By Jeanine Miles, LPC

Original article posted on NAMI

Unprecedented need exists for child and adolescent mental health services in today’s communities, however, parents have limited options at their disposal. Shortages of child psychologists and psychiatrists are leaving our most vulnerable populations without care. Currently, all U.S. states are facing high or severe shortages, with many communities lacking even one qualified child and adolescent psychiatrist.

We need an effective solution, and it might be telebehavioral health. This convenient, accessible model of care has been gaining traction: Studies consistently reveal high satisfaction rates for children, adolescents and parents, often reaching above 90%. In fact, a 2013 studydetermined that telebehavioral health might be better than in-person care for children and adolescents because this age group often expresses an unwillingness or reluctance to participate in traditional therapy sessions.

Telebehavioral health might be a natural solution for improving access to care, but that’s just one benefit. As a counselor who offers telesessions, I’ve seen many more. Consider the following:

Comfortable Surroundings

Clinical office settings often intimidate children and adolescents. I find that younger populations are more willing to open up when they are in their own environment surrounded by familiar possessions or in reach of pets who may offer comfort. With telebehavioral health, I also get clues and information from a home environment I never see in an office setting.

For example, one child was well-behaved during our traditional office appointments. Yet her mother described a very different child with erratic behaviors while at home. Through our telebehavioral health sessions, I could see family interactions that confirmed the mother’s assessment. I was then able to teach the young girl and her family healthy coping techniques right there “at home.”

Familiar Modes Of Communication

Younger generations have grown up with technology. In fact, a 2015 study shows 67% of teens own a smartphone and spend more than four hours daily engaged with it. Videoconferencing, therefore, is a natural fit for today’s youth. Many teens prefer telesessions compared to traditional office sessions because it’s familiar and helps build trust. Simply put: Today’s youth are more comfortable communicating through a screen.

Easier Scheduling

One of the greatest barriers to engaging younger populations in mental health treatment is stigma. Many adolescents fear their peers will find out they go to therapy and ask questions. Professional shortages and scheduling challenges often causes students to miss school to attend therapy sessions. When a student leaves school early or checks in late, their peers may ask questions or make them feel uncomfortable.

With telebehavioral health, scheduling becomes much easier, as sessions can take place outside of traditional office hours. Patients do not have to miss school, nor do they run the risk of running into someone they know in a waiting room.

When choosing a telebehavioral health care organization or provider for your child, it’s important to do research before pursuing treatment. Things to consider are whether or not they are HIPAA-compliant, if they offer technical or care navigation support, whether they have providers licensed in your state, and if you can pay with your insurance plan. A good place to start is a reference guide, such as the one created by Open Minds that lists reputable telebehavioral health organizations.

Telebehavioral health care is changing the way communities and families approach mental health services. At a time when the need for mental health care is soaring, this option holds great promise for addressing gaps in care and providing parents with a critical resource for addressing their child’s health and well-being.

 

Jeanine Miles, LPC, Cognitive Behavioral Therapist with Inpathy and the Director of Business Development and Training at the Center for Family Guidance. Jeanine is a New Jersey Licensed Professional Counselor and has over 20 years of administrative and management experience in healthcare and behavioral healthcare. She is responsible for the development and implementation of new programs including overseeing all start-up projects, social skills training and school based programs. Jeanine has provided therapy and other telebehavioral health services through Inpathy since the program was launched and has long been an advocate for telebehavioral health.

Long Beach, CA – Center for Family Guidance, PC, a comprehensive behavioral health organization (stylized as CFG), will be presenting at the OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute, taking place from August 15-16 in Long Beach, CA. The OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute brings together executives, thought leaders, industry experts and program innovators to focus on management best practices and clinical treatment tools.

On Wednesday, August 15, the clinical director of CFG will present during the session called Using Technology to Improve Consumer Engagement: A Look at Successful Models for Engagement. This session will feature “Getting Ahead of the Curve: Layering Home-Based Telehealth into an Existing Outpatient Mental Health Clinic” presented by Joel Freidman, PhD.

CFG recently implemented home-based telehealth into an existing outpatient mental health clinic in order to keep up with the national provider shortage, address consumer demand and stay competitive in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.

The program utilizes telehealth in two ways: providers are set up with access to a secure, web-based telehealth platform and are able to offer night and weekend appointments to new and existing consumers; consumers can be referred to CFG’s telehealth partner, Inpathy, if the individual is unable to make an in-person appointment or if CFG does not have resources available. This case study presentation will look at the design, implementation and ongoing lessons of this innovative program. Dr. Friedman will discuss challenges, advantages and important buy-in elements for the providers, consumers, administrators and intake coordinators involved.

The benefit of this program for is that it does not require travel and there are more appointment availabilities than in an in-person office setting. The benefit for providers is the convenience of seeing consumers from their own private home office.  Providers can also utilize Inpathy, an online psychiatry resource, for referrals.

Other speakers in this session include Richard Louis, III, Senior Associate at OPEN MINDS, and Larry Smith, CEO of Grand Lake Mental Health Center, Inc.

CFG is a broad based healthcare provider that is dedicated to increasing access to care via innovative applications of technology like telepsychiatry and virtual environments.