Before the corona pandemic kept his patients away from the practice, the Frankfurt psychotherapist Serkan Het had a handful of video consultation hours per year. He now advises 80 percent of his clients online. Some things are more difficult over the phone, he reports, but he also learns some things that would otherwise have remained hidden from him.
Unfamiliar remote treatment
The numbers have developed rapidly for many therapists in Hesse, as the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) announced. While in the first quarter of last year just under 3,500 online therapy hours were billed to insured persons, in the second quarter it was already 26,740 – an increase of 665 percent. An estimated 2500 psychotherapists are currently offering video consultation hours in Hessen.
In the first lockdown last year, remote treatment was “still very unusual,” says Heike Winter, President of the Hesse Chamber of Psychotherapists. “Experience then showed that most people in online therapy found it easier than expected to express their thoughts and feelings and to get involved in the therapy.”
Implemented protection against infection
The reason for communicating with the therapist via video instead of going to the practice is first to protect against infection: “I can protect myself and the patient,” says 43-year-old Het, who started his own practice in 2013 Frankfurt has settled.
Sometimes patients are also afraid of the way, especially with public transport, and prefer to stay at home. Then Het sends them a link inviting them to a two-way video conference. When the client clicks on it, a protected connection is established. Other providers work with apps that both have to download beforehand. If a therapist wants to bill a video consultation as a health insurance service, he must use a certified provider. In order to win customers, some providers are currently still offering their services free of charge; the market is large.
If the connection is established, the qualified psychologist sees more on the one hand, and less on the other, as he explains: “For example, I see what disorder or order he or she lives in, but I don’t see whether he is rocking his foot or his hands plays. ” Normally the smell also helps with the assessment, says the therapist, an indication of whether someone is under stress or lets himself go.
His experiences coincide with those of many colleagues, as a survey by the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists shows. Nine out of ten therapists offer video consultation hours, and just as many want to continue this after the end of the pandemic. Many of the 3,500 respondents named unstable internet connections as the biggest obstacle.
Het also finds it “really annoying” when contact breaks off or the video jerks. It is also difficult when patients do not have a protected space at home. A woman, he says, always sat in the car in front of her house for the therapy session and waved friendly waves to neighbors passing by.
Better than expected
Het was unsure whether initial discussions, during which one had to “sniff” each other first, would also work. To his surprise, things are going well: many find the greater anonymity a positive aspect. “You don’t present so much of yourself at once.” He was also surprised that the issues with Corona have not changed that much. Fears and compulsions, dissatisfaction in the workplace and relationship problems continue to be the focus.
“With the help of digital technology, psychotherapies that had already started could be easily continued or new therapies started. This means that the video consultation hour has shown its potential, especially in the pandemic, which is also stressing many people,” says Barbara Voss, head of the TK state representative in Hesse.
Heike Winter is looking forward to personal contact again. “Personal meetings are particularly important when it comes to issues that put a lot of strain on our patients,” says the Chamber President. The results of the nationwide survey stated: “Video treatments are an important addition, but not a substitute for treatments in direct contact.”