What is online therapy?
Online therapy is the practice of rendering mental health therapy and support online. This method, also known as e-therapy or cyber-therapy, is quickly gaining prevalence among people with different health needs across the globe. A broad spectrum of mental and psychological issues are being discussed and diagnosed over the internet; online therapy is forwarding the means of providing tools and solutions for people to seek professional help in the safety of their homes at their convenience. Online therapy is quickly emerging as one of the most trusted forms of securing advice and seeking comfort for depression, stress, and anxiety.
Popular channels of online therapy counselling include email, instant messaging, apps, chatbots, video-conferencing and text messaging. Let’s take a look at how online therapy sessions differ based on these individual channels:
Online Therapy – Chat
Online therapy chat is the text or messaging based therapy available online. It’s a two-sided chat with a medical practitioner on one side and the individual seeking help on the other. Your online counselor will ask you about physical, mental, and emotional health issues that are bothering you. Good therapists generally would be eclectic in their approaches and will utilize strategies from various schools of psychology as no single approach fits all.
Online Therapy – Phone
Phone-based therapy involves therapy based conversations taking place over a phone call. In most cases, this method involves the patient reaching out for therapy through a helpline number and requesting the counsellor on the call to impart advice. Until recent times, this method of therapy was restricted to crisis situations like averting suicides. But now this is evolving into a more wholesome medium of therapy communication. This form of therapy is also popular because of its comfort feature but is more expensive to chat-based therapy. Also, the number of live sessions with therapists might be comparatively fewer to online chat therapy.
Online Therapy – Video
Video based therapy involves counselling sessions conducted in the form of video calls through the computer webcam or phone camera. This method comes closest to resembling in-person counselling because it involves two people conversing face to face. Similar to the chat and phone therapy method, your online therapist will engage you in conversation via video chat and try to get to the heart of the issues you are facing. This is the most expensive form of online therapy and does not provide anonymity. But it is definitely much more affordable as compared to in-person therapy and also allows you to take your sessions from your home itself.
Why online therapy?
Traditional counselling is not accessible to all. There are many constraints in the form of affordability, availability, and location. A study conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health, a mental health and addiction advocacy group and the Cohen Veterans Network stated that 96 million Americans had to wait longer than one week for mental health treatments. According to a story in October in the Chicago Tribune, some clinics can leave patients waiting for anywhere between three weeks and a year to see psychiatrists or specialists.
While people in most cities have licensed practitioners in the field of mental health, people in smaller towns may not have the same luxury. In addition, a therapist may not have time slots available in times of urgency. Lastly, in-person counselling is charged by the hour and can prove to be a very expensive activity, which makes it out of reach for most sections of society. The insurance cover mostly has many loopholes and forces the people to pay out of pocket expenses. Online therapy overcomes all these challenges by rendering a much-needed service to all those in need at a fraction of the prevailing cost.
Is online therapy safe?
When you sign up for in-person therapy many facets of your identity are disclosed at the door. Who you are, where you live, your medical and financial history. This is not the case with online therapy. In many cases, the computer screen acts as an additional layer or filter. In the case of chat-based and phone-based therapy, the counsellor does not get to see the individual and the latter’s identity remains private. Many forms of online therapy even allow for anonymity, which may be desirable for those who have trouble sharing personal information or even for those who feel the stigma of seeking help but are slowly trying to overcome them.
Online therapy is a safe space that can be accessed in the privacy of a home or a workspace at an hour convenient to the person seeking help.
Things to consider while opting for online therapy
Are the service providers credible?
Before signing up for online therapy, ensure you read up about the platform that’s providing access to therapists. Make sure they have the necessary credibility and experience in mental health to render advice. For example, Wysa is considered to be among the best digital mental health app by Google and is ORCHA certified.
The data security policy of online therapy providers
Read the reviews
Do spend time reading the reviews on the app and play store. Check out what people are talking about. It’s good reinforcement. You can read the Wysa reviews here
Are therapists professional?
Be ensured that you are seeking help from the experts. Check if they have certifications and expertise in the field. Wysa’s therapists are professional experts with over a decade of experience in the field.
Ask Questions or Read the Most FAQ
Ask all the necessary questions you need to get comfortable with the process. Don’t feel obliged to proceed if you’re unhappy with the experience. Most of the sites would have an FAQ page and you can always reach out to the service providers. Wysa’s FAQ page in case you have questions.
Does online therapy work?
We know what you’re thinking- Is online therapy as effective as in-person counselling? However, the key factor to consider is that the bedrock of good therapy is good communication. The counselling will only be as good as the counsellor no matter what the medium. For certain health conditions, online therapy can prove to be just as effective as in-person counselling.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the most prevailing type of in-person counselling is a form of talk therapy that works for most preliminary mental health conditions. Studies on the topic indicate that CBT through the trusted portal is just as good via chat, phone, and video based therapy as it is in-person in selected mental ailments. Therapy requires you to engage with the therapists over a few sessions to realign negative thinking spirals, hence, online therapy can be very beneficial in slowly conditioning the mind with time. Independent research suggests that various compulsive disorders, cases of seasonal depression, eating disorders et cetera have been found cured successfully through online therapy.
However, in-person therapy may be the best bet for more severe mental health disorders where behavioral symptoms need to be recorded and examined over the course of treatment.
When should you opt for online therapy?
If you feel like you’re going through emotional and mental upheaval such as stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, sleep difficulties, online therapy is one of the easiest ways to ask for help. It can also be considered as one of the preliminary steps of seeking professional advice in a safe space and then considering in-person counselling if the condition persists or when more sophisticated help is needed.
Most of us go through one or more mental health-related issues in our life-time whether we realise this or not. While the degree of severity may differ from person to person and from situation to situation but we all appreciate an environment of trust where we can speak our minds freely and vent our feelings. Online therapy apps can be a good place to start looking for a solution.