Telehealth to Treat Substance Use and Mental Health Problems: What Families Need to Know

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

personal talking to the doctor on the phone(Partnership for Drug-Free Kids) The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many of life’s normalcies, including our traditional ways of receiving health care. As a parent, family member or caregiver of a child who is seeking support for mental health or substance use issues, figuring out how to get them the care they need during this time may be more challenging. This is where telehealth comes in. Telehealth is a combination of tools, including video-chat, text messaging, mobile apps, websites and more that help you get support from your own home.

The telehealth movement has been growing over the past 20 years, but this shift largely occurred outside of traditional care because it did not fit with how treatment providers offer services and get reimbursed by insurance companies. Our current situation, however, has allowed for screening, counseling (whether for individuals or groups), prescribing and monitoring medications and more to be available via telehealth. One of the most important things to remember is that telehealth is not a lesser version of in-person care, but rather a different version. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of telehealth will help you decide how to best use these services for you and your family.

How Does Telehealth Work?

Telehealth provides you and your child many opportunities to connect with varied support options. Texting, video chatting, phone calls and mobile apps are just a handful of ways individuals can seek care. For example, you can receive targeted text messaging and calls on your cell phone, and you can also use your computer for real-time video chatting. Additionally, many doctors’ offices utilize software to communicate at your convenience. While there are limits to not physically being with a provider, group or peers, telehealth does offer several key benefits to you and your family.

Telehealth Works at Your Comfort Level

Telehealth gives you and your child the opportunity to share information about yourselves, while engaging with specialists at your pace and comfort level. If your child is reluctant to speak with a provider face-to-face, automated, targeted texting could be an option for them to reveal aspects of their history over time. Children also may be more comfortable communicating over their phone because their phones are familiar to them. Similarly, if you or your child are not ready to work with someone face-to-face, phone calls can come before videoconferencing.

Read more on the Partnership for Drug-free Kids website.

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