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Will Telehealth Work for Mental and Emotional Counseling?

Dr. Christopher Taylor says it may not be perfect, but with the tsunami of people with pandemic-triggered issues, it's great tool for the times.
Dr. Christopher Taylor
Dr. Christopher Taylor
Dr. Christopher Taylor (Courtesy: Taylor Counseling Group)

The pandemic and its imposed isolation has caused an increase in anxiety, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, according to Dr. Christopher Taylor, the founder of Taylor Counseling Group. Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse  are up. Unemployment has created new stressors. And many people are stuck at home.

Taylor has moved 60 percent of the group’s sessions to Telehealth, but the medium has yet to be a perfect replacement for face-to-face interactions.

“We’re naturally meant to be social beings,” Taylor says. “We’re social creatures, since the caveman days, since we developed fire. We love to get around the fire and tell stories about the sabertooth tigers we ran away from that day, you know, and isolation is just not good for us.”

Taylor identifies the challenges: Screen exhaustion, distractions in the home, and poor access to internet create obstacles to quality care via telehealth. With a partner in the house, it may be difficult to speak openly about a struggling marriage. A child can interrupt a session’s effectiveness and distract the patient. And because so many are using video software for hangouts, social events,  and meetings,  people are weary from sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time.

“There are not any studies on mental health in private practice or outpatient mental health that show any measurable results from telehealth compared to an office visit,” Taylor said. “But what I can tell you is that from our experience, and we service about 3,000 clients a month, it is good but is incomplete. It is a great resource when you need it, but it’s just not the same thing as in person.”

While Taylor Counseling Group does not view telehealth therapy as a replacement for office counseling, Taylor believes it is a helpful tool, and he and his therapists enjoy using the method when needed. Taylor sees areas improvement in telehealth, and technology has allowed the Taylor Counseling Group to continue providing their services to those who would might not otherwise receive care as well as to people with new needs born of the pandemic. Taylor is fairly certain if it were 20 years ago, Taylor Counseling Group would have to file for Chapter 11.

“I think it’s a great thing when you can’t come into the office, and we were doing telehealth before the pandemic started,” Taylor said. “We’ve been doing it for year now, but it was with only 5% of our client base on an as needed basis.”

Now the tsunami of pandemic-triggered mental health issues has created a new population with critical needs. Those with anxiety and depression are experiencing heightened levels, and as a result, Taylor Counseling Group helped more people in June than ever before. Taylor believes many more people are in need of mental healthcare and are willing to ask for it, and the company is beginning to see glimpses of the mental health stigma erode.

“It’s a mental health revolution really in the United States where we are going to see a lot more people starting to recognize that this is something that we need,” Taylor said. “This is something we need to take seriously. This is something you should start supporting more, and this is something you should start advocating for.”