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Avatars, Virtual Visits and Mental Health


Unless you’re a hypochondriac or work in a healthcare setting with daily access to clinicians, you probably don’t go running to the doctor the first time you sneeze or feel a twinge of pain. Most people will wait until they know there is a problem that might require professional intervention.

This wait-and-see-if-it-gets-worse (or better) attitude is further heightened when the care you might need is related to your mental health. And this is one of the reasons that telehealth, also called virtual visits, is becoming an excellent care delivery method for behavioral health, psychology and psychiatry. In fact, psychiatry is one of the top five specialty applications for telehealth, according to the 2017 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey by REACH Health. It is also one of Adventist Health’s most prolific telehealth services.

There are a few different reasons patients and providers feel comfortable with a virtual visit for their mental health care.

  1. Hands-off appointments. When you see a psychologist or psychiatrist, you don’t need them to listen to your lungs, take your blood pressure or your temperature. The clinician doesn’t touch you during the visit, so seeing a mental health care professional virtually is pretty easy.
  2. Increased privacy. When you arrive at the medical office for a telehealth visit with a psychiatrist or psychologist, no one in the waiting room or outside the building knows what you’re there for. It adds a layer of privacy for the individual who might feel awkward seeking mental health care.
  3. Easy to open up. Clinicians have also found that some patients like the “separation” between them and the behavioral health provider. Even if the clinician is very kind and approachable, being able to keep them at a slight distance can make some people feel more comfortable. It helps them to open up and share.
  4. Children like it. It’s also great for children. Seeing an adult on a screen instead of in person may make a child feel safer because the adult doesn’t look big and intimidating on a monitor, and most kids are entirely comfortable interacting with a screen. In some instances, children can create an avatar to use during telehealth visits, which adds another layer of security.

Adventist Health has 13 clinicians who provide psychiatry and psychology services to patients via telehealth. Learn more.