Telehealth: What It's Like to "Meet" With your Therapist Virtually

By Emily Guarnotta, PsyD
Long Island Reach


Long Island Reach remains open during the COVID-19 health crisis by providing substance use and mental health treatment via telehealth..

Call 516 889-2332 to schedule an appointment..


What is telehealth?

Telehealth is the delivery of medical and mental health services using technology. Over the past decade, many substance use and mental health providers have started offering telehealth to their clients by providing therapy sessions or medication visits over the phone or using video conferencing. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, most mental health providers have switched to exclusively offering telehealth for the time being.

If your therapist or medication provider recently switched over to telehealth, it is normal to feel anxious or uncertain about the process. Rest assured that with more information and some time to adjust, many people find that telehealth is a beneficial alternative to face-to-face treatment. In fact, research studies show that telehealth is effective in treating many common substance abuse and mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).



During a telehealth therapy session, your therapist will conduct your session over the phone or through a video conferencing platform. The way that your therapist conducts the session will depend upon their particular style, but for the most part it will be similar to meeting face-to-face in your therapist’s office.


Medication management

During a telehealth session with your medication provider, he or she will conduct a similar medication visit as if you were meeting in person. They will ask you how you are doing on your medication, inquire about any side effects, and discuss any recommended changes. At the end of the visit, they will electronically send in your medication prescription to your pharmacy, where you can pick it up or arrange a delivery.


Tips for a more natural telehealth experience

At first telehealth can feel a bit unnatural. You might miss seeing your therapist or medication provider in person and picking up on non-verbal cues that could be missed over the phone or video chat. Though it may be hard at first, many people adjust rather quickly. Consider the following tips for creating a more natural telehealth experience:

  • Video conferencing or phone call. Telehealth conducted through telephone is quite effective. Video may help ease some of the initial awkwardness of this approach and help you and your therapist pick up on each other’s non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
  • Find a quiet, office-like space. Try to recreate the feeling of being in your therapist’s office by finding a space in your home that is quiet and peaceful. Many people have noted that conducting telehealth in their bedroom is too distracting, but finding space in their office or dining room feels more natural. Finding a space that is also private is necessary. If there are no options for privacy in your home, your car may be an alternative.
  • Do a quick practice run. If you’re using video, take a few minutes to do a quick run through and check that your internet connection, video camera, and browser are working properly. If you run into any problems, your provider may be able to offer some advice, since they are also relying on technology.
  • Don’t hesitate to discuss your feelings about telehealth. If you’re having any feelings about the telehealth process, such as anxiety, fear, or discomfort, it could be helpful to bring them up with your therapist. Therapy is a good opportunity to process any emotions you are feeling, even if it involves your therapist or the therapy process. Once your therapist is aware, he or she can help you work through these feelings and make adjustments to help you feel more comfortable.

At first it can be hard to transition to telehealth, but with some time and support from your therapist or medication provider, you will likely find that telehealth is an effective alternative to face-to-face treatment.


Treatment During Quarantine

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a challenging time for many people, especially those who are in recovery. Long Island Reach is currently providing outpatient substance use and mental health services via telehealth for local residents of Long Beach, Port Washington, and Franklin Square. For more information about our services, contact us at 516-889-2332.
By Emily Guarnotta, PsyD
Clinical Psychologist
Long Island Reach
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused many people considerable stress. Many are faced with anxiety about contracting the virus, isolation from friends and family, and job or income loss. If you're in addiction recovery, the stress of this time may challenge your sobriety. Several studies have shown that stress is strongly linked to increased risk of relapse. Fortunately, there are proactive steps that you can take to deal with stress, prevent relapse, and maintain your recovery.

Coping with Cravings

Cravings are urges to use drugs and alcohol and are a normal part of the recovery process. They can range in intensity and may appear without warning. It is important to remember that cravings are feelings that pass over time. Though they may feel very powerful in the moment, cravings cannot force you to do anything. Consider the following tips to help cope with cravings:

Relieving Stress

Finding outlets for your stress is important for your recovery and overall well-being. Many of us are restricted from using our usual outlets, like going to the gym or spending time with loved ones. This means that we must get creative in thinking about how we can let off steam. Consider some alternative stress relief activities, like going for walks, playing with your children, meditating, or making music.  Think about something that you may have always wanted to try or learn but never had time to do. Make an effort to participate in one positive and stress-relieving activity each day.

Social Support

Accessing social support for your recovery is challenging during this time, since it is likely that you are social distancing or quarantining. Attending online recovery meetings is one way to stay connected to your sober community during the outbreak. Three of the most widely attended groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery, all previously offered online meetings. Since the coronavirus outbreak, they have increased the number of online meetings offered, since many face-to-face meetings are canceled until further notice. If you're finding yourself more overwhelmed or stressed, consider increasing the number of meetings that you attend. For example, if you were previously attending one meeting a week, try to increase it to 2 to 4 online meetings. If you're a member of a 12-step recovery group, you should also remain connected to your sponsor through regular phone calls.
For more information about how to access online meetings, see Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery's websites.