Attention Private Practice Therapists

The pandemic crisis and related social distancing compelled therapists, counselors and others involved with behavioral health services to expedite delivery of telehealth online counseling.

Attention Private Practice Therapists: ASAM-based Telehealth is now Available

The pandemic crisis and related social distancing compelled therapists, counselors and others involved with behavioral health services to expedite delivery of telehealth online counseling. To help make mental health and addiction treatment services more accessible, Niznik Behavioral Health now offers industry-backed telehealth for private practice therapists.

Niznik Health researched and implemented e-health options, based on guidelines from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). In this period of social distancing, telehealth for addiction treatment and telehealth for mental health services are readily available for people in need.


Therapists can benefit from applying telehealth to their practice in a number of ways. In the short term it will protect them from exposure to the virus by avoiding the need for in-person sessions. It also can improve accessibility during a crisis where more people than ever might need mental health services but cannot leave their homes.


Telehealth to Blossom Post-Pandemic

Almost half of Americans believing the pandemic affects their mental health 1 On the health care workers side, some officials believe the coronavirus crisis will force providers and clients to get more comfortable using telehealth long-term. 2


In the long run, telemedicine can be a saver of time and money, and greatly improve accessibility for clients. Private-practice therapists could reduce the cost of rent for offices, or save on gas for trips to meet with clients. Telehealth services could allow therapists to expand their client base without taking on too much more risk.


Telehealth can extend resources to more populations in communities with limited access to mental health services, avoiding transportation issues altogether.


In the weeks and months ahead, considerable amount of news space will be dedicated to discussions about telehealth, also called telemedicine, e-health or m-health (for mobile phone health services). The novel coronavirus pushed telehealth for mental health to the forefront, but the concept of electronically based health services is hardly new.


Telehealth Services Quickly Becoming Widespread


While telehealth has been available for about 20 years, its implementation for mental health services has been slow, for a number of reasons. Privacy concerns; lack of public trust of telemedicine; questions about prescriptions; and governmental regulations proved burdensome.


Then the coronavirus restricted contact between human beings, and the age-old human touch of doctors and nurses was made impossible.

“There is a mad scramble to shift mental health and addiction treatment services online,” a representative for behavioral health providers told the media early in the pandemic. 3

Growing Needs and Fewer Restrictions for Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

Telehealth is delivery of health services via use of videoconferencing, texting, mobile applications or other electronic means 4. Early applications focused on serving people living in remote areas, or who are challenged to visit health offices.


The demand for telehealth services has grown exponentially due to the pandemic – and therapists, counselors and other private mental health care providers are integrating e-health into their practices.


Regulatory agencies, at both the state and federal levels, moved to ease regulations on telehealth during the national coronavirus emergency. The actions include allowing use of audio or video technologies in mental health and addiction treatment services.


More Easily Engage Telehealth by Partnering

The growth of telehealth actually means improving accessibility to health care services. The long waits and other impediments to getting mental health services can be avoided when therapists and counselors arrange e-health options. And they don’t have to test the waters alone.


For instance, partnering with Niznik Health can result in support from our mental health professionals and administrators, as well ever-important referrals. Our ASAM-backed telehealth services increase access to valuable resources, and basically improve the overall accessibility to mental health services.


The value of telehealth for mental health services has been amplified by responses to the pandemic.


“(Videoconferencing) allows us to be able to interact with others face-to-face without actually being face-to-face. It’s been a life-saver,” said an administrator of a private social media group for Alcoholics Anonymous members to maintain contact with one another. Twelve-step groups have been quick to adapt telehealth services for group therapy sessions.

Wide Range of Applications for Telehealth

It might be easy to underestimate the potential of telehealth to increase accessibility for mental health or addiction treatment services. Perhaps health care professionals are unaware of the full breadth of tactics available through e-health, such as:


  • Videoconferencing with patients, whether by a physician, or nurse. With the pandemic the federal government also eased restrictions to allow medicine to be prescribed without an in-person visit. Even medically assisted detox or clinically monitored detox are possible with the changes.
  • Text communications. Health offices can send appointment reminders, or even just simple inspirational messages to patients, to keep them engaged in their treatment process.
  • Personal health portals. Privacy-protected website portals already were gaining traction in the industry, allowing doctors and nurses to keep patients well-informed about their health status and what might be needed moving forward. The pandemic should increase usage of these portals.
  • Apps and other computer-based programs can help patients keep track of actions such as steps taken per day, sleep times, or other biometric markers.
  • Therapy by telephone is growing due in part to eased regulations.


Summary: Telehealth for Mental Health is Here


Telehealth for mental health services, including for addiction treatment, is here. In coming months, it will be even more well-established as established e-health practices are applied to mental health therapy and counseling services.


Federal and state lawmakers already have acted to make telemedicine services easier to deliver – such as in Florida, where interns now are allowed to work via telehealth for a 90-day period. 5

References

1 https://www.kff.org/health-reform/press-release/poll-4-in-10-americans-report-losing-jobs-or-income-due-to-coronavirus-crisis-including-more-than-half-part-time-workers/

2 https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/covid-19-coronavirus/access-to-telehealth#Implement

3 https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/09/mental-health-online-coronavirus-177499

4 https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/health-sector/strategies/telehealth/en/

5 https://floridasmentalhealthprofessions.gov/latest-news/mental-health-by-telehealth/

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