Virtual Therapy: Removing Barriers to Mental Health Care

Stress and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic pose a serious challenge for all age groups. A survey published by the American Psychiatric Association in March 2020 showed that more than one-third of Americans (36%) feel that the coronavirus pandemic is having a serious impact on their mental health. Most Americans (59%) report serious impacts on their daily lives.1 Calls to crisis hotlines have increased exponentially. In recent studies, adults aged 18 to 44 report emotional and mental health problems associated with the pandemic.

Given that mental-health problems among young adults were on the rise even before the pandemic began, some experts believe that the country is on the verge of a mental-health crisis. Worse, quarantine and closures of medical practices have, in many cases, made access to personal treatment difficult or impossible. Fortunately, state and federal regulations have enabled the expansion of telemedicine services, including treatment for mental illness. Virtual therapies may well be the answer to the needs of millions of people in the mental-health field.

Proven efficacy

Research shows that online treatments can have positive results for a range of mental health problems, including depression, panic disorders, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. Telephone and video-based psychological care and evidence-based treatments such as online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven to be as effective as face-to-face therapy.2

The benefits for patients go beyond making treatment more accessible. Virtual therapy offers convenient modalities including live chats, text messaging, video and telephone sessions. Appointments are easy to schedule at convenient times. Virtual therapy is an attractive alternative for people with transportation problems or time constraints. People who are worried about being seen in a therapist’s practice, and those who are reluctant to use traditional mental health services may benefit from increased privacy. In many cases, virtual therapy sessions are more affordable than face-to-face sessions.

Best practices

It is important that therapists have the clinical expertise, licenses and qualifications to virtually treat patients. Reliable technology and secure platforms to ensure customer confidentiality are also crucial. Virtual therapy can solve many mental health problems. However, it is not suitable for patients who are suicidal, psychotic, severely mentally ill or have other illnesses that call for in-person care.

Due to the pandemic, health care is developing rapidly. Magellan Healthcare recognizes the need for additional telemedicine options and is now offering BetterHelp, the world’s largest online counseling service, to help Employee Assistance Program members access convenient therapy options quickly and easily. Click here to learn more about how Magellan is helping our members their mental health, emotional well-being and quality of life.

[1] Psychiatry.org. 2020. New Poll: COVID-19 Impacting Mental Well-Being: Americans Feeling Anxious, Especially For Loved Ones; Older Adults Are Less Anxious. [online] Available at: <https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/new-poll-covid-19-impacting-mental-well-being-americans-feeling-anxious-especially-for-loved-ones-older-adults-are-less-anxious> [Accessed 13 July 2020].

2 Gratzer, D. and Khalid-Khan, F., 2020. Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy In The Treatment Of Psychiatric Illness

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