Texting a therapist: How does it work and is it the right option for you?

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Text-based therapy is a format of online therapy where a client can have a live chat with a therapist. There can often be hurdles to seeking out professional help, such as the unavailability of mental health professionals in your area, long waiting periods or difficulty in speaking to someone face-to-face. Online text therapy is one of the most accessible and easiest ways to find a professional who can help you access mental healthcare. 

📝 All articles on Wysa are reviewed by mental healthcare professionals before publication, who check that the content is thorough and accurate, and references the latest evidence-based research. Learn more.

How does it work?

Unlike traditional therapy where you have to book an appointment and be in the same physical location as your therapist, you can simply log in to an app or website and send messages to your therapist and also schedule a live text chat, thus having both asynchronous and synchronous format in therapy. Similar to traditional therapy, your therapist will get to know you better by asking questions that help them understand what inspired you to seek help. Together, you will be able to explore your concerns, understand yourself better, build goals and work towards meeting them.

Advantages of text therapy

Convenience

In face-to-face therapy, you need to be in the same room as the therapist. On the other hand, you can use text therapy services while travelling, in the comfort of your own home or in any space that feels safe. Often finding the time to travel to your therapist is difficult, so this convenience comes as a huge blessing to many. In societies where seeking mental health treatment is considered to be a stigma, in-person therapy can be difficult to access. Online therapy, especially through text messaging makes you feel safe in the privacy of your phone.   

Unlimited messaging

Text therapy provides you with an opportunity to message your therapist whenever you would like to. This helps you keep a note of things that seem overwhelming to you at different moments, which can be further explored in a live session later. This can also be used as a space to journal your reflections from the session, or do the exercises recommended in therapy. You can exchange messages with your therapist in between sessions or ask questions that may be on your mind through a text message. 

At Wysa, you can use this asynchronous format of text messages and receive a response from your therapist or mental health professional within 24 hours. Scheduled sessions provide you with at least 30 minutes of real-time messaging with your assigned mental health professional. 

Makes it easier to talk openly

On a text therapy platform like Wysa, clients can have complete anonymity which makes it easier for them to open up to their therapist. Writing can be very cathartic as new insights and old memories can be reviewed when you are writing down your story. Rereading what was written down can help you take a step back and re-look at the facts from a neutral perspective as you are able to externalise the problem by writing it down. 

Helps with accountability and ownership

Writing down your intentions and opinions can often make you feel a sense of commitment. You can also set the pace and tone of text therapy sessions by controlling the frequency and content of the disclosure. This helps you feel a sense of ownership over the process. If you still feel that a therapist hasn’t been able to help you, then you can always check if the platform allows you to switch therapists and find the right match.  

a woman standing and texting on her phone

Disadvantages of text therapy

Can seem impersonal

In-person therapy has the advantage of non-verbal communication, including inflexion, voice, and body language, which can be missing in text-based therapy. This can make you feel like this form of therapy is impersonal. Not everyone may be completely comfortable opening up online, as it can take a while to build rapport with a therapist you’ve never met. 

Responses are not always immediate

While you can message a therapist anytime, you may not receive immediate support if you send a text message at an odd hour as the therapist would only be able to respond during their working hours. This may make you feel like there is a lack of responsiveness and engagement especially when you need immediate help.  

Limited in scope 

Therapists are trained to observe cues such as the tone of voice and body language, which are critical in understanding what is going on at that moment. Text therapy can leave the therapist with limited and incomplete information at times. 

Another important limitation of text therapy is the fact that it is most effective for mild stressors and conditions and is not a replacement for traditional therapy. If you’re having panic attacks or thoughts of self-harm, text therapy may not provide you with the immediate help you need. However, you can build a safety plan with your therapist for times of crisis and equip yourself with resources for moments like these.  

Wysa and text therapy

Wysa provides a text-based online messaging service with qualified emotional well-being professionals. You can schedule weekly live sessions to discuss your concerns and also have access to an unlimited text messaging feature that allows you to stay in touch with your emotional well-being professional in between sessions. This service is not meant to be a replacement for face-to-face therapy or to provide a diagnosis, prognosis, treatment or cure for mental illness. Instead, it is an enabling and empowering mode of support.

However, if you are facing any crisis such as abuse, severe mental health conditions, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, and any other emergency, please call the relevant emergency or crisis number in your country immediately. 

⚠️If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is at hand. Please visit this list of helplines and resources for different countries.

Wysa also offers a wide spectrum of mental healthcare solutions to employers to address various behavioural health needs without straining limited resources. Using text-based chat therapy, Wysa’s AI chatbot automatically triages users and guides them to appropriate cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, as well as other company benefits such as Employee Assistance Programs and crisis support if needed. 

Is text therapy the right option for you?

While text therapy is very convenient, it may not always be the right mode of therapy for everyone. Here are a few signs that text therapy may be the right option for you.

  1. You frequently use your phone and computer.
  2. You’re comfortable with expressing yourself in writing.
  3. You’re comfortable with the cost of therapy.
  4. You don’t need intensive psychiatric treatment and in-person help.

Just as you may have difficulties in finding the right fit in traditional therapy, it may be hard to do so in the text format as well. There may be a mismatch with the therapist or platform, and the format may not work well for some people. However, if you’re able to see progress, use the platform regularly, and feel better after communicating with your therapist, then text therapy is likely to be working well for you. 

Other kinds of online therapy

Video sessions 

Video sessions can be very similar to in-person therapy and preserve some of the experience that is present in face-to-face sessions. Therapists can catch some aspects of body language that can be missing in text therapy. Most online therapy platforms that offer video therapy with a licensed therapist are HIPPA compliant and hence are a secure option for therapy. At Wysa, this service is also available over third-party audio-video platforms for Indian and select US-based users.

Group therapy sessions 

Group therapy sessions consist of small groups led by one or more licensed therapists who teach group members proven strategies for managing specific concerns. These sessions used to traditionally be in-person but now also are available in video chat format. Group therapy sessions can be adjunct to individual therapy, where groups can act as a support network and sounding board. Group therapy can be focused on treating mental health issues. For instance, therapy groups often focus on eating disorders, anxiety disorders, grief and low self-esteem.  

Support groups 

Support groups are a safe and confidential space for people going through similar life experiences to connect, heal and grow with each other. Support groups are now available both in-person and on several virtual platforms. These groups have been incredibly successful as they create a support system for people with addictions, depression and infertility issues, and trauma survivors.  

Conclusion

While text therapy is a relatively novel mode of therapy, research shows that there is remission of depression and anxiety symptoms during psychotherapy through messaging. Text therapy has offered solutions that make mental healthcare accessible, overcome geographical and mobility barriers, as well as reduce waiting time. Studies have shown that there is a reduction in symptoms across a range of mental health issues. It may be worth giving online therapy platforms a try if you think this format fits your needs. 

If you’re facing challenges with mental health, getting the support that works for you is what matters. It can take a few trials and errors before you find the right fit. If you’re finding it difficult to find an in-person therapist, then text therapy could be a viable option.    

Photo by mikoto.raw Photographer 

Photo by Ivan Samkov 

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