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The Effectiveness (If Any) of E-Therapy


E-Therapy represents the latest in access to care for the scores of Americans that suffer from mental illness, but do not have appropriate or accessible care nearby. The concept, in its most basic form, is to conduct a professional course of therapy remotely – without face to face contact. This can include screening, assessment and creating a treatment plan along with the structured treatment itself. Proponents of e-therapy righty state that it can reduce costs and increase access for millions of Americans. Critics, also with legitimate opinions, have concerns that there is a lot we still do not know about e-therapy and how effective or appropriate it may be for patients.

E-Therapy as a Primary Treatment Vehicle

It is not hard to believe that some form of therapy is better than none at all. And while remote therapy may not be as immersive as in-person therapy, it does start a very important line of communication that may not have otherwise existed. Despite being discussed and tested for at least the past 15 years, remote therapeutic techniques are still in their infancy and as such there is not a significant body of empirical data to offer conclusive evidence as to its effectiveness.

As a result of its relative newness, there is also a lack of understanding and acceptance from industry professionals, which can cause results to vary. Many governing bodies, including the Florida Certification Board, offer guidance and certification in e-therapy techniques, but it does not necessarily overcome many fair criticisms of the mode of treatment. Significant research will be necessary to ensure that counselors can offer appropriate and accurate treatment remotely. Further, best practices are required to determine the ideal course and frequency of treatment and ultimately how to ensure patients do not drop out.

Counselors must also be aware of privacy issues that are inherent to electronic or remote communication. Anyone providing clinical care in such a setting must be aware of stringent privacy laws including HIPAA. The collection and storage of Private Health Information via the Internet is a complex and sometimes costly endeavor requiring knowledgeable professionals to administer.

Of course, remote treatment can also bring jurisdictional issues into play. Counselors may have to be aware of legal and ethical considerations between multiple municipalities, states or even countries.

E-Therapy In The Supportive Role

Remote therapeutic sessions can be of great use when the client has completed a course of primary treatment and has moved to a lower level of care. Patient mobility in modern treatment means that, oftentimes, great distances separate client and counselor after a course of treatment. E-therapy can bridge that gap and represents a continuation of a trusted relationship for an appropriate period of time. With effective e-therapy protocols, patients can receive constructive treatment and/or support long into the future.

As technology evolves, so does the potential for a more immersive and effective e-therapy processes. Today, we have the opportunity to change and improve access to care for what has become a national crisis – addiction and mental illness. With standardized protocol and appropriate oversight, e-therapy may go a long way to improving access to care around the country.