If you live with serious or persistent emotional distress related to an anxiety condition, you may have given some thought to how professional support might help you manage your symptoms. But reaching out for help may not always be easy.
Even in ordinary circumstances, certain barriers might make it difficult for you to leave home in order to see a therapist or attempt to make an appointment. For example, many people who have panic attacks or live with specific phobias often find it challenging to go new places. Conditions like agoraphobia may keep you from leaving home entirely.
Depending on your location, you might even have trouble finding a therapist in your area. But telemental health, also known as distance therapy or online counseling, puts therapy within reach from anywhere—even the safety of home.
The Rise of Telemental Health
In recent years, stigma surrounding therapy has decreased. Talking to loved ones and acquaintances about mental health symptoms and your efforts to address them has become a more normalized and accepted practice. This change has also normalized the act of reaching out for help, and the demand for therapy has increased.
Along with this increase in demand has come an increase for alternative types of mental health treatment—in short, more convenient approaches to therapy. As experts begin to recognize more unique, specific presentations of mental health conditions, the demand for therapists who specialize in addressing these issues also grows.
Technology no longer exists on the fringes of our lives. It’s become indispensable. Busy people want convenient, quick solutions, and the increasing use of technology in daily life makes this possible for all manner of services. Therapy is no exception.
Telemental health care fulfills the need many people have for more accessible therapy. Whether you prefer to connect with a therapist over a weekly video conference, telephone, or regular text message, distance counseling enables you to get help on your own time, without having to face certain challenges like transportation, limited parking, or limited therapist availability.
Since telemental health care allows you to work with a therapist located anywhere in your state, it also opens doors to specialized treatment. Since telemental health care allows you to work with a therapist located anywhere in your state, it also opens doors to specialized treatment. That is to say, if you need a specialist, you may be able to find one more easily than if you were limited to local providers.
Anxiety and Telemental Health
Current COVID-19 lockdowns can impact your ability to access in-person therapy for the time being. But for many people, other barriers to treatment may still linger once quarantine and social distancing requirements have lifted.
Distance counseling can be an accessible option for people working to manage their anxiety symptoms. Many different conditions exist under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety (what many people think of when they hear “anxiety”) is only one of these. Other common experiences related to anxiety that might lead someone to seek out telemental health care include:
- Severe obsessions or compulsions, such as a fixation on germs or persistent thoughts of doing harm to others, that make it difficult to have close contact with other people
- A phobia of something regularly encountered outside your home, such as dogs, birds, or cars
- Agoraphobia, or a strong fear of being somewhere you can’t easily leave. This phobia usually relates to panic disorder
- Panic attacks, especially if you haven’t identified triggers and fear having one without warning
- Social anxiety severe enough to make in-person interaction terrifying or unbearable even to consider
How Teletherapy Supports People with Anxiety
While distance counseling may not be ideal for every mental health condition, it can work well for some issues. Online therapy is generally effective for treating anxiety. The types of treatment therapists typically provide for anxiety can be offered fairly well online through a video platform.
Anxiety treatment approaches can vary, since not every treatment will work well for everyone. But if you work with an anxiety specialist online, your therapist may use treatment strategies such as the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you learn to recognize distressing thoughts, challenge them, and reframe them so they no longer have a negative impact
- Exposure therapy, which helps you slowly become accustomed to facing a specific thing or situation you fear (typically used to treat phobias)
- Exposure and response prevention, which helps you learn to face situations or things that trigger obsessions without performing a compulsion in response
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a type of CBT that prioritizes mindfulness, or staying grounded in the present moment without getting trapped in cycles of unwanted thoughts
When working with a therapist online, you’ll also have a safe space to explore underlying factors that contribute to anxiety, talk through distress in your everyday life, and develop safe, healthy coping strategies—just as you would when working with a therapist in person.
Therapists can also offer guidance on methods that can help you address anxiety symptoms before they reach an unmanageable level. For example, they can teach skills to counter rumination, or circling thought patterns, that often come up for many people living with anxiety.
You can also learn (and practice) mindfulness and meditation exercises in distance counseling. These practices may help ease certain mental health symptoms over time, lead to decreased stress, and help you get better sleep, which can also help relieve anxiety.
A telehealth therapist can also work with you on making changes in your life that lead to greater well-being overall. It’s not uncommon for anxiety to stem from difficult situations, relationships, or life circumstances. Even when these issues don’t cause anxiety directly, they may make your symptoms worse. Addressing these triggers may not make anxiety disappear entirely, but it can have a significant benefit overall. A mental health professional can help you recognize these triggers and how they contribute to your emotional distress.
A therapist can also offer support as you explore improved self-care habits, such as:
- making sure to get enough sleep
- taking time to do the things you enjoy most
- spending time with positive people
Telemental health doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you prefer connecting with someone in person, but experience struggles severe enough to prevent you from getting support, you might consider distance counseling as a short-term option: You’ll work with a therapist online until you reach a position of being able to attend therapy face-to-face.
Many therapists listed in GoodTherapy’s directory offer telemental health care services. If you’re in need of support, begin your search today.
- Aboujaoude, E., Salame, W., and Naim, L. (2015). Telemental health: A status update. World Psychiatry, 14(2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471979/
- American Psychiatric Association. (2017). What is telepsychiatry? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-telepsychiatry
- American Psychological Association. (2016). Beyond worry: How psychologists help with anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety
- International OCD Foundation. (n.d.). How is OCD treated? Retrieved from https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment/
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