How some Utah therapists are using video chat, email and text to help teens

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MURRAY — More teens and adolescents are suffering from depression and anxiety than ever before, but finding a therapist and getting an appointment right away is extremely difficult. Some therapists in Utah are turning to technology to help teens.

"Teens today are stressed out; and they’re not just stressed, they’re like, ‘I can’t function. I have panic attacks,’" said Regina Tippets, clinical director at RCT Counseling.

An increasing number are getting therapy online through video counseling. Some licensed therapists also offer counseling through email and text messaging.

"To them, this is second nature," Tippets said. "This is totally one of the benefits of all their comfort with social media."

TeenCounseling, based in the Bay Area, matches teens with online therapists in their state.

"Teens seem to be a lot more comfortable a lot of the time expressing themselves through text messages versus sitting in a room and staring at a therapist that they’ve never met before," said Haesue Jo, with BetterHelp.

Up to 500 new clients sign up every day in the U.S.; but in Utah, therapists are still warming up to the idea. Not all offer online therapy, and others only do it to an extent. Tippets uses video counseling.

"We have found it to be just as effective," she said.

Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis Hotlines

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Statewide/Salt Lake County Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online Resources

But she doesn’t offer therapy sessions through text messaging or email because she said seeing her clients’ reactions and body language is key.

The American Psychiatric Association says video-based telepsychiatry reduces delays in care, emergency room visits and lessens the stigma of treatment. It also points to early studies that find it as good as in-person care in diagnosing and treating patients.

"They'll text me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m freaking out,' and I’ll say, 'Okay, which coping skill are you going to use?'"

They're helping teens cope by logging on.

In an emergency, it’s better to contact a suicide crisis line, use the SAFEUT app or go to your nearest emergency room.

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Heather Simonsen
Heather Simonsen is a five-time Emmy Award-winning enterprise reporter for KSL-TV. Her expertise is in health and medicine, drug addiction, science and research, family, human interest and social issues. She is the host and producer of KSL-TV’s Positively 50+ initiative.


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