While traditional therapy conducted in-person has long been the norm in the mental health field, online therapy too has undergone a significant evolution in recent years.
Increase in demand, the convenience and accessibility of virtual mental health services along with rapid advancement in technology has combined to make online therapy a viable alternative.
Online therapy, which encompasses a wide range of therapy services, allows the user to connect with a licensed therapist from any location, with the help of different communication tools like audio, video or text messaging.
During the pandemic,this mode of treatment set a precedent by stepping up to fill the vacuum caused in health services and its use skyrocketed as many as 78 times between the months of January 2020 to April 2020.
Conditions which can be treated by online therapy
There are a wide number of online therapy sites that have made mental health treatment readily available and visible with their ability to offer help sitting at home, especially in a rural and underserved setting.
Though research on online therapy is still ongoing, it has proven to be safe and effective for treating different mental health conditions like:
Telehealth offers us the opportunity to treat depression not only in a better way but to intervene much earlier, before it begins to set in.
This has far reaching implications when we factor in the cost of care and enhancing well-being and human health as compared to face-to-face therapy. Nowadays, virtual therapy services have expanded beyond merely talk therapy, and medical prescriptions are also available.
Online therapy has also been found effective in treating panic disorders which affect a significant percentage of adult population each year
A study conducted by BMC Psychiatry compared group administered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with online CBT for panic disorder and found that internet based CBT was equally effective as traditional group CBT for reducing symptoms and was found to be more cost-effective too.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder can seriously affect a person’s ability to function well as it installs a persistent fear in the individual of social situations.
A Journal of Psychological Disorders research indicated that online therapy was found to be an effective mode of treatment for people for a number of conditions, including social anxiety disorder and gave top marks to online therapy with regards to acceptance and satisfaction.
Stress and Anxiety
People who have to cope with stress and anxiety have found online therapy to be extremely useful to manage mild as well as moderate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
A program which lasted six weeks had participants accessing both online CBT and real-time message prompts. All those who took part displayed radical reduction in psychological distress and improvements in self-efficacy.
How does online therapy work?
Online therapy is conducted through video or phone sessions by a professional mental health care provider sitting in a traditional setting. Furthermore, some sites also combine this with real-time or asynchronous chat options.
Online treatment is grounded in dialogue and offers a supportive environment from which the client can talk openly about mental health issues with someone whose views are neutral and non-judgemental.
It is a one-to-one interaction between the user and the psychologist who both work together in identifying and changing the thought patterns that are hampering the user from feeling at their best.
Costs of online therapy
The cost of online therapy varies because providers do not have overhead costs,like office and maintenance,as compared to in-person counseling sessions.
That said,this is always not the case as online therapy apps range in price as well. Other factors to consider are location, experience of the therapist,your insurance coverage and the platform chosen.
If you choose an app with features like the BetterHelp app be prepared to pay $60-$90 weekly(based on location) which includes a 45 minutes real-time session with a licensed counselor and 24×7 messaging on the chat platform.
Talkspace on the other hand offers weekly subscriptions for $69 for video, audio and text messaging plus a thirty minutes live session per week and are billed monthly.
Another option is to work with mental health professionals who set their own rates. These pay-as-you-go sessions can cost anywhere between $70-$300 and you are charged at the appointment time.
Pros and cons of online therapy
There are some compelling reasons why people choose online therapy over traditional face-to-face treatment. Some of the biggest plus points are:
- For various mental health conditions online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy.
- Online therapy is a good option for people living in a remote location or for those who may not have access to any form of mental health treatment.
- People who are handicapped or home-bound find online therapy easy to access in a mental health case.
- Online therapy is convenient and fairly affordable as you need not move out of your home and schedule sessions as per your convenience.
- The rise of the internet has made mental health care more approachable and has made people comfortable using virtual services in general.
Like any other form of treatment, online therapy too has its drawbacks and risks over options of traditional therapy:
- Insurance coverage for teletherapy can vary from state to state and the plan you choose. Some insurance companies (such as BetterHelp for example) do not cover online therapy while some don’t accept insurance at all.
- Keeping personal medical information safe is a major concern when accessing online therapy as confidentiality is a critical part of any mode of health treatment.
- Online therapists find it difficult to respond quickly and provide direct assistance in a crisis situation as they are often distant from their clients.
- Teletherapy may be useful for a variety of ailments but not useful when people need close or in-person treatment unless these traditional therapies are also incorporated in your online treatment plan.
- Your therapist cannot see you when using text therapy or phone as body signals and facial expressions can be a telling factor in deciding the correct course of treatment.This delivery method also lacks intimacy and intricacy that an in-person intervention provides.