What to Expect From a Teletherapy Session

Telehealth is now at the point where the most advanced use is providing an entire teletherapy session through a virtual platform. It may be a sick visit or a physical with a doctor or a treatment session with a therapist. With this type of treatment becoming more common, it is important for everyone to know what to expect. This type of healthcare may be unsettling for some patients, especially those who are unfamiliar and uneasy regarding technology.

Teletherapy tools - tablet, keyboard
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Telehealth Technology

Some people may be familiar with the term telehealth, but many people may not know how far it extends or even the correct definition. Telehealth can come in a variety of forms but, as a whole, it refers to any type or a portion of medical care provided through technology. Telehealth is most commonly known as a method by which doctors are beginning to treat patients. However, many people do not know that this option is starting to become more highly used by occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists.

Telehealth can come in the form of patients watching videos of exercises they are to complete at home. Some facilities may use secure computer programs to exchange text messages/emails with patients to increase adherence to home recommendations. One of the most common uses of telehealth that most people are not aware of is a shared online portal for health records.

Each of these technologies comes with their own nuances; however, they all serve to make the job of a health professional much easier. More importantly, all forms of telehealth have a common goal of ensuring equal access to health resources.

Types of Teletherapy

Telehealth for therapists is more commonly known as teletherapy. Physical therapy has started expanding the amount of orthopedic teletherapy services they provide. This includes treatment of muscle sprains, joint replacements, fractures, and more.

Speech therapy has entered the teletherapy sector in the form of pediatric services, mainly through the school system and home-based services.

Occupational therapy has begun serving the teletherapy arena in settings such as outpatient mental health, home health, and school-based pediatric rehab.

All treatments provided will vary based on the discipline of therapy you are receiving (occupational, physical, or speech therapy) and the type of diagnoses which you possess (orthopedic, neurological, sensory integration). However, there are some general rules to keep in mind related to any teletherapy session.

General Rules

Ask questions

Whether this is your first or 15th teletherapy session, asking questions will be the best way to get more comfortable with the process. Asking questions is a practice that is encouraged both before, during, and after the session. This will help clarify expectations related to this type of care and summarize the basics of therapy unrelated to teletherapy. Therapists in any setting typically sit down with the patient to review goals from treatment, activities which will be implemented, home recommendations, and exercises to complete independently. How this discussion takes place may be different due to the technology, so it is important to understand what to expect at all times.

Use a distraction-free environment

It is equally important for both therapist and patient to stay in a quiet room with little outside stimulus during a teletherapy session. This will not only help each party to stay focused on the therapy, but lack of distractions will also help the technology perform at its best. Motion or excess movement behind you, chairs dragging on the floor, objects falling off the table, and more can all pose as distractions which make the person on the computer much harder to hear. This type of noise and movement also makes the flow of therapy more difficult to follow.

Keep a pen and pad nearby

Just because your therapy session is taking place using some top-notch technology, this doesn’t mean you need to scrap all the original ways of note-taking. It helps to keep a pen and some paper handy so you can jot down recommendations you may need to remember for later, your next appointment time, answers to questions you ask, and more. Most computer platforms which provide teletherapy services allow for computer space and programs to complete activities on. However, your therapist may ask you to grab a piece of paper for certain activities (especially for school-based therapies) so it helps to have them readily available.

Have a good pair of headphones

Most teletherapy sessions require patients to use headphones in order to cut down on distracting background noise. This helps both parties to hear each other better, which makes the environment more comfortable for patients to participate and disclose whatever is necessary in the process. Wired headphones with a microphone will provide the best sound while also eliminating the possibility of headphones running out of battery during a session. It is helpful to keep all technology in working order to lower the risk of equipment malfunctioning.

Advocate for yourself

Last, but certainly not least, is advocating for yourself. Therapists undergo lengthy training to improve their abilities to advocate for patients as needed. While this will always be part of a therapist’s role in improving function, it is important that patients participate in the advocacy movement as well. Patients advocating for themselves will include asking questions along the way, clarifying their own needs, asserting their right for fair and secure treatment, and more. All of these tasks will help patients get the most out of therapy and move toward a more independent life.

A Word From Verywell

Teletherapy—and all types of telehealth—is a fantastic resource to use for any patient to increase access to health services while improving their use of technology. It is important to enter a distraction-free room with properly working equipment to participate in any teletherapy session. Asking questions and advocating for yourself will always be one of the most important aspects of teletherapy, as this is how patients can get the most from their therapy treatment.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brittany Ferri
Brittany Ferri, MS, OTR-L, CCTP, is an occupational therapist, consultant, and author specializing in psychosocial rehab.