Psychological Video Consultations: Telemedicine in Mental Health

Online consultations with medical professionals have recently become increasingly popular, even more so due to the pandemic.
Psychological Video Consultations: Telemedicine in Mental Health
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 07 April, 2022

In the recent pandemic, access to traditional consultations was severely restricted. For this reason, telemedicine became even more widely used. Included in this area of health care were psychological video consultations.

However, everything that’s new tends to generate reluctance and there are still improvements to be made in the field of video consultations and telemedicine. Nevertheless, without a doubt, these procedures are here to stay.

In this article, we’ll review the doubts surrounding psychological video consultations and give some valuable information in this regard. After all, there’s no better way to put doubts aside than with reliable data.

How is this type of therapy performed?

Although psychological video consultations seem rather innovative, in reality, they vary little from traditional consultations. Indeed, the mechanism remains the same.

In fact, the strategies and techniques with which psychotherapy is approached are the same in a traditional physical consultation and a remote one. Likewise, online therapy is structured in the same way.

Firstly, there’s an analysis and evaluation of the patient. After this, the most appropriate therapy is established and a statement of goals and objectives is made based on the expected evolution.

In subsequent consultations, the agreed objectives will be monitored to see if they’ve been achieved. In this way, goals and new alternatives are worked on.

Although it may seem like there are many differences between them, the main one is that the appointments are carried out via a screen.

Can any psychological disorder be dealt with in a video consultation?

Most problems and disorders can be treated either face-to-face or remotely.

However, in extremely serious cases such as major depression with the risk of suicide, for example, or states of acute agitation in a psychotic episode, it’s not advisable to opt for psychological teleconsultation. That’s because there’s a risk of valuable information being lost, particularly if there’s a possibility that the patient needs hospitalization to manage their crisis.

Nor would teleconsultation be the ideal option in cases of patients with poor family support. This is because, again, information might be lost regarding their family ties and interactions. These would be important for dealing with the patient in the best possible way.

The vast majority of psychological disorders and problems are potentially suitable for online consultations. This is useful, considering the current increase in cases of mental illness.

Telephone for psychological teleconsultation.
Teleconsultations continue to evolve to provide different kinds of support. They’re accessible from computers, tablets, and smartphones.

When are psychological video consultations most effective?

There are many answers to this question. In fact, it tends to depend on the mental problem itself and the type of person.

For example, young people and those familiar with new technologies have less reluctance to use these kinds of resources. They tend to value the idea of saving both time and money. Nonetheless, age shouldn’t be seen as an impediment, as long as there are no problems in communication, such as deafness or blindness.

There are also those people who travel frequently for work, spend a lot of time away from home, or who maybe don’t even have a regular doctor due to frequent changes of address. Therefore, being able to have a remote referral is a great benefit for them. This is similar for those with mobility problems.

Video consultations can also be advantageous for the treatment of specific kinds of disorders. For instance, sufferers of social phobias and agoraphobia are able to stay in the environment in which they feel most secure when they communicate with the psychotherapist.

In a general way, the problems for which psychological video consultations are suitable are as follows:

  • Family therapy.
  • Eating disorders (especially in adolescents).
  • Addiction problems.
  • Anxiety.
  • Alterations in self-esteem.
  • Depression.
  • Problems managing social skills.
  • Work problems.
  • Phobias.
  • Sexual and relationship problems.
  • Hypochondria and somatizations.
  • Sleep disorders.

How is the privacy of data ensured in a psychological video consultation?

You might think that the management of clinical data and interviews could be uploaded to the famous cloud and be a coveted object of hackers. However, the truth is that the different platforms work with computer programs that guarantee 100 percent security. Indeed, information encryption protocols are complied with, which ensures absolute confidentiality.

For this, a secure digital environment is required. WhatsApp messages or emails aren’t adequate as they don’t sufficiently encrypt data. Therefore, if you’re looking for a therapist, you should prioritize those professionals who guarantee and express in writing that the privacy and security of the health act is protected at all times.

What challenges do psychologists face in online therapy?

The main challenge for mental health professionals will be in overcoming the doubts regarding new technologies. Therefore, cybersecurity must be one of the bastions on which telemedicine and distance psychology consultations are established. Needless to say, as time goes by and these platforms are used more frequently, initial reluctance on the part of the patients will reduce.

Another challenge is in recruiting professionals to this new form of consultation. After all, not all medics are trained in this area and may not be familiar with the method. They may even be uncomfortable with this form of therapy.

No one should be forced to use this method. Although, hopefully, the results and satisfactory experiences of other colleagues will ensure that those who are reluctant will eventually overcome any initial doubts. Nonetheless, joining the psychological video consultation revolution isn’t an obligation and we must respect those who prefer the traditional physical consultation.

Psychologist in face-to-face consultation.
Traditional consultations continue to exist. Both systems must coexist and neither completely displaces the other.

Advantages and benefits of online therapy

The benefits of psychological video consultations are multiple:

  • Missed appointments are avoided. It’s easier to coordinate schedules and speed up and cut waiting times. The patient agrees on how to carry out the consultation and chooses the time of day. The duration of the sessions will be the same, but travel isn’t involved so people can better optimize their work and personal lives.
  • Accessibility to a greater number of professionals. By not being limited to a specific geographical area, the portfolio of available professionals is expanded.
  • Personalized attention: Depending on each case, after an initial assessment, the patient can be redirected to the most suitable professional.
  • Security environment. Sessions are usually conducted on a secure platform valid for cellphones, tablets, and computers. All conversations generated will be private and confidential.

Telemedicine is a valuable resource. It saves time and there’s no hanging around in waiting rooms. Not to mention the fact that many mental problems can be approached from the privacy and comfort of the patient’s home.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • González-Peña, Paloma, Torres, Ramón, Barrio, Victoria del, & Olmedo, Margarita. (2017). Uso de las nuevas tecnologías por parte de los psicólogos españoles y sus necesidades. Clínica y Salud28(2), 81-91.
  • Marcías Morón, Juan José, and Luis Valero Aguayo. “La psicoterapia on-line ante los retos y peligros de la intervención psicológica a distancia.” Apuntes de Psicología, 36 (1-2), 107-113. (2018).
  • Gratzer, David, and Faiza Khalid-Khan. “Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of psychiatric illness.” CMAJ 188.4 (2016): 263-272.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.