Telehealth and teletherapy may sound similar, but they are actually separate services. Understanding the difference between the two is important to decide which service is necessary for your unique situation. In most cases, telehealth can meet a variety of healthcare needs, whereas teletherapy is specific to mental health.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a term used to describe a broad range of healthcare services that are offered remotely. Telehealth services can include clinical medical services as well as other health-related functions, such as meetings among healthcare providers, medical training and continuing education.
If you’re wondering, “What is behavioral telehealth?,” this is one area that falls under the category of telehealth. With behavioral telehealth, a person receives behavioral healthcare services, such as treatment for addiction or depression, as opposed to medical services, such as treatment for diabetes or a respiratory infection.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy specifically describes mental health or talk therapy services provided remotely. Telehealth services can cover a variety of health conditions, whereas teletherapy services only involve treatment for mental health concerns. For example, a person may seek teletherapy to cope with anxiety, depression or relationship difficulties. Teletherapy connects people with online counseling services to address their mental health needs.
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Telehealth and Teletherapy Similarities
While there is a distinction between telehealth and teletherapy, there are some key similarities between these two services. For instance, both telehealth and teletherapy involve services provided using technology like text messages and emails. Teletherapy and telehealth video conferencing both occur via online video chat. Neither service has to happen over the internet: over the phone counseling and medical follow-up appointments are examples.
Another similarity between telehealth and teletherapy is the benefit telehealth and teletherapy offers to patients. For example, both services allow people to access care remotely, making them beneficial for people who have transportation barriers or who live far from medical and mental health providers.
Both telehealth and teletherapy are convenient, allowing people to schedule appointments at flexible times that meet their schedules. For example, someone who needs medication for allergies or who would benefit from a brief chat with a counselor can quickly receive these services during a lunch break and then return to work without having to take time off to see a professional.
Both services are also easily accessible during times when it is difficult to leave home, such as during inclement weather, a natural disaster or a global pandemic. Telehealth and teletherapy can provide individuals the medical and mental health services they need while keeping them safe from harm.
Telehealth and Teletherapy Differences
Perhaps the most striking difference between telehealth and teletherapy is that in many cases, telehealth services are covered by insurance providers. Some employers may even offer a specific telehealth program in conjunction with the insurance plans they provide to employees. Like in-person medical services, state laws for telehealth vary in terms of who can offer telehealth services, how they can be given and what can be covered by insurance providers.
Teletherapy is a relatively newer area of telehealth and insurance coverage for it is not as common. For example, several teletherapy providers discussed by the American Psychological Association charge monthly, weekly or per-session fees to pay for services and do not accept insurance. As teletherapy grows, more insurance providers are beginning to cover or reimburse patients for services with licensed therapists and mental health professionals.
HealthIT.gov. “What is telehealth? How is telehealth different from telemedicine?” The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, October 17, 2019. Accessed April 3, 2020. Center for Connected Health Policy. “State Telehealth Laws & Reimbursement Policies.” The National Telehealth Policy Resource Center, Fall 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020. Novotney, Amy. “A growing wave of online therapy.” American Psychological Association, February 2017. Accessed April 4, 2020.
HealthIT.gov. “What is telehealth? How is telehealth different from telemedicine?” The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, October 17, 2019. Accessed April 3, 2020.
Center for Connected Health Policy. “State Telehealth Laws & Reimbursement Policies.” The National Telehealth Policy Resource Center, Fall 2019. Accessed April 4, 2020.
Novotney, Amy. “A growing wave of online therapy.” American Psychological Association, February 2017. Accessed April 4, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.