What Is Online Therapy?
With the expanding world of technology and the growing need for accessible mental health care, more and more people are finding therapy services at their fingertips through online therapy every day. Online therapy, also called telepsychology or teletherapy, provides individuals with professional counseling via video or phone call, email, or text. As many individuals could not attend their in-person counseling sessions due to COVID-19 restrictions and related health risks in recent years, online therapy provides an opportunity for individuals to connect with qualified professionals safely and routinely from their homes.
How Does It Work?
Like traditional, in-person therapy, online therapy is talk-based, with online or over-the-phone sessions taking place either weekly, bi-weekly, or at a frequency agreed upon between the client and therapist. Some online therapy platforms have individuals pay for each session with a therapist, while others may require a monthly subscription. Subscription-based therapy session plans usually include one video therapy session a month and access to unlimited text messaging with a therapist. “Unlimited messaging” means that an individual can text their therapist as much as they like, but their therapist might respond only once or twice a day on weekdays.
Online therapy apps usually offer a combination of services, including matching individuals with a therapist, 24/7 access to therapy via messaging, and remote therapy sessions.
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What Issues Can Online Therapy Address?
Online therapy, like traditional counseling, can address a wide array of topics, including relationship concerns, stress, anger management, bereavement, and trauma. Additionally, teletherapy can address mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disordersand can be implemented in substance abuse treatment.
Online therapy is not suitable for all conditions or situations. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), situations or conditions deemed unsuitable for online therapy include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Thought disorders (like schizophrenia), which may include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking
- Medical conditions that aren’t well monitored
The Benefits Of Online Therapy
Teletherapy provides a readily available option for those who live in an area without any therapist offices or counseling centers, or in instances where these services are present but require a long commute. More so, if one has a chronic illness, mobility issues, or any condition that makes it difficult to leave the house, traditional therapy may not be attainable. Online therapy reduces this barrier to treatment.
Convenience And Availability
In the same vein as accessibility, teletherapy is convenient for those with full-time jobs or other responsibilities that may impede their availability for in-person therapy sessions. No additional planning needs to be considered like traffic, childcare, requesting time off from work, etc., for remote therapy. Additionally, in-person counseling options often garner a significant waiting list, but online therapy sites and apps can often quickly link people with therapists and rarely have wait times.
According to several studies, online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is as effective as in-person treatment for mental health disorders like depression and panic disorders. Additionally, a 2014 study found that online CBT was effective in treating anxiety disorders and was cost-effective, and the positive improvements from online CBT were sustained at the one-year follow-up.
Destigmatizing Mental Health Care
One benefit of pursuing counseling sessions online is that it adds a layer of privacy for the individual. While stigma is still present for many when it comes to mental health, teletherapy provides a discrete option for treatment. The individual does not have to worry about running into someone they know on the way to an in-person therapy session. Some online therapy sites even allow users to use aliases for their identity.
Lack Of Privacy During Online Sessions
In-person counseling offers individuals a private space to explore challenging topics. However, since many individuals partake in online therapy from their own homes, finding an area separate from distractions, personal stressors, or other people (like roommates, children, spouses, etc.) may be challenging.
Lack Of Connection
While online therapy excels in accessibility, one element that may be potentially dampened through technology-imposed distance is emotional connection. Meeting in person with a certified counselor instead of virtually allows the therapist to quickly pick up on nonverbal cues like body language and facial cues that may be lost via phone calls or instant messaging. Also, it may be difficult for a client to pick up on tone through in-app chatting or text messaging, which may impact the client-therapist relationship and connection.
What To Look For Before Choosing Online Therapy
Regulation of teletherapy services and apps is ever-evolving, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulating some, but not all, medical apps. With this in mind, it is essential to research and compare online counseling options thoroughly. Additionally, there are several questions that one can consider while researching options for online counseling.
Are The Therapists On This Site Licensed?
A quick and succinct way to see if a site offers legitimate professional counseling services is to check if their listed therapists are licensed. to the American Psychological Association (APA), in some states, the terms “therapist” and “psychotherapist” are not “legally protected,” meaning that some who promote themselves as these terms are not licensed. However, legitimate online therapy providers often clearly state that their therapists are licensed.
Will My Insurance Cover These Services?
While online therapy can be less costly than paying out-of-pocket for traditional therapy services, insurance doesn’t always cover these services. Private and government-sponsored health insurance doesn’t always cover telehealth services, including online therapy, but most private health insurance covers at least some offerings. Additionally, Medicare and Medicaid cover telehealth in some cases.
Resources Are A Click Away
Online therapy sites and apps bring licensed, professional counseling to one’s fingertips. While there are multiple factors to consider before choosing teletherapy, these services can make treatment accessible for many. Contact a treatment provider today for more information on online counseling options and insurance coverage.