Which Online Therapy App is Best for Me?

Which Online Therapy App is Best for Me?

There have never been more therapy apps ready and waiting for you to sift through inside your smartphone. So how do you choose the app that’s best for you? 

Telemedicine and telehealth have become increasingly popular mediums during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the public health crisis, multiple studies have indicated that asynchronous messaging therapy and audio-only care have proven beneficial to the person receiving therapy from afar.   

But before you dive into the world of virtual therapy you should consider factors like privacy, security, cost, overall effectiveness and how well a particular app can cater to your specific mental health needs.   

Knowing the difference between telehealth therapy apps and artificial intelligence-based mental health apps  

Telehealth and telemedicine are terms that are frequently used interchangeably. Telehealth is an umbrella term used to describe all the possible variations of healthcare services and health care education using telecommunications. 

Telemedicine may substitute for a face-to-face, hands-on encounter between a patient and the healthcare provider when using the appropriate, HIPAA-compliant, secure technology.  

Examples of the type of telehealth, therapy-based treatment covered by select Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) plans include:  

  • Telephone-only behavioral health visits  
  • Select Autism services  
  • Psychiatric diagnostic evaluation  
  • Psychotherapy  
  • Family psychotherapy  
  • Group psychotherapy  
  • Substance use disorders 
  • Mental health disorders 

Read more about telehealth for behavioral health providers, including services that are only temporarily offered during the COVID-19 pandemic 

Your BCBSM plan does not typically pay for artificial intelligence-based apps or programs that operate over your iPad, Tablet or smartphone – just like a telehealth app would – but do not consistent of virtual person-to-person interactions. With these apps, you are sharing or charting thoughts with a computer. These apps are not usually paid for by BCBSM, though some plans do pay for this type of intervention. 

Learn more about which telehealth services are covered by which BCBSM plans by reading this comprehensive FAQ page at bcbsm.com/content 

What are the benefits of online therapy via telehealth? 

Less stressful introduction to mental health care: If you’ve never spoken to a therapist before, making your foray into therapy in an online setting can eliminate some of the intimidation and stigma that may come with walking into a clinic for the first time.  

Convenience: Fighting traffic and rerouting your work schedule are taken out of the equation when opting for teletherapy.   

Broader availability and reachability than physical clinics: Many have advocated the use of telemedicine to improve health care in rural areas, in the home and in other places where medical personnel are not readily available. 

Possibly less expensive: Many apps cost less than traditional care, though insurance coverage is a factor for potential clients to consider.  

Proven ability to treat various conditions: Studies show that virtual treatment for conditions like schizophreniadepressionanxietypanic disorderssmoking cessation and diabetes management can be highly effective.    

What should I consider when choosing a telehealth therapy app? 

Privacy and security: Avoiding data breaches is a battle fought on both sides of the screen, as clients and therapists alike should vet an online platform before using it.  

Mental healthcare professionals should be sure that a given app is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) security and privacy rules before agreeing to provide care on that app.  

A thorough consent form drawn up by the care provider that illustrates the technical measures an app takes – such as its use of firewalls, anti-malware software and encryption – is highly important.   

But before the user even gets to the point of communicating with a therapist, they should be sure that the app they are selecting shares a thorough privacy policy that explicitly details how information is handled. That policy should be linked in the iTunes of Google Play store and be clear in stating what type of information the app is and is not collecting. 

Credibility: The Online PsyberGuide, which partners with Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other reputable organizations, provides a directory of vetted online therapy apps. The website ranks apps based on transparency, credibility and user experience. That directory can be viewed here 

Legality: Be sure that the app you’re selecting emphatically advertises licensed therapists. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) allows you to search for and verify licensed psychologists in Michigan 

Even if your therapist isn’t currently in Michigan, the state recently joined the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which allows therapists under its network to serve clients remotely across state lines.   

As a convenient service to members, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers virtual, online appointments with therapists and psychiatrists through Blue Cross Online Visits. Blue Cross members can sign up online with their enrollee ID, found on the front of their member ID card. Members can also see if their plan covers Blue Cross Online Visits by logging into their member account online.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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