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Telehealth and Online Group Therapy for Mental Health Treatment

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Clinically Reviewed by:
Lindsey Rae Ackerman, LMFT

Written by:
Alex Salman, MPH on February 28, 2024

As the healthcare climate drastically changes thanks to major strides in technology, the COVID-19 pandemic, and patient preferences, telehealth has quickly become the new frontier for doctors and patients to communicate effectively and receive care. The field of mental health treatment has been particularly revolutionized by the advent of telehealth and online group therapy in the form of virtual IOP programs and online support groups.

Innovative approaches to mental health treatment in the digital age have provided individuals with greater accessibility to mental health services support groups, and licensed mental health professionals, allowing them to receive the care they need from the comfort of their own homes. Telehealth services allow healthcare providers to provide care for patients without an in-office visit.

Mental health treatment via virtual visits is just as effective as it is in a traditional setting. It is worth exploring for those who need immediate care or that struggle to attend in-person appointments. If you or a loved one want to learn more about online group therapy and virtual IOP programs, keep reading and we’ll delve into the advantages of this innovative approach and explore how it is transforming the way we receive support and treatment.

If you are considering seeking online group therapy, virtual IOP programs, or other forms of online mental health treatment, you may be wondering how telehealth can work for group mental health services. The majority of telehealth appointments occur primarily on video chat, via phone, or by sending and receiving messages through a secure platform.

Many therapists and mental health providers offer telehealth services to their patients, using the same therapy modalities they would in a face-to-face visit.

Telehealth for Mental Health Care

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, our mental health is more important than ever. And, because mental illness is on the rise, the need for better care options for individuals of varying health conditions is essential. Thankfully, advancements in technology have paved the way for new forms of mental health treatment that offer convenience, accessibility, and effectiveness. Telehealth, which includes online group therapy, virtual mental health treatment, and virtual mental intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment, has revolutionized the field of mental health care.

One in five adults in the United States alone has reported an unmet need in terms of mental health care. Along with the rising opioid epidemic in this country, mental health resources must be readily available, particularly in rural and remote areas where addiction is more common and finding adequate care is more challenging.

The benefits of telehealth for individuals with mental health concerns are among the most significant ways that telehealth can positively impact communities around the country.

While it’s convenient to seek care from a primary care physician over the phone rather than in-person appointments, access to mental health using digital tools can change the lives of many individuals struggling.

What is an IOP Program?

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) provide comprehensive mental health care in a flexible and accessible manner. An IOP program is designed to provide a higher level of care than traditional outpatient therapy while still allowing individuals to live at home and engage in their daily activities. It is an intermediate level of treatment that falls between inpatient hospitalization and outpatient therapy.

IOP programs typically consist of structured therapy sessions that focus on various aspects of mental health and well-being. These sessions may include individual therapy, group therapy, psychoeducation, and skill-building exercises. The duration and frequency of IOP programs can vary depending on individual needs, but they generally involve multiple sessions per week over several weeks or months.

Virtual mental IOP treatment is an extension of this concept, harnessing the power of telehealth to deliver intensive care remotely. Through video conferencing and other telehealth technologies, individuals can participate in the same components as in-person group therapy, including individual therapy, group therapy, support groups, and psychoeducation. The sessions are facilitated by licensed mental health professionals who guide the treatment process and provide individualized care.

IOP programs aim to help individuals navigate their mental health challenges while maintaining their daily lives and responsibilities. Virtual mental health IOP treatment and online group therapy expand the reach of these programs, making them more accessible to individuals who may not have easy access to in-person treatment options. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for individuals who require intensive care but cannot commit to full-time hospitalization.

What is Online Group Therapy Like?

Online group therapy takes the concept of traditional in-person group therapy and adapts it to a virtual setting. Group therapy, whether conducted in person or online, has long been recognized as an effective treatment for mental health challenges. Online group therapy brings together individuals facing similar struggles in a supportive and inclusive virtual environment. Group sessions are facilitated by licensed mental health professionals who guide the process and provide valuable insights.

The online format allows participants to join group therapy sessions from the comfort of their own homes or any location with an internet connection. This accessibility eliminates the need for travel, reducing the time and logistical constraints that often hinder participation in traditional in-person group therapy. Additionally, the online setting offers a level of anonymity and privacy, enabling individuals to feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions.

The Benefits of Telehealth

Telehealth works to reduce the stigma associated with seeking therapy for a mental health condition. Many individuals avoid in-person services because they don’t want to feel the shame or embarrassment often associated with seeing a therapist.

Private, in-home therapy sessions reduce the stigma around mental health by providing patients access to a safe space to seek care through technology. Here are a few benefits of telehealth services for mental health conditions.

1. Accessibility

The emergence of telehealth services has widely expanded the treatment access that patients can receive. Because therapy can be just as effective in a virtual care setting as it can be in person, providers can offer telehealth visits to a larger audience in many states rather than only in their local area.

For patients living in rural communities needing transportation for treatment, care is much easier to access as a telehealth appointment. By eliminating geographical barriers, online group therapy allows individuals from different locations to connect and support one another. This accessibility ensures that anyone with an internet connection can access the therapy they need, regardless of their physical location.

Additionally, for states or regions that don’t have adequate mental health care teams, many geographic limitations have been lifted so individuals can receive care from mental health professionals outside of their area.

2. Cost-Effective & Time-Saving

Telehealth services can be the perfect solution for those who can’t leave their job for a therapy appointment or don’t have the funds to travel long distances to see a therapist for an in-person visit.

Patients still receive the same level of support and care without missing work, finding someone to watch their children, arranging transportation, or driving long distances to speak with a therapist.

3. Diagnosis is Possible in Virtual Care

Research shows that diagnosis and treatment are possible in a virtual care setting. As more patients needed access to therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth options became more readily available with the same quality of care received.

This means that providers can diagnose their clients and begin a treatment plan without ever needing an in-person appointment.

In traditional settings, patients may wait several weeks to schedule an appointment with a therapist in their network that is a reasonable distance from where they live. Prolonging care and diagnosis can worsen the symptoms of a mental health condition, no matter how severe. With telehealth services, patients don’t have to wait for an in-person visit to receive a diagnosis.

4. Effective at Getting Desired Results

Research as early as 2013 shows that telemental health services are just as effective as in-person services for patients.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services have seen a massive increase in demand and usage. It’s effective at reducing barriers for people who can’t otherwise seek treatment and instead go untreated, continue to struggle, and experience worsening conditions and health.

5. Convenience

For patients who need care immediately, telehealth services are extremely valuable. Virtual visits can be held when a patient is on their lunch break, in a private room at home, or in any other setting where they feel comfortable.

Many providers strive to improve access for their patients so they will continue to pursue therapy. Since they don’t have to leave their homes and are able to have a flexible schedule with their doctor, the motivation to continue treatment increases.

Mental health professionals can easily communicate with their patients, discuss coping techniques, and share resources and other information as they see fit. They don’t have to wait for a patient to come in for an in-person appointment to provide treatment and other resources as needed.

From avoiding travel to booking same-day appointments, the convenience of telehealth treatment is undeniable.

6. Ideal for Physical & Social Limitations

Individuals who have physical limitations and can’t leave their homes easily or without help can benefit greatly from telehealth.

Telehealth services are also helpful for those with social anxiety, OCD, and mood disorders who struggle to leave home, use public transportation, or wait for in-person visits with a therapist.

6. Privacy & Anonymity

The online setting provides a safe space for individuals to share their experiences without fear of stigma or judgment. Participants can maintain their privacy and feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions openly.

The Drawbacks of Telehealth

As the healthcare industry changes dramatically, there are growing pains associated with telehealth that create some drawbacks worth noting.

1. Insurance Coverage

Although many insurance providers offer coverage for telehealth services, not every company does. This can lead to out-of-pocket costs for care. Check your insurance policy before selecting a mental health provider to ensure you can get the treatment options you want.

Clear Behavioral Health is in network with most major insurance companies and offers treatment for a full range of mental health needs.

2. Lack of Access in Some Communities

For patients in some communities, including rural areas and high-poverty areas, behavioral health services are not as accessible via online methods. Patients in these areas and communities may not have adequate technology access or internet connection to receive care in this format.

Which Mental Health Conditions Can Be Treated via Telehealth?

The behavioral health services that can be provided via telehealth are abundant and just as effective as in-person treatment. Here are the conditions and mental health services that can be accessed via telehealth.

Depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, OCD, PTSD, panic disorders, and psychotic disorders are the primary mental health conditions that can be successfully treated via telehealth visits and in-person visits.

Both individual therapy and group therapy behavioral healthcare formats can be done via telehealth. Those with mental health needs who struggle with isolation can benefit from virtual group therapy.

Access Mental Health Services from Home with the Clear Behavioral Health Virtual Program.

Clear Behavioral Health employs evidence-based therapies and holistic approaches for a truly integrative approach to their virtual intensive outpatient program. We offer a virtual IOP focusing exclusively on mental health concerns: the Clear Behavioral Health Virtual Program.

If you or someone in your life needs online therapy options, call Clear Behavioral Health Virtual Program now. Our virtual telehealth mental health treatment programs provide a range of individual and group therapy sessions. Reach us now at 866.885.1449 to learn more about the benefits of telehealth at Clear Behavioral Health Virtual Program and start therapy today.

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