Clinician's Digest


Clinician's Digest

The Rise of Distance Therapy

March/April 2015


For many, psychotherapy is still a rarefied, face-to-face encounter outside the normal rhythms of the world, a time in which cell phones are turned off, and we’re uninterrupted by an ever-replenishing email inbox. But we no longer live in a world in which we can so clearly partition ourselves off from the electronic information grid. Many occupations no longer require a clearly defined workplace or a physical presence. Many employees never see their boss in person. Increasingly, surgeons are slicing patients open from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Why should psychotherapy be any different?

More and more clinicians today are adapting to meet the demands of the digital world and fit into the schedules and lifestyles of clients no longer willing to follow the traditional pattern of once-a-week sessions in a therapist’s office. In a consumer-driven mental health marketplace, individuals with anxiety disorders want services from the comfort of their homes. For veterans living in rural areas, remote group and individual psychotherapy for trauma offers treatment possibilities that weren’t available even a few years ago. But although telehealth has been around for decades, many clinicians are still unsure about the clinical, ethical, and legal issues that emerge as distance therapy becomes a more accepted practice.

Telemental healthcare can include emails, texts, web chatting, and video-conferencing. In a 2013 meta-analysis of a decade’s worth of research…

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