What You Need to Consider Before Choosing Online Therapy

Online therapy, also known as teletherapy, can be a great option for people looking for a convenient and flexible way to access mental health services.

Key takeaways:

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in demand for online therapy due to quarantine or travel restrictions. Convenience, flexibility, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness are just some benefits of online therapy. However, before seeing an online therapist, it's important to consider whether online therapy is the right fit for you.

Elements of an excellent therapy:

Before you consider online therapy, it's important to know what excellent therapy should involve, regardless of the method of delivery. Here are the key aspects you should seek for:

  • Positive experience. Therapy should be a positive and empowering experience.
  • Safe environment. The therapist creates a safe and non-judgmental environment for the client to explore the issues that are troubling them.
  • Active role. Therapy is a collaborative process, meaning that both the therapist and the client play an active role in the process.
  • Participation. A therapy session should involve the client as an active participant and should not be one-sided.
  • Expression. The client should feel comfortable asking questions, sharing their thoughts and feelings, and expressing their deepest vulnerabilities.
  • Guidance. The therapist actively listens to the client, asking thought-provoking questions and providing feedback and guidance.
  • Plans. A good therapist will help the client set realistic and achievable goals and develop a plan to work towards those goals.
  • Change. The client should feel like they are heard, understood, empathized with and empowered to make positive changes in their lives.

What is online therapy?

Online therapy, also known as teletherapy, is the delivery of mental health services through the internet, using platforms such as video conference, phone, or messages. It allows people to receive therapy from a licensed mental health professional remotely, without having to physically visit the therapist's office. Individual therapy, family therapy, couple's therapy, and group therapy are just some mental health treatments that can be provided online.

Online therapy delivery methods

There are several ways online therapy can be offered, such as:

  • Video conference. This is the most common method of online therapy, and it involves live therapy sessions over a video conference platform like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet.
  • Phone therapy. This method involves therapy sessions over the phone, which can be a good option for people who have limited internet access or who prefer to talk over the phone.
  • Text therapy. This method involves therapy sessions through text messages, which can be a good option for people who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally or who prefer written communication.
  • Email therapy. Email therapy, also known as e-therapy, involves writing your issues and worries in an email, and the therapist will reply with a considered therapeutic response.

Is online therapy effective?

Yes, researchers have found that online therapy is an effective way to treat a wide range of mental health problems. When it comes to treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, online therapy can be just as helpful as in-person therapy. In many cases, the outcomes are similar or even better with online therapy than with traditional face-to-face therapy.

Reasons to choose online therapy

There are a number of reasons why someone might choose online therapy:

  • Comfort. Online treatment enables you to get counseling from the comfort of your own home, without having to go to a therapist's office. This might be particularly useful for those with hectic schedules, mobility challenges, or who reside in remote areas.
  • Flexibility. Online therapy sessions can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you, which can be especially helpful if you have a busy schedule or live in a remote area.
  • Accessibility. Online therapy can make therapy more accessible for people who have mobility issues, transportation difficulties, or who live in areas with a shortage of therapists.
  • Confidentiality. Some people may prefer to discuss intimate matters online rather than in person.
  • Cost-effective. Online therapy can often be more affordable than in-person therapy.
  • Anonymity. When people are not physically present with a therapist, they may feel less self-conscious and more willing to open up and share intimate details of their lives.

Downsides of online therapy

While online therapy can be a convenient and effective way to access mental health services, there are also some downsides to consider:

  • Lack of physical presence. This may make it harder for some people to form a strong therapeutic relationship with their therapist, and some people may find it harder to open up and build trust during sessions.
  • Limited interaction. Online therapy may not be as effective for people who need a lot of verbal or nonverbal cues.
  • Technology issues. Technical difficulties can arise during online therapy sessions, such as internet connectivity problems, camera or microphone issues, or software glitches, which can be frustrating and disruptive.
  • Limited assessment abilities. Online therapy may limit a therapist's ability to assess a patient's body language, facial expressions, or other nonverbal cues, which can be important for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Not suited for everyone. Some individuals enjoy the closeness and bonding that comes from sitting with their therapist in person.
  • Privacy and security issues. There is a risk of hacking or data breaches.
  • Insurance. Some insurance companies might not cover online therapy as a part of their mental health benefits.

How to choose a therapist

If you're ready to start therapy, here are some of the important factors to consider when choosing a therapist:

  1. Qualifications and licensing. It's important to make sure that the therapist is licensed and qualified to provide therapy in your state or region. Every country has its own regulations regarding the provision of therapy, but it is advisable to make sure the therapist is registered with an accreditation body, such as the American Psychological Association in the U.S. or the BACP in the U.K. Check with your local accreditation body.
  2. Specialization. Consider the type of therapy that you are interested in, and look for a therapist who specializes in that area. This will ensure that you are working with someone who has the knowledge and experience to address your specific needs.
  3. Communication style. Make sure the therapist's communication style aligns with your preferences. Some therapists may use a Cognitive Behavioral approach, while others may be more psychoanalytical.
  4. Availability. Consider the frequency of sessions that you would like to have, and look for a therapist who can accommodate your schedule.
  5. Reviews. If available, look for reviews from other clients, which can give you an idea of their level of expertise and the quality of their service.
  6. Assessment. Schedule a meeting with the therapist to discuss your needs and ask any questions you may have.

Online therapy and severe psychiatric illnesses

Online therapy may not be the most suitable option for people who are experiencing severe or complex mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Face-to-face therapy with a professional who specializes in these disorders may be more appropriate.

Additionally, online therapy may not be suitable for people in crisis or those who require urgent medical attention. In such instances, it is critical to contact emergency services or seek in-person assistance.

If you require prescribed medication, you will need to see a psychiatrist or other medical professional who is licensed to prescribe medications. Many psychiatrists are now offering online consultations, also known as telepsychiatry. Online consultations with a psychiatrist can include evaluations, medication management, and therapy sessions.

In summary, online therapy can be a great option for people who are looking for a convenient and flexible way to access mental health services or for people who live in remote areas where access to therapy may be limited. It is advisable to have a thorough evaluation with a qualified mental health professional to determine whether online therapy is the best option for you. Doing so will improve your chances of receiving appropriate treatment.

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