How to find the right telehealth service for mental health care

Things to think about when you are looking for the right service

Telehealth services

ORLANDO, Fla. – Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is growing in popularity.

Telehealth is a service that allows you to meet with a medical professional either over the phone or via video conferencing over the internet.

“In a way, it’s helped to break the stigma around people getting mental health care,” said Dr. Marni Stahlman, president of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. “This new environment creates a sort of intimacy barrier that allows them to feel like they don’t have to go to the length they would have if they would drive to an appointment.”

A 2021 poll by the American Psychiatric Association found nearly six in 10 people surveyed said they would use telehealth services for mental health care.

Some 38% of Americans have used telehealth services to meet with a medical or mental health professional.

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And some 43% of adults said they wanted to continue to use telehealth services when the pandemic was over.

Aside from that intimacy barrier Stahlman talks about, she says there are other benefits to telehealth appointments:

  • It’s improved access to mental health care, an industry where long wait lists are an issue.
  • It can be more affordable than regular in-person visits, depending on the service you use
  • It’s a convenient way to get medication management for people who are chronically ill
  • It reaches underserved communities where people may not be able to get in-person services

But there are disadvantages too, not least of which is trying to find a reliable telehealth service.

  • Depending on the type of telehealth therapy you use, therapists won’t be able to pick up on non-verbal communication
  • Depending on the condition, telehealth therapy may not be as effective
  • There also can be technological barriers for people who don’t have internet connections
  • And not all health insurance plans may cover telehealth appointments

Stahlman says the concept is also still so new that best practices for therapist and patient are still emerging.

If you think you want to try telehealth therapy as an entry to getting help for you or your loved one, Stahlman has a few thoughts on picking a service.

First, call around.

Stahlman recommends calling United Way’s 211 helpline, or call Mental Health Association’s Connections Referral Program at (407) 898-0110. You can also go to the website and fill out a form.

She also suggests calling your doctor, or the area’s hospital programs for recommendations.

“Look to our local health care systems, our hospitals,” she said. “They have probably been in telehealth the longest. A lot of our hospitals have “talk to a nurse,” and you can call and talk to them.”

Stahlman also says to make sure you ask good questions – shop around for the best service.

“We don’t shop for our health care the way we shop for our tires, and we should. You can call into a therapist’s office and ask for a 10-minute consult to vet them,” Stahlman said. “Call around. Ask some really good consumer questions. What’s your training, how many patients do you see, what’s your area of expertise?”

  • Some other things to think about when choosing a telehealth provider that you should ask about:
  • How will you get services? Phone, video conferencing, text?
  • How secure is the service? Remember you want a network or platform that follows federal privacy guidelines.
  • Ask whether your therapist is licensed.
  • Find out if there’s a refund and cancellation policy ahead of time. What happens if you have a technical issue that stops you from being able to meet?
  • How will pay be handled, and is the system secure?

Need help finding therapy services in Central Florida? We have a list of resources on our Mental Health page.

And if you need immediate help, call the national crisis hotline at 988.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.