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What to Expect When Seeking Virtual Mental Health Services

June 17, 2024 • read

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What to Expect When Seeking Virtual Mental Health Services

Poor mental health can affect every aspect of your life — from your work and your relationships to how you feel about yourself.

Sadly, many Canadians have difficulty accessing the mental health support they require — 6.5 million Canadians don’t have access to a primary care provider, an important starting point for many to get specialist referrals. And the wait time for finding a specialist can take sometimes take weeks, or even months — in 2023, the average wait time from general practitioner to specialist was 27.7 weeks.   

Virtual care services like Maple can help fill a gap. Maple, in particular, allows you to book an appointment with a mental health specialist directly in days, rather than months. No referral required. 

However, you may be wondering what the experience is like, and how to ensure the quality of your care. In this blog, we outline everything you need to know about virtual mental health services.

Understanding Virtual Mental Health Services

What are virtual mental health services? 

Virtual mental health services include a range of support that is provided remotely. In other words, it allows you to see a psychiatrist, mental health physician, or therapist through text, video, or audio calls on your phone, tablet, or computer.

This way you can access talk therapy, psychological treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), psychiatrists for potential medication management, and other mental health interventions.

What are the benefits of virtual mental health services?

Finding a therapist that’s right for you isn’t always easy. Many are at full capacity which can make locating one who’s both nearby and accepting new patients a real challenge.

Accessing virtual mental health services lets you choose from a wide array of providers who are all taking on new patients. That means there’s no need to email multiple therapists or get on waitlists for a spot.

Perhaps most importantly, seeing a provider virtually ensures quicker access to care. This is crucial since poor mental health can make it harder to seek help. At Maple, we understand that providing support as effortlessly and quickly as possible increases the likelihood of getting it to those who need it most. Through the app, you can hear back from mental health therapists within 12 hours. 

You also have the added benefit of getting care in the comfort of your home, where you feel secure. And, because there’s no need to travel, the care you need is easier to schedule into your day. 

How virtual mental health services increase access to care

Virtual therapy isn’t just about saving time. Even just finding standard healthcare providers nearby can be difficult for those living in more remote areas — in rural Ontario, for example, an estimated 525,000 rural residents lack a primary care provider. Online therapy takes distance out of the equation, allowing you to connect with qualified therapists regardless of their location.

This is especially helpful if mental health resources near you are limited, or in smaller communities where you may want to keep your situation private.

For those with disabilities or mobility issues, virtual therapy can be even more transformational since attending in-person therapy may be challenging. Virtual therapy eliminates these barriers by bringing the care you need into your home. As a result, you can focus on your mental health without worrying about traveling logistics or exhausting yourself with the journey there.

Is online therapy cost-effective?

Therapists who practice out of offices often have additional expenses such as rent and furnishings. Unfortunately, these costs are often passed on to their patients, putting their services out of financial reach for many.

Online therapy providers are able to reduce their overhead costs since they can practice out of a private space in their home instead. This allows them to provide their services more affordably so you can more easily access care. 

Types of virtual mental health professionals

A number of different professionals work within the mental health space. And, while their titles may sound similar, their training and respective areas of practice differ. These practitioners include:

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who complete medical school followed by a five-year residency in psychiatry. Their primary focus is comprehensive assessments that provide insight into diagnosis as well as treatment plans for mental illness, and emotional and behavioural disorders.  

Mental health physicians

Also, medical doctors and mental health physicians have varying backgrounds such as emergency or family medicine. These practitioners have additional training in mental health and can diagnose and treat mental health conditions, prescribe medications such as antidepressants, and collaborate with or offer referrals to specialists like psychiatrists if needed.

Therapists

All therapists on Maple are licensed to practice therapy in Canada. Therapists can provide a range of counseling services including leading individual talk therapy, couples and family therapy sessions along with treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR).

Psychologists

With a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, psychologists are regulated health professionals who can diagnose, assess, and treat psychological, and mental health conditions and learning disabilities. They may specialize in certain areas, such as developmental or clinical psychology, and often focus on CBT and other behavioural strategies for treating patients.

Why work with a licensed mental health provider?

Talking to a friend is a wonderful way of connecting and sharing. For many life events, support from family, friends, and unlicensed providers can be helpful. However, it’s not the same thing as therapy. Therapy covers deeply personal and sometimes delicate or traumatic matters. For that reason, it should only ever be provided by licensed and registered practitioners.

Licensed mental health professionals meet specific education, training, and competency standards set by their regulatory bodies. This ensures that they have the necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise to provide safe, effective, and evidence-based care to their clients.

Licensed providers aren’t just properly trained — their behaviour is also governed by specific ethical standards. This helps to make sure that both your rights and your privacy are protected and that the care you receive is responsible and safe.

In addition, many health insurance plans only reimburse you for therapy sessions with a licensed mental health professional. In these cases, working with one allows you to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Getting started with virtual mental health services

How to choose the right therapists

Personality fit is an important consideration when you’re building therapeutic rapport. After all, you want to make sure you feel comfortable sharing things with your therapist. 

To help you figure out which provider suits you best, each one typically provides a bio including their picture, languages spoken, and areas of practice. For some, these may include grief and loss, anxiety, depression, addictions, or trauma. Others, meanwhile, may focus on children and youth or support those with parenting, family, or relationship issues.

In order to give you a better sense of what a session with them will feel like, many also include how they approach their client sessions. 

How to schedule your virtual therapy appointment

  1. Input your location and choose your provider
  2. Pay for your visit (or membership, depending on province). 
  3. Explain your symptoms or health-related concerns. This is the information-gathering step. Based on what you provide, you may be asked more questions (about past medical history, family history, medications, dietary and lifestyle habits) to better prepare the healthcare provider for the appointment. 
  4. You may need to verify your identity before entering the virtual waiting room. You will be provided with an expected wait time.
  5. Begin connecting with your provider via text. You or the provider may request a video or audio call. 
  6. Your provider will enter any relevant diagnoses, investigations, or prescriptions into the chat. 
  7. If you receive a prescription, you can have it sent to a pharmacy near you for you to pick up or have it delivered straight to your home.

How to make the most of your virtual mental health session

Your first online therapy session can feel overwhelming and it’s normal to feel nervous or unsure before you begin. To help make the most of your session, consider jotting down some notes about what you’d like to discuss and hope to get out of it.

It’s also a good idea to remember that therapy isn’t a one-way street.

You’re welcome to ask your provider about their experience, process, and how they approach goal setting with their clients. Understanding their role and setting concrete objectives can help you feel more comfortable with both the therapeutic process and your new therapist.

Whether you’re navigating stress, depression, trauma, or seeking personal growth, virtual therapy offers a confidential avenue for healing and self-discovery. Mental health physicians or mental health therapists are available on Maple through mobile, tablet, or desktop. 

 

The information presented here is for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the advice from your medical professional. Virtual care is not meant for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency, like chest pain or difficulties breathing, for example, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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