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Teletherapy vs. In-Person Therapy:

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world in 2020, it resulted in an extraordinary increase in telehealth care, paving the way for a massive shift in the delivery of health services, more specifically teletherapy.

Research has shown that teletherapy offers the same level of quality care as traditional therapy services. However, teletherapy is not the best fit for everyone. There are many considerations when deciding whether in-person or teletherapy is suitable for you or your family. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of these considerations.

Benefits of In-Person Therapy

In-person therapy has been the gold standard of practice in mental health treatment and continues to be widely used by many people. Despite the advance of teletherapy, in-person therapy offers “tried and true” supportive interventions such as:

  1. Personal connection and rapport between the therapist and client can be enhanced with in-person sessions. This often allows for more immediate and organic relationship formation and trust building. Research shows that therapeutic rapport is one of the most significant factors in the effectiveness of treatment. Furthermore, from a clinical perspective, therapists can more readily notice clients’ nonverbal communication, e.g., body language, eye contact and other subtle cues that offer insight into what clients are experiencing.
  2. Deeper level of treatment allows for better integration of therapeutic services using in-person activities and other tactile stimulation. Therapeutic interventions such as Theraplay, music and art therapy, EMDR, OT and other treatment modalities offer significant benefits when applied face to face.
  3. Access to care for those who have vulnerabilities with attention and focus, verbal communication, cognitive or intellectual challenges or other sensory concerns.

Benefits of Teletherapy

Although teletherapy services have been around for many years, it has not been a therapy style of choice for most people. However, teletherapy allows therapists to continue providing high quality care to meet varying needs of clients and their families. Benefits of teletherapy include, but are not limited to:

  1. Convenience of therapy services from the comfort of your home. Avoiding rush hour traffic and commutes.
  2. Access to care for those living with disabilities or those living in remote areas who can’t readily get to a physical therapy office. Many people are also dealing with transportation insecurity and may rely on public transportation.
  3. Cost of childcare is a burden that can be reduced for caregivers who wish to seek therapy.

Challenges

Teletherapy and in-person therapy both have benefits, but there are also downsides to both to consider. Teletherapy inherently comes with the risk of technology and internet issues that may interfere with service, extended screentime and visual strain and potential feelings of disconnectedness from the therapy experience. Challenges with in-person therapy include travel time, difficulty scheduling multiple family members to meet at one physical location and the stigma of who may see you at the therapy office.

So, How Do You Decide?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. What works for you and your family may not be the best option for others. For younger children and adolescents, teletherapy can easily present challenges with being able and willing to focus (i.e., minimizing distractions), engaging in treatment and feeling connected to the therapist. In addition, appointments are typically scheduled after school and by that time, children and adolescents have usually reached their threshold for attentiveness. If your child(ren) did not fare well with the virtual learning environment during the pandemic, there is a high probability that they may not fare well with teletherapy. This can cause an already tense home situation to become even more strained as you are chasing your child down to keep them in front of the computer or to attend virtual sessions. Furthermore, some people really benefit from face-to-face human interaction and therefore prefer to meet in-person for therapy.

I am a huge supporter of the human connection that can come from in-person services. However, I do recognize that it may not be a good fit for everyone. Go with what feels right and give yourself grace in the process. You may try one method and determine it is not the best option for you and/or your family. That’s OK! It is a learning experience. The good part is that if one modality does not work out, you can try the other, or perhaps find a sweet spot with a hybrid model.