Woman using a tablet for online therapy

The Pros and Cons of Online Therapy: Is It for You?

What You Need to Know About Online Therapy

Online therapy is being utilized more and more by patients who can’t get to therapists but are still in need of help. We’ve decided to take a closer look at online therapy so that you can decide whether this is an option for you or a loved one.

The changes in technology are not just influencing how we communicate with friends and family, but also with our doctors and therapists. One of these changes, that are also gaining traction, is online therapy.

What Is Online Therapy?

Online therapy is also called e-therapy and telepsychology; it is basically therapy that is given via the internet using video calls, phone calls, email, mobile device apps and even texts.

It is still a new practice in psychology, so the research about how well online therapy works for certain conditions is still in its infancy. Online therapy does, however, use proven methods — like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — to help patients.

The APA’s(American Psychological Association) website also contains a number of links to research papers about online therapy for different conditions.

Why Do People Choose to Use Online Therapy?

There are many reasons why people will decide to use online therapy rather than going to a therapist’s office. These reasons can include:

  • The person or family is living in a rural area with no access to therapists close by.
  • It is more convenient and easier to slot online therapy into a busy schedule.
  • It takes away the fear of stigma of people finding out that someone is seeing a therapist. This means, for example, that a person may be able to speak to a therapist even if their family doesn’t approve of them seeing a therapist.
  • Many people are more comfortable with online communication and opening up more about their problems and fears when they are not talking to the therapist “directly”, but through the internet.
  • People with chronic illnesses, chronic pain or disabilities may find it physically easier to speak to an online therapist rather than to go to a therapist’s office.
  • It may be less expensive to get online therapy instead of going to a practice to see a therapist. Some health insurances also now cover online therapy.

Pros and Cons of Using Online Therapy

There are many pros and cons to consider when choosing whether to use online therapy as your only therapy or as a supplementary therapy.

Pros of Using Online Therapy

  • It decreases stigma for the person seeking help.
  • There is a deeper sense of secrecy for some people when the sessions take place online.
  • The weekly progress is equivalent to face-to-face sessions.
  • The ease of scheduling and better family attendance.
  • People who otherwise would have no access to a therapist because of their rural living, have access to mental health help through online therapy.
  • The ease of scheduling session between other obligation.

Cons of Using Online Therapy

  • Complete privacy may not be a given, depending on where and when the session takes place.
  • Interruptions are a lot more likely when the session is being held online and not face-to-face.
  • Nonverbal cues are a lot easier to read in person.
  • Rapport is established easier than it is via a digital channel.
  • The patient may keep on feeling stigmatized, which could exacerbate the reason why they started therapy in the first place.

Choosing an Online Therapist

If you’re already getting therapy, it’s worth asking first whether your current therapist can do online sessions through video calls, for example. This helps during those times when you can’t get to their practice. However, if you are completely new to online therapy, there are some things that you need to keep in mind when looking for a therapist.

Is the Therapist Licensed?

Although a site or app may advertise therapy, it is not a given that the person you will be interacting with is a qualified psychologist. This is alright if you are specifically looking simply for counseling. But, if you’re struggling with a mental illness, you probably need to speak to a qualified psychologist. The site or therapist should not have a problem showing their credentials if you ask to see them. If they end up refusing, it’s best to move on and find another site or therapist.

Is the Therapist Licensed to Practice Where You Live?

This is especially important when it comes to health insurance paying for the therapy sessions. The APA also states clearly that “The provider must be licensed in the jurisdiction where you are located, and making that determination may be difficult to do if you don’t know where he or she is physically located.”

How Will You Pay for the Service?

This, again, is very important if your health insurance needs to pay for the sessions. First, make sure that they will pay before starting sessions. This way you won’t get stuck with a huge bill that you can’t afford. If you are going to pay for it yourself, make sure that you do your homework (see the points above) and don’t just go for the cheapest option in order to save money.

Is the Site/App That You’re Using Secure?

Do your research and find out what other people are saying about the platform, site or app that you want to use before signing up and using it. You can also look if they’ve had any data breaches.

Are You Positive That Your Information Will Remain Confidential?

Make sure that you read the terms and conditions and privacy policy of the site or platform that you’ll be joining. At the very least, it must be HIPAA-compliant.

Once you’ve done your homework about the different therapy options, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the therapy option that will best suit you and your situation.

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