The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic revolutionized the world of therapy and counseling in two ways. It has impacted people’s psychological health while altering how health professionals deliver their services.
With people forced to stay at home, reduce social interactions, and face the fear and uncertainties of a COVID-run world, the need for psychological care has never been more critical. That said, with strict protocols, people need better accessibility and have relied on digital innovations to get the psychological care they need.
This is where online therapy comes in. While online therapy existed even before the pandemic, the onset of COVID-19 has significantly contributed to the rise in its popularity. If you’re new to this form of mental healthcare, this article shares everything you need to know about online therapy.
Online Therapy: What Is It?
Simply put, online therapy provides professional mental health therapy or counseling via the internet. Typically, it’s done via live video chat, over the phone, email, or messaging apps.
Online therapy, also known as telemental health, teletherapy, online counseling, or e-therapy, is a practice that has grown rapidly in the past few years and allows a patient to interact with a qualified therapist from the comfort and safety of their own home.
How Does It Work?
In general, online therapy is similar to an in-person visit with a psychiatrist or mental healthcare professional. The only difference is the setting. Online counseling offers patients several ways to connect with a licensed therapist virtually via laptop, computer, smartphone, or tablet.
The best online therapy providers allow patients to do live video sessions with a qualified therapist. They may also have the option of connecting with a professional through live chat, messaging, or phone calls. Some providers may also offer online group therapy or support groups. If you’re looking for dependable online counselling Ireland, it would be best to research online for reliable service providers.
Conditions That Online Therapy Can Help With
Due to its similarity to in-person therapy, online therapy can help treat the following conditions:
- Anxiety and depression
- Bipolar disorders
- Anger management
- Interpersonal relationship conflicts, i.e., couple’s therapy
- Eating disorders
Take note that while online counselling can be helpful for various mental health conditions and even complex situations, it may not be the best choice if you or a family member has a condition requiring in-person intervention or direct treatment.
Is It Effective?
Since you don’t have face-to-face interaction with a therapist, you might be wondering if online counselling is effective.
It is, at some point. There is a multitude of research supporting its effectiveness. In general, virtual counselling is quite similar to face-to-face counseling sessions, making it effective for common mental health issues.
For one, a 2017 review reveals that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective and economical way to treat different psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and common phobias.
Another study in 2019 shows that psychotherapy platforms with different communication options effectively treat depression. In addition, a recent review found that live video psychotherapy sessions were as successful in treating anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression as in-person counseling.
That said, the efficiency of virtual counseling in treating psychological and mental health disorders will depend on the complexity of the issue. Once again, it may not be a viable choice if you have severe symptoms that require immediate intervention.
Who Is It For?
Online therapy is most suitable for people who prefer a more convenient form of communication and are experienced and comfortable in using technology to communicate. In general, online therapy will have more specific requirements than in-person sessions. You’ll need to have a functional device and a good internet connection.
In addition, online therapy is also suitable for those who lack transportation access and live in remote areas with limited access to mental healthcare providers. Moreover, it’s also excellent for an individual who has a changing or busy schedule or is seeking a more cost-effective therapy option. However, online therapy isn’t suitable for use in mental health crises or emergencies.
The Advantages Of Online Therapy
Online therapy comes with several benefits that have made it quite popular today. Listed below are some of the reasons why people prefer online treatment.
1.It Provides Great Convenience
The internet has made our lives more convenient in this highly digital world. Virtual therapy provides better accessibility to those in need. This means you can access help from anywhere, anytime, as long as you have a fast internet connection and a reliable device.
You don’t have to spend money and time traveling to appointments, sitting in a waiting room, taking time off from work, or paying for childcare to go to your appointment. In general, most of the obstacles that prevent people from seeking therapy are eliminated, thanks to the convenience of online therapy.
2.It Offers Safety And Comfort
In addition to the convenience it provides, online therapy offers patients safety and comfort to patients. Seeing a therapist online from the security and comfort of your own home allows you to be more vulnerable, upfront, and capable of coping with the complex emotions that may arise during a therapy session. In short, you’re on your turf, where you feel most comfortable.
Moreover, if you have a chronic illness, mobility issues, or a condition that makes it difficult to leave your home (for instance, social anxiety disorder), online therapy can be a great solution.
Furthermore, even though the world starts to open up once again and health protocols are easing up, the COVID-19 virus is still here. So, if you still want to limit your interactions with people or don’t want to visit hospitals and other healthcare institutions, online therapy can be a good solution.
3.It Ensures Consistent Communication
Therapy requires consistent session schedules to be effective. However, most of the time it’s impossible because of our busy life. Also, when you meet with your therapist for just an hour per week, it can be difficult to monitor your progress and recall everything you’ve been through in the past weeks.
Online therapy can overcome this obstacle. With online counselling, you have the freedom to choose your schedule for sessions. Also, being able to message or email your therapist between live sessions allows you to express your issues and emotions in real-time as they arise. Furthermore, the messaging aspect of most online therapy apps or services can be useful in monitoring any setbacks and tracking your progress.
4.It Gives You Access To Highly Qualified Specialist
With online therapy, it doesn’t matter if you live in a remote area. Regardless of where you live, you won’t be limited in terms of the specialist you’ll be working with. Online counselling provides you with a greater and better selection of specialists online.
As a result, you’ll be able to find a therapist with experience in dealing with a specific issue. While you may not have all the access to the best therapists in the world, you may still have access to providers licensed in the country or state where you live. This is much better than relying on therapists with a limited specialty and experience in remote areas.
In addition, the wide range of specialists makes it easier to switch therapists if you aren’t getting any benefit from your sessions. This allows you to find the right match for you and bring better results to your counselling sessions.
5.It Ensures Privacy
While more individuals are acknowledging that anyone can have mental health problems, the stigma around mental health issues and seeking assistance persists.
Many people still judge or condemn people who have mental illnesses or seek help for their emotional and mental well-being. Some people are labeled as “mad” for getting therapy from a professional. Those with anxiety are thought to be cowards. People who are depressed are perceived as being lethargic. These characterizations are inaccurate and invalid, causing people misery and preventing them from seeking aid and living a comfortable and healthy life.
If you don’t want to experience these, receiving your treatment online is a good option instead of visiting a therapist in person. By getting therapy online, you don’t have to be afraid of the biased perceptions of other people.
The Drawbacks Of Online Therapy
Online therapy is indeed a beneficial alternative to in-person counselling. That said, it still has its own disadvantages. Here are some of them:
1.You May Face Technical Problems
You’ll need to ensure good internet connection speed and device reliability with online therapy. Without these, your online counselling may not be that effective. You’ll just experience interrupted sessions with your therapist. Even the best devices and connections tend to experience issues from time to time which can disrupt your counselling sessions.
Furthermore, while most people are becoming more ‘techy,’ some may still have issues with how to use technology properly. For instance, seniors and older people may have difficulty setting up the necessary equipment to consult their therapist online. They may need assistance from someone with the right knowledge.
2.The Issue Of Unqualified Providers
As mentioned before, one of the biggest benefits of online therapy is that it provides you with greater access to the right therapist. However, when you seek any service online, there’s a risk of falling prey to fraudulent or unqualified providers. Furthermore, as the online therapy industry continues to boom, there’s an increasing case of online therapist scammers or start-ups with inexperienced therapists providing ineffective counseling and treatments. (caprinow.edu)
Thus, if you’re considering getting online therapy, make sure to check a provider’s credentials and look for client reviews and testimonials. In addition, make sure to use a reputable third-party service that screens all their specialists to ensure top-notch services.
3.Failure To Establish Emotional Connection
Video conferencing may be effective when communicating with your therapist. However, for counseling to be effective, you should establish emotional connections. This can be difficult if you and your therapist are not physically sharing the same space.
Some body language signals may be lost even if you can talk and share your issues clearly via video conference. Minute details such as leg tapping may not be visible online, preventing your psychiatrist from fully assessing your condition. Moreover, you may find it harder to feel your therapist’s empathy.
4.The Risk Of The Internet
The internet may have been beneficial in today’s living; however, it also comes with a cost. As with most online activities, there’s always a risk of data privacy breaches with online therapy services.
While most online therapy providers have extra security and encryption to their apps or sites to avoid hacks and data breaches, there’s never a 100% guarantee of online privacy. That said, make sure to ask a provider about their security protocols and what measures they take to protect their clients’ personal data.
Choosing An Online Therapy Provider
Choosing the right provider is critical to ensure that you don’t have a terrible experience with online therapy. Some of the things you need to consider include:
- How many years have they been operating? Do they have reputable experience in the industry? Or are they a start-up?
- What are the communication options they offer?
- How much does it cost? Is there an additional cost for add-on services?
- Do they allow cancellation? Is there a refund policy?
- Are their therapists licensed and experienced?
- Do they have specialty therapists?
- How do they choose the right therapist for you?
- Can you change therapists?
In a world where mental health has become a priority and with more focus on digital innovation, psychological services have become more accessible than ever. Online therapy offers people the opportunity to get counseling in a more convenient and comfortable setting than traditional office visits.
The pandemic may have contributed to the rising popularity of online therapy. However, as the world moves toward a more digitized civilization and more people become aware of the numerous benefits that come with it, online therapy is expected to stay even in a post-pandemic world.