Virtual Therapy Services Support Patients in Treatment as COVID-19 Concerns Mount

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 Tropical Disease News
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As COVID-19 threatens in-person treatment, video support meets the needs of individuals with eating disorders

NEW YORK, March 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As concerns about containment of coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to evolve, the mental health community overall is working hard to accommodate care needs.  With each day, across the globe, individuals are increasingly more confined to home whether due to caution, quarantine or being mandated by one's workplace.  At the same time, as anxiety is mounting in the face of this international crisis, mental health services are all the more in demand. 

Two behavioral health centers with primary headquarters in NYC are ahead of the crisis, as they've been offering teletherapy services as regular practice for several years now.  Columbus Park Center for the Treatment of Eating Disorders in Manhattan offers the option of videoconference for all services that are provided face to face.  This includes an Intensive Outpatient Program for more acute eating disorders that require a comprehensive level of care.  As part of this intensive, even group sessions and supported dining are implemented via videoconference.

My3Square is a tele-health company, also in the eating disorder field, that offers individual and group video "meetings," facilitated by professional recovery coaches.  Coaches guide participants through actual meals in real time.  Participants are given basic guidelines so they may select and plate a balanced meal which they then eat together in a group video "chat" so to speak.  Members can see and hear one another as they dine, creating a virtual communal dining environment.   According to Melissa Gerson, LCSW, Founder of My3Square "it's a profound experience to be sitting in your office in New York City with fellow diners in Cleveland, Raleigh, Maine… and all with the same goal of recovery." And all the more valuable at a time of increasing anxiety and isolation.

Ms. Gerson notes that the demand for virtual services has been growing steadily over the past few years although the mental health community in particular, has been slow to embrace it.  "If we can draw anything positive from this terrible time, I think the COVID-19 crisis may force telemedicine services into the public eye.  And while to date, insurers have been slow to take to telehealth, with the COVID-19 threat, we're suddenly seeing the big carriers encouraging members to utilize telemedicine services wherever possible.  The more tele-therapy services grow, the more access people even in the most remote places will have to evidence-based, specialized care.  So this is a positive step." 

On Gerson's point, in an announcement this week, Aetna encouraged members to utilize telemedicine for non-urgent care needs so as to limit potential exposure in provider offices.  Aetna is going so far as to waive co-insurance for tele-therapy visits for at least the next 90 days.  "If that's not a nod of support, I don't know what is," Gerson noted. 

There's a growing body of research indicating that teletherapy can offer many of the same benefits as in-person sessions. For instance, a 2018 review found that online cognitive behavioral therapy treatments are often effective in treating anxiety and depression. Another study reached a similar conclusion about online treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research also indicates that teletherapy can be more cost-effective than in-person therapy.  Its reach is unmatched as it provides treatment access to individuals in even the most remote locations across the globe.   Ease of access is more important now than ever as many hunker down in the face of a pandemic. 

Contact: Columbus Park 646-245-2021

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SOURCE Columbus Park

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