of virtual psychotherapy to improve mental health. Because a person does not receive care from a licenced practitioner, this practise is not considered traditional therapy. They may instead track their own symptoms over time, receive virtual counselling from a bot, or receive daily mental health suggestions.

Virtual physical therapy

Traditional physical therapy is provided in an online or phone-based context using virtual physical therapy. A physical therapist may talk about recent complaints, suggest exercises, or perform testing.

A therapist may ask a client to complete exercises and then analyse their form and progress using a camera.

Some physical therapy applications supplement therapy by providing extra exercises or allowing clients to track their progress in between sessions. These apps can be used in conjunction with virtual or in-person therapy.

Virtual speech therapy

Virtual speech therapy can be used to treat a variety of speech issues, including stuttering, aphasia from a stroke, and difficulty pronouncing words.

A therapist may examine a person’s speech in a virtual session, suggest strategies for resolving speech difficulties, or assist them in practising new speech patterns. To improve speech, a new type of virtual speech therapy uses bots instead of real people.

Virtual speech therapy apps are also available to help people achieve their speech objectives in between sessions or track their progress over time.

Virtual occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that assists people in learning new skills. It is frequently used in conjunction with other people of treatment. A person who has speech problems as a result of a stroke, for example, can select speech treatment first, then occupational therapy to help them learn the motor skills needed to use a speech assistive device.

A therapist provides coaching, advice, and feedback on techniques via a virtual platform, such as video chat, in virtual occupational therapy. Virtual reality may also be used in some forms of virtual occupational therapy to simulate real-world circumstances that the individual may encounter.

Advantages and disadvantages

When choosing virtual treatment, a client or healthcare provider should weigh the benefits and drawbacks:

Advantages

Virtual therapy is still a very young field, and researchers haven’t thoroughly examined every treatment option. However, preliminary study indicates that it might be useful.

In a 2020 trial of virtual physical therapy after knee surgery, researchers discovered that virtual therapy provided equal benefits to in-person treatment. It also resulted in significant cost savings.

Telemental health services, according to the authors of a 2017 systematic review, provide a similar level of care and outcomes to traditional mental health care.

Virtual therapy also has the following advantages:

  • Increased access to care: Virtual treatment solutions are available to people with physical limitations, who are geographically isolated, or who do not have time to drive to therapy.
  • More privacy: Virtual therapy that is well-managed allows a person to get care in the comfort of their own home, without having to wait in a waiting room or contact with other clients.
  • Cost savings: Virtual therapy may be less expensive. The therapist’s overheads may be reduced, especially if they transition to an all online model of therapy.
  • Client satisfaction: The majority of research on client satisfaction with virtual therapy suggests that it is at least as good as traditional therapy. Virtual care may be less stressful for certain people, resulting in more satisfaction.

Disadvantages

The following are some of the disadvantages of virtual therapy:

  • Data concerns: A third party could infringe on a client’s privacy if a therapist uses the inappropriate platform or fails to encrypt treatment sessions. If a customer seeks help via a public network or leaves their computer unlocked, their coworkers or roommates may be able to see their sessions.
  • Relationship issues: It may be more difficult to build a trusting relationship with the therapist depending on the method chosen by the client. Email-based treatment, for example, eliminates body language and voice tone clues, thereby producing communication problems.
  • Limitations of technology: Therapy can be made more difficult by slow networks, low-quality video, and chat delays.
  • Expertise in technology and philosophy: People who aren’t used to using technology may be less at ease with virtual treatment or feel more nervous about it.

Cost

Virtual therapy has been shown to cut healthcare expenses in several studies. Because therapists have lower overhead costs, they may be able to charge less. Because telehealth can enhance access, it has the potential to save long-term costs by allowing people to receive the preventative care they require and encounter fewer serious health problems.

Virtual therapy is likely to save money on things like automobile maintenance, gas, childcare, and lost work time.

However, not all virtual therapists provide telehealth sessions at a reduced rate. Medicare patients, for example, typically pay the same fee for online care as they would for in-person treatment.

Virtual care is not covered by all insurers, and there is no universal set of rules requiring them to do so. Anyone seeking virtual treatment should speak with their insurance provider about coverage choices or look into alternate payment methods.

Providers

A licenced professional is required to practise telemedicine. Licensing concerns may arise for providers, especially if they practise outside state lines.

Clients should examine licencing regulations and inquire about their therapist’s licence because each state licencing board has its own set of rules.

When a corporation provides support through an app or gives advice from an unlicensed practitioner, they must usually state that they are not providing medical care. A mental health app that provides daily mental health recommendations, for example, cannot claim to provide psychotherapy.

Conclusion

When a person does not want to leave home, or cannot or should not, like in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual therapy is an excellent choice.

It’s important to check the provider’s qualifications, set specific goals, provide feedback on how well the treatment is going, and transfer providers if the treatment isn’t working.

Sources:

  • https://www.healthit.gov/faq/are-there-state-licensing-issues-related-telehealth
  • https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/tmj.2015.0002
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885230815000790?via%3Dihub
  • https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343%2809%2901115-2/fulltext
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/virtual-therapy
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662387/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723163/
  • https://telehealthandmedicinetoday.com/index.php/journal/article/view/4
  • https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/online-therapy
  • https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth

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