Teletherapy Technophobia

Are you familiar with the word, “technophobia?” Even if this is a term you’ve never encountered before, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it means almost exactly what it sounds like…a fear of technology. For the sake of this article, let’s downgrade the word “fear” a bit, to “concern.” Because THAT sounds a lot more rational…right? Concern about the unknown − and more specifically, how technology will impact your life, and work – feels appropriate, and even commonplace.

Technophobia is rampant in my family. I can still remember the many times my mother would inquire, “How do I use this DVD remote again?” as she glared at it distastefully.  She would also solicit assistance when she couldn’t remember how to access the voicemail on her cell phone, and on more than one occasion, threw up her hands in dismay, lamenting “this stuff…it’s just TOO complicated!” My mother’s aversion to all things technology frequently pops into my mind when I hear similar comments from school administrators, Special Education Directors, teachers, and even parents, anytime “teletherapy” enters the conversation. Truth be told, the first time I heard that therapy services could be delivered via the Internet, I thought to myself, “How in the world do you maintain a young client’s interest enough to keep him/her seated in front of a computer screen?  How could online therapy possibly be as effective as on-site, face-to-face therapy?”

As I was soon to discover, my “concerns” were unjustified. So…I thought it might be helpful if I share my 3 greatest trepidations, along with what I ultimately came to learn about each.

 

Concern #1: I do not have time to learn about this new technology…I am far too busy!

What I learned: The key here is having someone with knowledge to help educate you. After all: how did you learn to use your cell phone, DVD player…the list goes on! You must have found time to study the manual or someone to help you understand how it works. If you contract with an experienced and knowledgeable teletherapy company, this concern can be erased.

 

Concern #2: This is going to require additional staff! We don’t have the funds for that.

What I learned:  At a brick-and-mortar school, there is a tele-helper that brings the students and takes them back to their rooms, helps with positive reinforcement, prints paperwork, etc. Typically, these tele-helpers are paraprofessionals you may already have in your district, or, in some cases, the school district may hire a college student to fulfill that need. If you hire a Speech-Language Pathologist or Occupational Therapist to work on-site, you would be paying that person’s benefits, etc. Contracting with a teletherapy company that provides highly qualified online therapists saves school districts valuable time and money…especially when considering that there is a shortage of Speech-Language Pathologists.  No longer needing to: advertise to fill vacancies, wait to see if someone applies, train new personnel (which in turn, impacts several other factors)…all these things can save school districts a great deal of money. Plus – because the teletherapists are contracted, there is an additional saving that comes from not needing to pay benefits.

 

Concern #3: One of my most basic concerns was rooted in feeling a loss of control.

I’ve since learned this wasn’t uncommon. When we do not understand exactly how a new technology works, our imaginations tend to fill in the blanks, and we begin to imagine “worst-case” scenarios.
What I learned:  As it turned out, I had more control that I did when hiring an in-house therapist! Since telepractice services are a school-year by school-year contract, I could decide whether or not to have the teletherapy company deliver services the following year.

 

Ultimately − it was my lack of knowledge and experience with teletherapy that created my, “Teletherapy Technophobia.”  Once I learned about teletherapy:  how it is provided, how the students are motivated by it, and how student progress can meet − or even surpass − that of face-to-face therapy…I was convinced! And now (after several years of deep online therapy immersion!) I can unequivocally state that teletherapy is a valid, effective, and efficient method that offers therapy options to students who might otherwise not have access to the services they need.


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Tracy Sippl
TheraWeb Clinical Manager
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