The Student Health Center which houses the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). CAPS is one of many counseling services offering virtual appointments. BRIANNE LEDDA/STATESMAN FILE

Izzy Schlichting is a freshman studying journalism.

Since COVID-19 has entered our lives, there is no doubt that we have been through a rollercoaster of emotions. We have all felt frustrated, angry, lonely and sad. These feelings during this time unite us – but not so much in a way where we would be breaking social distancing guidelines. However, in all of our anguish concerning the pandemic, it is important to recognize how some have undergone a great deal of mental stress, and how we can address their problems through therapy.

Isolation can be extremely damaging to the human psyche, especially to those who already suffer from a mental health disability or have a family history of mental illness. There is significant evidence that even suggests that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality. Just as most workplaces and schools have gone remote, so have most psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists. In a time where seeking help through therapy or voluntary hospitalization hosts health risks, how do we move forward? 

Telepsychiatry is a form of medical treatment performed with remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology. This form of treatment has been around for over 20 years but has been most commonly used by the military, and only has become more prevalent due to the widespread use of smartphones over the past 10 years. Sites such as talkspace.com and betterhelp.com are two of the most used sites for online therapy. 

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One of the major attractions to online therapy is its convenience. Some people have issues when setting aside time for therapy or psychiatry appointments. Not everyone has the privilege of living in an area where help is readily available, or have people in their lives who are receptive to therapy. With telepsychiatry at our fingertips, it is easy to chat with a certified mental health professional (CMHP) at nearly any time. This eliminates the issue of there being any situations where patients have to drive an hour or more to see their closest CMHP. 

While availability is definitely an issue, it is equally as difficult to find a CMHP who meets all of your needs. Most people go through multiple therapists before finding one who they end up seeing long term. You have to “date around” to find the one who is right for you. This is where telepsychiatry fills the shoes of accessibility – an area that in-person psychiatric practices lack in. Online, there is an immense number of tools that can filter down what kind of therapist would be best for you based upon your personal preferences, including a much larger pool of professionals to choose from. 

Not to mention, online therapy is relatively affordable, with talkspace.com pricing at around $260 a month for text, video & audio messaging, with a therapist responding daily, 5 days per week. By comparison, in-person therapy can cost between $20 to $250 per hour, with $90 an hour the national average. Weekly in-person therapy sessions can add up to nearly four times the cost – not including travel expenses. 

Ultimately, telepsychiatry is a more affordable and convenient alternative that can be just as effective, especially when used with an additional support system of friends and family. So, if you are concerned about COVID-19 while making your next appointment with your current CMHP, consider seeking help in the online world!

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