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Local teletherapy clinic explains pros and cons of the virtual service

Therapy is one of the many healthcare services that is available remotely during the pandemic.
Therapy is one of the many healthcare services that is available remotely during the pandemic.(Staff)
Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 6:21 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While the pandemic has kept us at home more often this year, many services have been brought to our homes in remote access. Therapy counseling is one of them. Local practitioner Meghan Magone at Alaska Teletherapy has seen a lot of promise in the remote format but already knows that it won’t be a permanent solution for everyone who needs this kind of mental healthcare.

Magone is a solo practitioner for now, however, she says she plans on expanding. She said she originally started her practice as a fully remote model as a way to reach folks in more remote areas of the state like on the slope. She launched at the beginning of the pandemic in March. Magone said it started as a niche idea that turned into the primary way of providing therapy in 2020.

She feels that the remote model of therapy still works because she can see her patients and how they react. For some cases, she said remote therapy works just as well as in person.

Magone said about half the new patients she’s started seeing are brand new to therapy. She attributed that to a number of factors like how the pandemic has made life more stressful overall, and that therapy is seen in a more positive light these days.

She also said that it’s increasing access because it’s easier to go to your computer to get care than finding a physical office and practitioner to go to.

This remote option has her seeing folks from everywhere in the state now.

“My clients aren’t just in Anchorage anymore,” she said. “I have clients all over the place, and I can connect families in different places and do family therapy with them and that is amazing and so helpful.”

It might be easy to assume that because therapists can be reached anywhere where there’s internet connectivity but Magone said you still have to find a new therapist if you move away from the state. Therapists have to get licensed in each state they work in and can only see patients who are residents of that state.

She said while it is possible to get temporary permission to see a therapist licensed in another state, it is very difficult.

Magone said she’s excited to see what the research for this time period yields for how well remote therapy works. She’s confident that it can be a better way for some, but it creates some issues.

She said the flip side to anyone with a computer and internet being able to get access to therapy is that you still need a computer and internet to access the therapy. She talked about those experiencing homelessness as an example.

“That population was difficult to engage in mental healthcare anyway,” she said. “But now we’re even more isolated and we’re using expensive tech? You know, what are some people gonna do? So that part, I really don’t like. That it’s not broad enough of a net.”

There’s also the issue of how some people in therapy feel about sharing what they do in front of a camera. Magone said that makes many people feel uncomfortable. Sometimes to the point that it doesn’t work.

“I’ve had some people share that they’re not willing to meet over a video platform because they’re scared that somehow it’s going to be recorded and brought up in court. So there are some very legitimate reasons that this has created a struggle for people,” she said.

Other groups she mentioned teletherapy is a challenge for are people like children, those with behavioral disorders, and people in abusive situations at home who can’t share the same way as if they were in the office.

Overall, Magone feels excited about the possibilities for remote therapy after the pandemic but knows it’s not perfect.

“It’s still showing to be effective. So I’m actually really excited to see what research — long term — ends up looking like from this time of teletherapy, honestly across the world,” she said. “And seeing how close it is to in person.”

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