In times like these, fear can overtake us as quickly as any virus.
Our brains may be stuck on an endless loop of frightening scenarios. What if I lose my job? Will life ever be the same again? What if someone in my family gets sick?
We understand these are anxious times, but we also want you to know you aren’t alone. Abound Counseling, the outpatient mental-health program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, offers telehealth services, which are appointments via audio and video. Telehealth makes it incredibly easy to talk to an experienced and compassionate licensed mental-health provider from the comfort of your couch, and is covered by many insurances.
Data shows that mental health counseling via telehealth can be as effective as face-to-face counseling. A University of Zurich study found depression was eased in 53 percent of patients given online therapy, compared to 50 percent who did in-person counseling. Three months after completing the study, 57 percent of online patients showed no signs of depression, compared to 42 percent with conventional therapy (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013).
Here, Tina Jacobs of Abound Counseling answers some common questions about telehealth and walks us through what one can expect if they make a telehealth appointment:
Are you accepting new clients at this time?
Yes. Abound has built a staff of 25 licensed providers statewide, and all of these providers are now seeing clients through telehealth. Many of these providers are taking new clients. Learn more about our providers and their specialties at: https://www.lssnd.org/aboundcounseling
How do I know if I need therapy? That is an awesome question. First and foremost, therapy/outpatient mental health should be considered as part of your overall wellness. So if you’re questioning if you need therapy, just get a “check-up” as you would do at a regular doctor’s office. You can discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your therapist and they can help you recognize any warning symptoms that “your cup may be getting low.”
Do I have to go to therapy every week? You certainly can if you would like; however, you get to set the frequency of therapy with your provider. The frequency depends on whatever you need to feel supported and to address your concerns, and your provider is always happy to work with you to adjust the schedule as needed.
What if my insurance doesn’t cover therapy or I don’t have insurance? There is always the option for self-pay or we do have some charitable-care options, which you can ask the Abound administrative assistant about when you first contact us.
I’d like to try this, but I’m not that comfortable with technology. Will you be able to guide me through it? Absolutely. After you first call, we will send you an intake packet via email so you can get necessary paperwork out of the way. We also have easy-to-use electronic signature technology so you don’t need to lose time snail-mailing documents back and forth. (However, if you have a printer and prefer to sign paper documents, we can arrange that.)
We’ll send you a document that takes you through the steps to setting up your telehealth connection, which will include a request that you download the communication platform you’d like to use (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) to connect with the provider.
Once this is done, you can contact Tina or Terri on our support staff to test the connection and make sure it’s working. (You will not be billed for any time spent setting up and troubleshooting the technology.)
From there, we will schedule your appointment. Some providers will have openings as early as the next day.
What different platforms can I use for my telehealth sessions?
Recognizing that more people than ever may need mental-health support right now, state and federal HIPAA guidelines have been relaxed so clients can use platforms that weren’t allowed in pre-pandemic times. For that reason, you can now use additional platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime and Teams as well as Skype. We will work with you to find the platform that is most comfortable for you to use.
I only have a smartphone. Can I do telehealth?
Desktops, laptops, smart phones and most tablets – as long as they have a webcam, internet and streaming capabilities – will work.
Will my insurance pay for telehealth just like it would for an in-person appointment?
Medicaid and many private insurers that provide mental-health coverage will also cover telehealth. However, it’s best to call the toll-free customer-service number on the back of your insurance card first to make sure your insurance company and your plan will cover it. Be sure to ask if your insurer covers outpatient mental-health as well as telehealth.
Will I really be able to relate to my provider through a computer screen?
Regardless of how you connect, our providers will do whatever they can to create a safe and comfortable space for you to share. Although online appointments may seem a little unfamiliar at first, clients of all ages use telehealth and have become comfortable with it. In fact, some of our younger clients, such as adolescents, seem to prefer sharing via screen to face-to-face!
What types of counseling are available through Abound?
Our providers serve clients of all ages, all backgrounds and all situations. We provide family counseling as well as mental-health therapy for individuals, children and even infants. We treat a broad range of concerns, ranging from depression, anxiety, grief /loss and relationship issues to farm stress, child trauma, adjustment issues, attachment issues, personality disorders and LGBTQ+ issues. Go to https://www.lssnd.org/aboundcounseling for more specific information.
Is there anyone who ISN’T a good fit for telehealth?
Very young children might have more trouble focusing on the therapist for an extended period of time, although our providers have found creative ways to hold a little one’s attention: playing games, coloring and doing special activities.
– By Tammy Swift
How do I get started?
Just contact one of our Therapy Services support staff: Tina (firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-271-1613), Terri (email@example.com, 701-271-1618) or Lesley (firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-530-2510) and they’ll start the process right away!
Tina on Telehealth: Communications Specialist Tammy Swift visits with Tina Jacobs at Abound Counseling to talk about a "new" idea that LSS has been using for several years. https://youtu.be/a8oDS0AwpVg