Online therapy is the delivery of mental health treatment and emotional support over the internet. Services are most commonly delivered through text messaging, phone calls, or video calls.
It’s understandable that many are skeptical at first. After all, we don’t want to cut corners on areas as important as our mental health. But, with studies consistently showing findings that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy, this is one internet trend that may actually prove to be a benefit to society.
Telehealth, which is the online delivery of healthcare more generally, is a growing trend. Connecting individuals around the world to services makes healthcare more democratic. If you’re in a country with poor healthcare (i.e. third world) or stretched resources (i.e. Ukraine during a time of war), patients can connect to online doctors in the US or Europe. Treatment is more immediate and accessible, just like with the current teletherapy trend.
With the help of www.bestonlinetherapy.com, this article will cover more of what is online therapy, does online therapy work, and what conditions it can treat.
Is online therapy effective?
Therapy is a broad term for a wide range of techniques. Whilst therapy is considered to be a good thing generally, some treatments are more effective than others, depending on the condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has become the dominant form of therapy, as it can treat a broad range of issues, from anxiety and addiction to depression and OCD.
CBT is seen as the current gold standard of therapy because of its effectiveness and versatility. It also happens to be a talk therapy that is just as powerful when conducted over the phone as it is face-to-face. In other words, online therapy can be just as effective as traditional therapy.
Is online therapy safe?
When looking at the scientific literature, it may be a mystery as to why there’s any controversy surrounding online therapy at all. After all, licensed therapists delivering effective therapy should be celebrated, right?
But, this doesn’t fully answer the question of “is online therapy safe?” There are other considerations to make.
The online therapy space is dominated by a handful of industry tech giants. And, whilst some operate as if they’re a healthcare company that happens to offer an online service, most operate like tech companies. As we know, controversy often follows tech companies in all industries.
So, most of the concerns regarding online therapy are around data privacy, data security, customer service, and marketing. Regarding privacy and security, these are difficult to measure. Although reports of small leaks have been reported, there’s not been a widespread data breach as yet. So, until then, it’s difficult to blame them for putting you at risk.
The other danger of online therapy sites is simply treating it a little too much like a for-profit business. Some customers feel like it’s a little bit of a fast-food experience when it comes to customer service. But, at the end of the day, all therapists are licensed and if you’re not happy with one, you can change to another.
Benefits of online therapy
Below are the benefits of therapy more generally, before touching on the benefits of online therapy specifically.
- Relieves symptoms of anxiety, depression, compulsive behavior, addiction, trauma
- It gives people more hope and understanding of their condition
- Helps us relax
- Develops self-esteem
- Helps us maintain healthier relationships
- Linked with career success
- Helps us think more rationally
Benefits of using an online service over traditional face-to-face therapy:
- Cheaper than traditional therapy with some free options too
- Works with insurance similar to traditional therapy
- More therapists, more specialists, and more companies to choose from
- Accessible from anywhere
- Better flexibility when communicating and scheduling sessions
- Promotional deals and offers
Issues commonly treated by online therapy
From the biggest sites around, the conditions that they claim to treat are the following:
- Eating disorders
- Couples counseling
What is often criticized is that online talk therapy is limited to just behavioral issues, and cannot help more serious conditions like psychosis or Bi-Polar. In truth, these issues that require psychiatric evaluations and potential medication are out of the range of some online therapy sites, although that isn’t to say talk therapy can’t help anyway as a supplement to other treatments. But, some online therapy sites do offer psychiatric evaluations and can even give prescriptions.
Furthermore, if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, and so on, but are part of a minority or specific type of oppression, you may wonder if such therapy sites are equipped for this. Online therapy is actually better than traditional therapy in this regard because the internet is a big place. It’s possible to find LGTBQ-specific therapy sites, or religious counseling, in which therapists are both licensed and experienced with these more niche issues.
Types of online therapy sites
To summarize the above information in a helpful way when searching for therapy, we can divide the categories of therapy sites into 3 areas.
Free online therapy
Online therapy for free is available, but of course, you will not receive quite the same level of service, unfortunately. Many free online therapy sites are run by volunteers who aren’t licensed therapists, meaning they can be there for emotional support but not administer a course of CBT. Whilst licensed therapists can be accessed on a select few free platforms, other limitations are put in place (i.e. time you can spend chatting).
Likewise, the apps and software used, as well as the choice of counselor, will inevitably be more limited. But, this isn’t to say they’re useless, because many people benefit from free online therapy who are on a tight budget.
There are also AI therapy bots, but this is when we need to begin defining a stark difference to licensed therapy. AI chatbots can be useful for free support, as they can prompt you to self-reflect and guide you in many ways. But, they are not a replacement for a licensed therapist.
Paid online therapy
Paid therapy is where most of the activity is. This is where we see the Betterhelp and Talkspace ads online, or even the celebrity partnership deals. Paid online therapy is almost always cheaper than traditional therapy, in part because they are tech companies with lower overheads and fierce global competition.
Paid online therapy is where most of the literature and research is, as well as customer reviews. This is where promotions, insurance, and financial aid programs can make world-class therapy affordable, along with great customer service and state-of-the-art technology.
Therapy delivered by telehealth companies as opposed to tech companies are worthy of their own category. They are perhaps the most credible companies with long track records of delivering healthcare in many areas. Whilst more expensive yet delivering worse technological infrastructure (because they’re not tech companies), the service is impeccable. These are one-stop shops in which you can have them manage prescriptions, therapy sessions, and other medical issues.
To summarize, online therapy is not just effective in treating a broad range of conditions, but a more convenient and affordable alternative to traditional therapy. Whilst there are some privacy and security concerns, these are the same considerations we face day to day with other companies that we are forced to interact with. If you are using medication or believe to have a condition that requires a psychiatrist, a telehealth company that offers a broader range of services can be a great central healthcare hub that also provides online therapy.