With all the teletherapy sites available, it’s hard to know which one will meet the needs of seniors. Here are several things you should look for when choosing an online counselor for you or your loved one.

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HIPAA Compliance

All healthcare providers, including those in the mental health field, must abide by the rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means they aren’t allowed to share any of your private information including your:

When you land on an online mental health site, you should be able to find a section that states that they are HIPAA compliant. This may be in the FAQ section under Security or Privacy.

Any other unique qualifiers

Fingerprints

Medical record numbers

Social security number

Contact information

Birthday or treatment dates

Photographs

Name

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Therapist Experience

Most therapists have experience dealing with depression and anxiety, but some specialize in specific areas such as marriage counseling, substance abuse, and teen issues. Look for a counselor who lists “seniors” or “+65” as their specialization, since common aging concerns require specific knowledge in this area.

“Seniors are dealing with physical issues that greatly impact their mental health,” stated Heidi Donald, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Renew Mind and Body Wellness in Columbia, Illinois— “Their brains are changing, they feel more pain, they lose control over their bodies, and they lose a lot of independence. All of those things are accompanied by strong emotions, and a counselor who is trained to address these issues will have the tools to help seniors handle those emotions better.”

You will also want to ensure that the counselor is licensed, which will be listed next to their name. Look for one of the acronyms, such as LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), indicating that they’ve gone through all the training and background checks required to become a professional therapist.

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Usability

Many seniors have a hard time adjusting to rapidly changing technology. To make sure you or your loved one can navigate through online therapy sessions, select a site that offers communication options you’re familiar with or can easily learn. Some sites offer the option to talk to counselors over the phone, while some require using a laptop that has a camera. Choose one that will allow you to feel comfortable during appointments.

Affordability

Paying out of pocket for online mental health services can get expensive, with costs usually ranging from $65 to $100 per session. Some e-counseling services take insurance, so if cost is an issue for you, choose a therapist that accepts your insurance provider. Medicare expanded its telehealth coverage in March 2020, making it much more affordable for seniors to get the help they need.

“It’s a huge relief that since COVID-19, many insurance providers have stepped up and agreed to pay for telehealth counseling,” said Donald— “Because when you limit mental health therapy to people who can pay for it out of pocket, you leave out a large portion of our population.”

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