You can get almost anything online these days, from shoes to dog food. But therapy? The number of people who have discovered the benefits of online therapy has skyrocketed over the last year and a half, and experts are predicting that this style of mental health support is here to stay.
But before you pursue this approach, there are a few things you should know about it. Online therapy has many unique benefits to offer, and for many patients, it’s become their preferred method of working with their therapist. However, it’s not for everyone. Here’s what you need to make an educated decision.
What is Online Therapy?
The pandemic has led to a huge increase in using technology to help people connect without being in the same room. Just about everyone has tried live video chatting over the last year and a half, whether it’s for work meetings or family gatherings. That’s true for therapy sessions as well.
According to Choosing Therapy, online therapy, also known as teletherapy and e-therapy, can take a few different forms. The most common one is a live video session, which basically takes a traditional therapy session online, so you can meet virtually with your therapist wherever you are. This approach is backed by research that shows it’s as effective as in-person sessions.
Some providers also offer email sessions, live chats, and message services, where the communication is through typed text, rather than live video. Although some patients find these helpful, they don’t have the same amount of research to support their use.
The online format offers significant advantages. It eliminates geographical barriers, enabling you to connect with the therapist who best meets your needs, regardless of how far away they may be. This is especially helpful for people who live in small communities with few provider options. It also enables people to more easily find therapists who specialize in the specific issues they want to address.
The convenience of online therapy is a big draw for people. It takes away the need to travel to the office and home again, making it easier to fit into your schedule. People are able to fit in sessions during times that would otherwise be difficult to use effectively, such as waiting in the car while your child is in sports practice.
The growth in online therapy during the pandemic
Like many parts of our lives, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of therapy. Virtual sessions eliminate the risk of exposure to the virus for both the patient and the provider. At a time when stress levels are extremely high for many people, having a safe option to support their mental health is extremely important.
According to Time, the numbers show that this has led to huge growth in online therapy. Before the pandemic, only 2.1% of therapists reported using online sessions, but that grew to an astonishing 84.7% during the lockdown.
Much like working from home, now that people realize how well online therapy can work, it’s not likely to return to pre-pandemic levels. But does that mean it’s right for you?
Who can benefit from online therapy?
As mentioned before, online sessions have been shown to be as effective as in-person sessions. However, that doesn’t mean that all forms of therapy can be done online.
The American Psychological Association explains that it’s very effective for most patients. Online sessions can help people address issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. Even some people who need a more intensive level of care are more likely to seek that out after participating in online therapy.
But for some patients, online sessions aren’t able to meet their needs. People who are grappling with serious mental illness, addictions, or suicidal thoughts should be seen in person, so they can be evaluated for the best way to address their issues.
Some things to consider
To be sure you’ll get the most out of online therapy, here are a few things to consider.
Do you have dependable technology?
According to Very Well Mind, technology issues can be a barrier to accessing online therapy. This can be something as simple as poor internet connection or unreliable laptops or phones. Some people aren’t comfortable navigating the platforms used for online meetings, and it can be extremely frustrating to have your therapy session turn into a tech troubleshooting session.
Does your therapist have the experience you’re looking for?
You should make sure your therapist has expertise in the issues you want to focus on. You’ll also want to check their credentials, to see that they have the education you’d expect from any mental health care provider. Most therapists will provide this information on their websites. If they aren’t willing to share their qualifications with you, find someone else to work with.
One of the benefits of online therapy is that you’re able to choose a therapist from a much larger pool of people. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t have the education and expertise you’re looking for.
Does this style of therapy work for you?
Are you comfortable with live video chats? Ultimately, the best way to be sure it will work for you is to try an online session. But if the very thought of having such important conversations through a screen makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the best choice for you.
Are you in a crisis?
Most importantly, if your needs are too serious to deal with in online sessions, we urge you to seek in-person help immediately. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, addiction, or violence, please speak to someone in person right away.
For many people, online therapy has made it possible to get the help they need in a convenient, yet effective way. For more about how it works, contact us. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you decide how you want to move forward with therapy. Our therapists are experienced and qualified in many styles of therapy, and we’re here to help.