Telehealth? In-Person Sessions? What to Know as You Seek the Right Balance for Your Practice
For decades, individuals seeking therapy generally had one option: find the nearest qualified professional in the area, book an appointment, and head to the office for an in-person session.
Then came COVID-19, which forced most therapy online practically overnight.
One silver lining to the pandemic is the fact that the virus transformed psychotherapy altogether — and in a good way.
All of a sudden, the industry shifted to telehealth, making it easier and more comfortable than ever before for clients to get the care they needed to live their best lives.
As vaccines roll out and life begins to resemble something closer to normal, many therapists are now considering how to structure their practices in a post-pandemic world.
Are you trying to decide whether you should conduct therapy in person or therapy online?
If so, you’re not alone.
Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of each type of session — and why your private practice might be best off taking the hybrid approach and offering options for both therapy online and in person.
Pros and Cons of Telehealth and In-Person Sessions
As you begin to think about the next phase of your practice, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both telehealth and in-person sessions.
Pros of Telehealth
Social distancing and client safety
Telehealth enables your practice to treat clients remotely — something that has proven to be critical during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual sessions enable your practice to maintain social distancing — which, in turn, improves the health of your community.
In today’s fast-paced world, clients are busier each day. As everyone who’s had to see a doctor or therapist on a regular basis knows too well, traveling to the office isn’t always the most enjoyable experience. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that more than three times as many clients kept their telehealth appointments than those who had in-person sessions.
Practicing telehealth allows your practice to become more inclusive by offering options to disabled individuals. Additionally, it helps folks who live in remote areas and can’t easily get to your office to get the help they need.
Believe it or not, clients actually prefer convenience over quality of care. By offering telehealth services, your practice can meet client expectations and increase operational efficiency — all while delivering the same caliber of care as in-person sessions.
Cons of telehealth
Before the pandemic, insurers were hesitant to cover therapy online. In the aftermath of COVID-19, many changed their tune. That said, some insurance companies are still holding back, which could be a barrier for some would-be clients.
Even the most adept technology user runs into problems every now and again. When you host telehealth sessions, there’s always a chance things like connectivity issues, uncharged devices, and platform problems can derail your efforts.
Ensuring the best outcomes for clients starts with keeping their information private. Unfortunately, bad actors have been increasingly targeting telehealth providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — which means there’s a non-zero chance telehealth platforms get hacked, hurting client privacy.
While telehealth can help practitioners meet social distancing requirements, physical distance is not without its downsides. For example. in the event a client is going through a significant event in the real world — perhaps a physical one — therapists can’t intervene through a screen.
Pros of In-Person Sessions
Change of pace
Most of us have been stuck at home for the better part of a year. By returning to in-person sessions, you get a change of pace — while giving the same to your clients. As a result, you’ll reforge personal connections and feel less isolated because of it.
While mental health coverage varies, insurers that cover therapy are more likely to sign off on real-world sessions versus virtual ones.
By delivering treatment in person, you can be there, physically, when your clients are struggling the most. Additionally, in-person sessions make it much easier to read body language, which plays a critical role in communication.
Cons of in-person sessions
If you’re like most therapists, you have an office in a building that’s not your house. While in-person sessions provide tremendous upsides, they can also eat into your practice’s margins if you don’t own your own real estate.
It’s not easy for most clients to carve a chunk out of the day to see their therapist particularly — when there’s a pandemic going on and they’re working from home and taking care of their kids. While in-person sessions can be transformative in certain environments, virtual appointments can be especially convenient for clients, making that much easier to improve overall health outcomes.
When a client gets stuck in traffic and shows up 20 minutes late, it can mess up your whole day. Over a long enough timeline, this could lead to inefficiencies that prevent your practice from reaching its full potential.
Why You Might Not Want to Put All Your Cards in One Basket
Whether you’re a therapist who’s itching to go back to the office or one who’s wondering if you even need a dedicated space to begin with, it’s important to determine your ultimate goals to define your game plan moving forward.
Keep in mind there’s no rule stating you have to go 100 percent in-person or 100 percent virtual. For many therapists, a hybrid approach is probably the best option.
By offering a combination of both therapy online and in-person, you can cater to the preference of boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and zoomers alike — delivering care in the format that each client prefers.
How to Determine the Best Approach for Your Private Practice
1. Survey your clients.
Ask existing clients what they think about online sessions versus in-office visits. Tabulate the results.
2. Leverage that feedback.
Let those answers guide your decisions. If 80 percent of your clients tell you they prefer telehealth to in-office visits, you need to respond to those demands.
On the flip side, if everyone’s telling you they can’t wait to get back to an in-person setting, you need to figure out how to make that happen as soon as is safely possible.
Marketing for Your Plan
Are you planning to see more clients in your office? Are you thinking about doubling down on your virtual visit efforts?
Perhaps you’re trying a little bit of each.
Whatever you decide, it’s probably worth your while to update your GoodTherapy profile accordingly.
Are you new to GoodTherapy? Sign up today to increase your practice’s visibility and help more people become the best versions of themselves — using whichever treatment format they prefer.
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