One of the most wide-reaching side effects of COVID-19 has been its impact on mental health. Understandably, a global pandemic has people dealing with more anxiety and depression than usual—not to mention the additional difficulties it’s causing for people with other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The advantages of teletherapy

After practicing psychology for 45 years, Dr. Moe Gelbart, director of practice development for Community Psychiatry, California’s largest outpatient mental health organization, says that COVID-19 has rapidly and dramatically changed the way the profession operates.

“The levels of fear, uncertainty, and the unknown combined with social isolation has rightfully increased all of our anxiety and depression,” he tells Lifehacker. “On top of that, sheltering at home has cut many of us off from our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers, and our needed and trusted psychiatrists and therapists. Fortunately, telemedicine is available and easy to access, which may not be widely known or understood.”

Another major advantage of teletherapy is the amount of time it saves. Between the travel time to and from the office and the wait time while you’re in the office, a normal trip to the therapist could take a total of several hours. But, as Gelbart explains, not only are these wait times eliminated, but you can also engage in activities at home while you wait for your appointment to begin. In addition to that, teletherapy may make it easier for families living in different geographic locations to participate in the same session.

Alvord also points out that teletherapy gives people more options when it comes to finding culturally competent mental health professionals. “It’s really important to understand people’s values and their culture,” she says. “And if you can have providers who truly understand a culture and provide services, people aren’t just more comfortable, but there’s a greater understanding and, I think, greater advocacy.”

And while some people fear that telemedicine is impersonal, in his experience, Gelbart has found the opposite when it comes to teletherapy. “There is actually a stronger bond and connection as you have each other’s undivided attention,” he says. “Everyone I have worked with has said they were amazed at how connected they felt.”

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