The world has become increasingly more digitized. Nearly a third of Americans are constantly connected to their digital devices. Given this trend in other areas of our lives, the trend towards digital access to counseling is not surprising. The development of online therapy has made talking to licensed mental health counselors much easier than ever before.
Tele health services for both healthcare and online therapy include options like live videoconferencing, remote patient monitoring, and mobile communication. Patients can communicate with their online therapist or doctor at any time of day. These services can be a lot cheaper than seeing a provider in person.
Research shows that nearly half of Americans have met with a therapist at some point in their lives. That being said, the landscape for receiving help continues to evolve.
What Is Online Therapy?
Online therapy refers to virtual mental health support that you can access through any device with Internet capabilities. This can be accomplished through many mediums including:
- Text messages
- Online chats
- Video conferencing
- Online phone systems
Online therapy may happen in real-time through live conversation. However, therapists may also conduct sessions in a time-delayed format. This is a popular method with various messaging systems.
Many platforms offer online therapy. Some of the best online therapy platforms include:
With BetterHelp you’ll be able to choose from a variety of video conferencing, live chat, and messaging options. You can message your counselor whenever you feel like it. Also, if you’re not happy with your assigned counselor, you can switch at any time.
You’ll have various unlimited messaging options with talkspace. They also feature a video conferencing option. Therapists can get back to you 5 days a week, so you don’t have to wait too long to receive help.
The Platform, iCounseling provides a combination of live chat, messaging, and video-based therapy. It seeks to serve clients of all demographics. Once matched to a therapist, you can freely send messages whenever you feel like it.
At Amwell, they provide comprehensive telemedicine. Extending beyond therapy, you can connect with mental health professionals, doctors, and other medical specialists. This is a 24/7 telehealth service. Simply enroll in the program, choose your designated specialist, and schedule your appointment.
7 Cups of Tea
The platform, 7 Cups of Tea provides you with two options. They offer free counseling via trained volunteer listeners. They also offered paid therapy via licensed therapists through a confidential chatroom. 7 Cups of Tea advertises the philosophy of ‘growth at your own pace.’ In other words, you find your personal growth path and learn coping skills along the way.
This platform provides professional therapy for youth ages 13-19. It is the largest program for youth and adolescents. They offer counseling services via direct messaging, live chatting, phone calls, and videoconferencing. If you aren’t satisfied with your counselor, you can switch at any time.
At Pride Counseling, they specialize in online therapy for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. They offer services through messaging, phone, and video. All Pride Counseling therapists specialize in the LGBTQ+ community. They support clients with a variety of issues including mental health concerns, LGBTQ+ struggles, or relationship problems.
This platform exclusively focuses on relationship counseling. Clients share a joint account with their partner and therapist. Meaning both you, your partner, and your therapist can view all communication. Additionally, both partners attend the online sessions together.
Many therapists also offer direct online therapy options through confidential portals. This personalized system can provide you with more freedom and flexibility.
What Are The Benefits Of Online Therapy?
Compared to in-person counseling, online therapy offers numerous advantages for clients. These advantages include the following:
Online therapy offers tremendous convenience. Clients can work with their therapists in the privacy of their own office, home, or location of choice. So, you don’t have to worry about driving to an office and you won’t have to sit in a busy waiting room or deal with traffic. Also, if you think about it, plugging in wherever you are saves both time and money.
Most online therapists offer flexible scheduling for therapy sessions. Which is great for clients who have busy schedules or unconventional work hours
Some people feel anxious about attending therapy. The idea of sharing vulnerable details with a complete stranger might deter you from seeking traditional treatment. However, online therapy offers a variety of support platforms for hassle free online therapy sessions. Options like texting, emailing, and videoconferencing may sound more attractive to anxious clients.
Accessible to All Populations
America struggles with adequate access to mental healthcare. Research shows that 38% of people needed to wait longer than one week for treatment.
Distance can also be an issue for some. Around 46% of people have had or know someone who commuted more than an hour round trip for treatment. Certain challenges, like a lack of reliable transportation, disabilities, or living in a rural area, can make traditional therapy difficult or downright impossible. Luckily, online therapy makes mental health care accessible to everyone.
Some online platforms offer cheaper therapy options than traditional therapy. Which is good news money-wise.
Helpful for Wary or Anxious Clients
Attending in-person counseling can be overwhelming or daunting for some clients. For this reason, some people find it easier to open up within the comfort of their own home. Imagine logging on and speaking to a therapist from your living room!
A 2018 study found that online therapy was just as effective as face-to-face treatment. This study considered various conditions including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
How Does It Differ From In-Person Counseling?
Typical therapy sessions online last for about an hour. The session will depend on your individual needs and your personalized treatment plan. Most therapists maintain strict boundaries regarding communication between sessions. In other words, they usually reserve interactions only for crisis situations or emergencies.
Online therapy tends to be more flexible, because clients have an opportunity to communicate more frequently.
Most online therapy platforms use messaging services through which clients can write to their therapists whenever they need to. Some therapists respond instantly while others may only respond several hours later. This method is known as asynchronous chat. Your therapist will debrief and educate you about this process at the onset of your treatment.
Some therapists focus heavily on certain sensory cues like nonverbal body language in their sessions. Basically, these cues help them to conceptualize their clients and orient their work. Due to this preference, they might prefer not providing online therapy.
Why do Some Therapists Prefer Online Therapy?
Of course, other therapists prefer online counseling formats because they like the flexibility and convenience it offers. Many of them report that they’ve noticed that clients open up faster and move deeper into their emotions. This is probably because they feel safe and comfortable working from their own homes.
What Are The Limitations of Online Therapy?
Online therapy does have some limitations. Therefore, before starting treatment, clients should understand what online therapy can and cannot provide.
First off, successful treatment often depends on the quality of the technology you’re using. Technological deficits can impact the flow of the session. However, a strong WiFi connection mitigates or eliminates most of these issues.
Online therapists must practice therapy in the states where they are licensed. Depending on your location, this rule might cause some limitations or barriers to seeking qualified care.
Online therapists must make all strides to promote confidentiality. Nevertheless, some issues concerning privacy and confidentiality are beyond the client and therapist’s control. They can include data breaches, issues related to public WiFi connectivity, and the presence of other people in the client’s vicinity.
With online therapy rising in popularity, many platforms are working hard to reduce treatment barriers and limitations.
Can Online Therapy Help Everyone?
Online therapy treats a variety of issues like:
- Mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety
- Relationship stress
- Significant life transitions
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Family and couple dynamics
You may find yourself asking: “Does online therapy work?” or “Is online therapy effective for everyone?”
Therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental space where you can discuss sensitive information and explore vulnerable feelings. You will work with your therapist to identify practical coping skills for positive change.
With that in mind, online therapy isn’t appropriate for everyone seeing as all platforms have their own requirements. However, most platforms do not treat acute, crisis issues like:
- Active suicidal ideation or recent suicide attempts
- Active homicidal ideation (the urge and plan to harm someone else)
- Psychosis (bizarre thoughts and emotional disturbances)
- Severe substance use disorders
- Severe eating disorders
These issues often require immediate attention and you may need a higher level of medical or psychological care. Once you are stabilized, you could benefit from online therapy.
What Kinds Of Methods Do Online Therapists Use?
Online therapists use a variety of methods and interventions in their treatment. Nevertheless, all therapists work from a different theoretical framework. These frameworks help guide their sessions.
CBT focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
This type of therapy connects the ways in which your past relationships and experiences contribute to your current relationships and thoughts.
With its emphasis on the present moment and creating effective goals for future change, solution-focused therapy can be quite effective for some people.
This therapy identifies and re-frames the perspective of certain experiences in your life that could affect the way in which you function in your daily life.
By building and maintaining a genuine therapeutic relationship through empathy, support, and unconditional positive regard, person-centered therapy can help people overcome life’s obstacles more effectively.
With that in mind, many therapists combine various interventions into their treatment. This eclectic approach accounts for the individual differences each client brings to therapy.
Is Online Therapy Expensive?
Like traditional therapy, the fees for online therapy vary and some services might offer tiered options. For example, you can subscribe to a monthly plan which may include features like text-based support and videoconferencing. Often, these bundles cost less than traditional counseling approaches.
Many people use their health insurance to reimburse mental health treatment costs. This subsidy reduces therapy session co-pays. However, most insurance providers do not cover the costs associated with online therapy. So, if you want to be reimbursed, contact your insurance company first to request clarification.
Online Therapy: Final Thoughts
A lot of people think that online therapy will continue to increase in popularity in the next decade due to its convenience and flexibility. For clients seeking mental health treatment, this is certainly an intriguing option worth exploring. In fact, many would say that online therapy is the future!