Rapid Expansion of Teletherapy in US Schools Addresses Mental Health Needs Amid Concerns

Teletherapy in US Schools

Teletherapy, also known as online therapy services, is increasingly being employed in major public-school systems around the US in response to the rise in demand for mental health support among students.

In the last few years, teletherapy programs have been adopted by most of the 20 largest public-school systems in the US, according to recent reports from Associated Press.

This has led to financial commitments totaling over $70 million that were allotted to provider contracts.

However, despite receiving considerable venture capital due to their potential profitability, these services are still raising concerns among experts.

Their worries revolve around the quality of care available from fast growing technology-based companies within the teletherapy field.

Nevertheless, educators stress on how effective teletherapy has been in meeting the needs of many children especially those residing in economically marginalized areas.

In particular, this trend is attributed to shortage of onsite therapists within schools which has made it necessary for them to use virtual mental healthcare as an alternative.

As such, students can get counseling both during school hours and these may be after hours from home.

An example is Lancaster resident Ishoo who enrolled her second-grade daughter who was battling severe anxiety into a teletherapy program introduced by the school district.

Ishoo noted notable changes after her daughter was enrolled into a teletherapy program initiated by her school district.

The youngster benefited from useful tools and techniques provided by the therapist through video sessions conducted once every week which also helped her realize that there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance.

The superintendent of counseling services for Lancaster’s 13,000-student school district named Trish Wilson says there are not enough therapists to help everyone.

It is especially true since teletherapy has made waiting time much shorter than before for those students who need immediate attention.

During interviews with students and parents, it was highlighted that increased loneliness and stress had led to sadness and anxiety as common issues faced when transitioning from distance learning back into the traditional classroom setting.

Most of these teletherapy services’ funding can be traced back to federal pandemic relief monies since alarming rates of youth depression, anxiety, and suicide have been reported.

School districts are working together with various partners including private companies, local health care providers, nonprofits, and state programs to address these mental health challenges.

Even though teletherapy provides additional support for such cases, mental health experts’ concerns have not waned.

Furthermore, competition from telehealth providers has made it more difficult to retain or recruit in person school counselors and psychologists.

Additionally, there have been debates over the quality of therapists working with kids as well as their qualifications while online with them and other issues concerning confidentiality.

One example of this growth is San Francisco-based Hazel Health. Telemedicine started at Hazel Health in 2016 but it switched to mental health by 2021 employing more than three hundred therapists who offer services in one hundred fifty schools across fifteen states.

In New York City, there is a commendable initiative that involves collaboration with TalkSpace in introducing a program of free telehealth therapy services designed specifically for teenagers.

This undertaking aims to remove barriers that hinder students from accessing critical mental health interventions.

The striking thing about it is that this program extends its services universally to all teenagers regardless of whether they are attending school or not.

According to Ashwin Vasan, New York City’s Health Commissioner, he was optimistic about such moves.

He expressed his hope that these initiatives will narrow the gap and make mental healthcare more accessible for young people irrespective of their situations or backgrounds.

However, quality and experience of therapists along with their impact on traditional in-person school based mental health services continue to be relevant questions for examination within the fast-expanding teletherapy ecosystem.

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  • Rapid Expansion of Teletherapy in US Schools Addresses Mental Health Needs Amid Concerns