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Dr. Annie Varvaryan, Psy.D.

Office in Downtown Willow Glen

San Jose, CA 95125

(209) 326-1186

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© 2018 by Dr. Annie Varvaryan

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What is Online Therapy? The Use of Telehealth for Psychotherapy



Most people are aware of psychotherapy or mental health services available to them from a therapist’s office. People typically envision a therapist sitting across from a client conducting talk therapy. Traditional in-person therapy for a client usually involves commuting to a therapist’s office, sitting face-to-face with a therapist and utilizing the privacy of the time and space to conduct treatment. This could vary depending on the format of the treatment including psychoanalysis, psychological assessments, or meeting for treatment in larger group formats including couple’s and family therapy, parenting sessions, as well as group therapy, but the premise of meeting in-person is largely the same.


But did you know that therapy is also available online? Telehealth (also referred to as teletherapy, telepsychology or telemedicine), is using electronic telecommunications via telephone or video to conduct therapy. Therapists who utilize telehealth services with their clients meet with their clients virtually with just a phone, tablet or computer to conduct sessions without meeting in person. While this may be a different way of imagining what therapy could look like, it is also a very convenient way of getting the services you need without the barriers of getting to your therapist’s office.


What are the Benefits of Online Therapy?


There could be many benefits of online therapy. Online therapy could be a convenient way to continue treatment with your therapist in case it is not feasible to meet in person. With current coronavirus concerns and “shelter in place” orders being placed in multiple states and counties, telehealth is a convenient tool with a lot of utility at this time.

Telehealth is an opportunity to continue to receive psychotherapy services virtually. It still needs to take place in a private and secure location for both you and your therapist. Your home or private office space could be options as well as any other private space where other people cannot overhear you. That means you can continue to get therapeutic treatment possibly from the comfort of your own couch. It removes the trouble of commuting to the office, waiting for your appointment time, and being at risk for any health concerns at this time.


Telehealth can be useful if you are traveling in your state for work or vacation, or perhaps have moved to a different location and would like to continue therapy with your current therapist. If you do move out of state, your therapist needs to be licensed in the current state that you reside in for therapy services to continue. If not, you will likely be looking for another therapist licensed in your state of residence.


Is Online Therapy Really the Same as In Person Therapy?


Online therapy is not for everyone. This could include young children who primarily use play therapy with their therapist, people who do not have access to technology, people who are experiencing a crisis, or do not have access to a private setting in which telehealth could occur.


That being said, there are many people who could benefit from online therapy or telehealth who would not otherwise have access to treatment on a consistent basis. Online therapy essentially works the same way as in-person sessions with the technologies currently available. There are many technologies and platforms that offer HIPAA-compliant or patient protected platforms. This helps to ensure that sessions are still being conducted in a safe and secure way to try to preserve your confidentiality as much as possible.


When meeting with your therapist virtually, you still have the same opportunity to disclose your current stressors, visually see your therapist if using video therapy, and have a connection with them. Though some components are left out of telehealth including full body language (video therapy usually shows the shoulders and up on the screen) and the ability to be in the same room as your therapist, virtual therapy still provides a link between you and your therapist that may not otherwise exist if no sessions were scheduled.


How Do I Find Online Therapy?


There are many therapists who have made the switch to telehealth services at this time. Speak with your current therapist or do a search online to see which psychotherapists are currently accepting clients via telehealth communications.


It is also important to make sure your insurance provider covers telehealth sessions. While many insurance providers are demonstrating leniency at this time due to the coronavirus, you need to check your individual plan and see if telehealth is a covered service unless you are able to pay out of pocket.


Online therapy could be a helpful option for you while being unable to leave your home at this time. If you are interested in learning more information about online therapy and how it could be used for your treatment, please scroll down to the Contact Me section below. I am currently only providing telehealth sessions at this time.