At Integrative Psychology, PC, we have been proponents and practitioners of telehealth for years and have seen first-hand the benefits it can provide. In times of uncertainty, where the need for flexibility in accessing behavioral healthcare is paramount, we are honored to be able to continue to provide support for you in this format. Here is a quick-start guide to get your sessions going.
Before the Session Starts
-Make sure you have a private space to be in where you won’t be disturbed or heard. This may be in a bedroom, home office, or even, if needed, in a large closet, basement, bathroom, or in your car in your driveway (please do NOT worry about clutter or messy surroundings as we will only be focusing on you and your emotional needs).
-If you live with others you will need to make sure family members don’t disturb you (though if young kids are at home we can brainstorm options), and you might consider putting a white noise machine (a smartphone or ipod or Alexa device will have white noise apps you can use) or a small window fan on outside the door of the room you are in to mask the sound so you won’t be heard by anyone outside the room.
-In most cases you will need a laptop or desktop computer with a video camera and microphone (these are built in to most modern laptops). We may be able to use telehealth with a smartphone or landline instead if needed.
-Using earphones/buds plugged into the computer helps maintain privacy and improves sound
-Make sure all unnecessary web-browsers are closed and that no one else in your home is using the wifi for streaming movies or video games (or at all, if possible)
-Be comfortable! Find a comfortable position, perhaps with pillows or a throw blanket, a cup of tea or essential oils, so you can create a healing, soothing environment for yourself in this time to care for yourself.
Will insurance cover telehealth?
For most people, yes! Many insurers were already covering telehealth, but as of 3/15/20, Governor Baker, recognizing the vital need and value of telehealth in the midst of the National and State emergencies, announced that all Massachusetts insurers, including GIC, must cover telehealth and at the same rates as they would in-person visits (https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-telehealth-order/download). The Federal government did the same for Medicare and Medicaid plans across the country. This may not apply to some OON, out-of-State, or self-funded plans, though the decisions around this are changing rapidly. As always, do call your insurance to check your specific benefits (though this is a very new development that insurance reps may give conflicting answers on, so calling twice and documenting what you hear on the call with a call reference number is important), and ask Dr. Gray if you have any questions, especially related to OON coverage. If you happen to have an out-of-State plan, please know that more States are enacting similar orders, or already have, but you may want to call your plan to double check on coverage.
What are the pros and cons to using telehealth?
Although research has shown that for many mental health treatments, telehealth produces similar or identical outcomes as in-person treatments, the research is still being gathered, and there are some differences to be aware of. Since telehealth generally only shows faces rather than full body, some nuances of communication via body language can be missed. Likewise, if there is a poor video or sound connection, communication can be difficult or less clear. Much like with texting conversations, it’s important to check in and make sure what you are communicating and what you are hearing is accurate and understood as intended. Overall, though, for people who are at least somewhat familiar with using computers or smartphones, telehealth is overall thought to be safe, effective, convenient, and an important tool in maintaining continuity of care.
Are there risks to using telehealth?
Please see our consent form. Risks are minimal and similar to beginning therapy, though we will need to identify appropriate emergency plans and contacts if they were to be needed. In some cases I may deem that telehealth is not appropriate or safe to use and we will discuss alternatives if this is the case.
Aside from talk therapy, what other kinds of behavioral health treatments can be offered via telehealth?
So many!!! As a long-time ‘digital mental health’ provider and proponent I am happy to share that telehealth can be used for a range helpful treatments including CBT, IFS, mindfulness-based approaches, EMDR (in some cases), relaxation and stress management (including hypnosis and guided imagery), virtual realty for mental health, and even biofeedback and neurofeedback! If you are interested in any of these options, and/or if you also already have any of your own equipment such as a MUSE neurofeedback band, EmWave from Heartmath, temp sensor, or VR device (such as an Oculus Go), please let us know!
Anything else I need to know?
You will be asked to complete a telehealth consent form before we begin our first session (via your Simple Practice patient portal). You will also be asked to confirm your location at the start of each session and attest that others are not present and that the session is not being recorded (unless previously agreed to).
We’ll be happy to address any other questions or concerns you might have, and are looking forward to being able to continue to support you in this way and help you navigate these unprecedented events with resilience and meaning.