Online Therapy: Can It Really Help You?

Online Therapy Can It Really Help You

Online therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more people look for convenient and affordable ways to get mental health care. According to a study, 70% of Americans do not have access to traditional, in-office therapy for many reasons, including cost, lack of transportation, and shortages of therapists.

With online therapy, you can connect with a therapist from anywhere if you have an internet connection. It is an easier alternative that doesn’t require you to travel to a therapist’s office.

However, does online therapy really work? The answer is yes; it does. 

“While individual preferences exist, most people can benefit from online therapy, with comparable outcomes to in-person sessions,” said Amy Marschall, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and subject matter expert.

Understanding Online Therapy

Online therapy is a counseling and therapy service delivered over the Internet using various technologies, such as telephone, video conferencing, instant messaging, and email. It gives you the flexibility to choose the method of communication that works best for you.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychologists refer to this type of therapy as telepsychology. Anytime someone interacts with a psychologist using a device, they are taking part in telepsychology services.

Just like face-to-face or in-person therapy, online therapy provides a safe space for patients. Some topics that can be addressed during the sessions include trauma, relationship issues, life transitions, depression, anxiety, stress, anger management, insomnia, panic attacks, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.

A nationwide study by the APA found that six in 10 Americans use telehealth services—health-related services via electronic information and telecommunication technologies—for mental health care. This is because one-third of respondents who have sought to make an appointment for mental health services in the past several years reported difficulty scheduling an appointment. 

How Does Online Therapy Work?

Online therapy is essentially the same as traditional in-person therapy but happens online. Sessions are typically an hour long or could be longer, with frequency varying from weekly, monthly, or any other as needed. 

In a typical session, the therapist and client connect in a virtual setting at an agreed-upon time. They discuss the client’s mental health concerns and collaborate to identify solutions. The duration of the session is determined by the client’s requirements.

At the beginning or end of each session, the licensed therapist will address various matters, including payment, maintenance of medical records, medication prescriptions, scheduling of future appointments, and more. Sometimes client identities can be kept anonymous as per their preferences.

Some online therapy platforms offer the option to buy individual video therapy sessions, while others require a monthly subscription. This subscription service typically includes one monthly video therapy session and unlimited text messaging with your therapist.

If you are worried about the cost of this type of therapy, don’t worry, as health insurance typically covers it. You can contact your insurance company to confirm if they provide coverage for online therapy before signing up for one. 

Insurance providers usually have a list of covered providers, including those who offer online sessions. Alternatively, you can use online search tools to find an online therapist and verify if they accept your insurance.

In case you lack insurance coverage or your insurance policy does not include online therapy, many therapists offer discounted rates for out-of-pocket payments.

Online vs. In-person Therapy

As we all know, the main difference between online and in-person therapy is the communication method. You need to go to a therapist’s office for in-person sessions. This method can be helpful, as therapists can directly observe a client’s body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues.

A therapist’s office can provide clients with a safe space or a neutral environment away from their everyday lives. A neutral location can make clients feel more comfortable when sharing their private information. Some therapists even decorate their offices with relaxing elements.

This is why in-person therapy is the right choice for clients who need a neutral and relaxing setting to open up. Some forms of therapy also only work in offline settings, especially those regarding severe mental health issues.

Online therapy also provides therapists with non-verbal cues from their clients, only if it’s via video conference. Therapies through the phone, email, or even instant messaging strip non-verbal cues away. Some experts argue this difference can impact the course and results of therapy in both forms. 

Although online therapy offers the same quality of care as in-person therapy and even as effective, some people might prefer in-person therapy. This is why you need to find the right therapist and the method that works best for you. In the end, your mental health comes first.

Pros and Cons of Online Therapy

Before signing up for an online therapy session, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of online therapy.

Online therapy offers several advantages. First, it circumvents mental health stigma. Everyone can sign up for an online therapy session without anyone else knowing.

It brings convenience and safety, especially for those unable to travel due to various factors. As a result, it improves accessibility, particularly for individuals living far from therapist offices or counseling centers. It is also cheaper since you don’t have to spend money on transportation fees.

Online therapy gives you much more options to choose from. With numerous online therapy platforms and providers available, you can select a therapist who aligns with your specific needs, preferences, and therapeutic approach.

Online therapy sessions often have minimal to no wait times compared to in-person appointments, which can be delayed due to administrative processes.

With all its advantages, online therapy also has its limitations. This form of therapy relies heavily on internet connectivity for video conferencing. If the connection is interrupted, the session will not go smoothly. 

It is also unsuitable for some people, such as those with severe mental health problems, children, or people with autism spectrum disorder, dementia, or other cognitive issues.

Text and email therapy offer limited communication between therapist and client. They also lack the inclusion of body language and nonverbal cues, which might result in an inaccurate treatment.

Takeaway

Online therapy offers convenience, accessibility, and privacy. It also has limitations in communication and suitability for specific cases, but it can be a cheaper alternative for many seeking mental health support. It is important to research and talk to a therapist about which therapy method works best for you.

FAQs

What is online therapy?

Online therapy is a counseling and therapy service delivered over the Internet using various technologies, such as telephone, video conferencing, instant messaging, and email. It is an alternative to in-person therapy.

How do I choose an online therapy service?

When selecting an online therapy service, assess the therapy types available, therapist compatibility and specialization, sign-up process, usability, and cost.

How much does online therapy cost?

Online therapy tends to cost cheaper than its in-person counterpart. However, make sure your insurance covers the service before signing up for a program.

Is online therapy effective?

Yes, it is just as effective as in-person therapy.

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