Inside Online Counseling's Many Benefits: Pros and Cons of Online Therapy

Updated November 30, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There comes a time in nearly everyone’s life when they just need someone to talk to. Sometimes, this can be a trusted friend, family, or even co-worker, but in some situations, only a qualified therapist will do. Online therapy is an effective way to talk through your problems with a counselor and get valuable guidance and feedback from someone ready to listen without judgment. If you’re considering online therapy, consider these pros and cons to determine if it is the right step for you. 

Online Counseling Has A Proven Track Record of Helping People

Benefits Of Online Therapy

Studies show that therapy, in general, is effective and has many benefits, including helping you identify the things that are causing distress, understand yourself better, and achieve your goals. While in-person therapy is an option for most people, online counseling has some benefits that you should consider before deciding which type of therapy is right for you. 

No Traveling

People with physical limitations or disabilities may also have difficulty getting to a therapist's office. Whether the closest therapist is hours away or all of the counselors in your area have long waiting lists, it can be challenging to get an appointment.

One of the biggest benefits of online therapy is that you can get an appointment with a qualified professional from the comfort of your own home. And with a large pool of counselors available online, you don’t have to worry as much about waiting lists or limited appointment times.

More Accessible

People with depressive or mood disorders might have difficulty motivating themselves to find a therapist, arrange an appointment, and then travel to the office for the first meeting and every subsequent meeting after that. Online therapy makes connecting with a counselor more accessible for people who need help but may not seek it out if there are too many obstacles in the way.

When Online Counseling Is Appropriate

To Treat Common Mental Health Issues

Online therapy is an effective and appropriate treatment for many common mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, but it may not be the best choice for more complicated psychiatric illnesses with complex symptoms or for people having suicidal thoughts. These situations typically require real-world interactions with a therapist and even medication or hospitalization. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can reach them anytime, day or night.

To Give Yourself More Options

In addition to having more options for counselors and appointment times, online counseling allows you to choose how you interact with your therapist, either through live counseling or asynchronous counseling. 

Live counseling is when you meet with a therapist via video-based teleconferencing or over the telephone. You and your therapist are both present, responding to each other in the moment, getting you close and personalized treatment from the comfort of home. 

Asynchronous online counseling is when you exchange messages with your therapist. You send a message, and your therapist responds when they log back into the platform. Depending on their availability, your therapist might respond to messages daily or multiple times a day.

Online Counseling Has A Proven Track Record of Helping People

Downsides To Online Therapy

While online therapy is an effective and viable option for many people, there are some cons to consider as well. 

  • Your insurance might not cover it. Paying for online therapy out-of-pocket can add up quickly, so make sure your medical insurance covers it, and your online therapist accepts your plan. 

  • Some states don’t allow for out-of-state providers. In many states, your online therapist must be licensed in your home state for them to deliver treatment. 

  • Unreliable technology could be an issue. Because online therapy relies on the internet and the reliability of multiple devices, many things might not always work as they should. If your internet goes down or your laptop runs out of battery, your session will be interrupted. 

  • Online therapists cannot always respond quickly in crisis situations. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for 24/7 support and assistance from a trained counselor.

  • In-person therapy is better for treating severe and complex psychiatric illnesses that may require medication or hospitalization.

BetterHelp Online Therapist Reviews

“I’ve been meeting with Roberta for a few months now and have had a consistently great experience with her. She’s open and kind, always listening and responding with heart. Despite having initial difficulty finding a counselor on the site, Roberta has made me feel positive about the whole online therapy experience (both regain and BetterHelp) and I would readily recommend it (and Roberta specifically) to any of my friends.”

“I started my journey with Donna not knowing what it is that I needed help with or what to really expect. I was in pain, that is all I knew for certain, and I threw everything at her. That was new for me. I have had face to face counseling experiences before with two other very kind professionals and with none of them I talked as much during the first sessions as I did with Donna.  It felt super safe when talking with Donna. It is like her aura emits safety which penetrates the skepticism one might have with online counseling (it did for me).  Apart from feeling safe, her great listening and non-judgement skills kept me staying with Donna. I did think a lot about changing counselors once because I wasn’t sure whether Donna could understand or help me with problems I was facing in regard to high sensitivities (HSP). However, my gut kept me away from it because of the three traits mentioned before. Till now, I have always wanted to get better very quickly (max. 1 month to get better and even that is too long), but with Donna I managed to learn with my heart slowly to let myself take time with the process of getting better. One more thing which I found amazing because I was not expecting that all, is Donna’s ability to shed light on new perspectives on my deep, philosophical/complex writings. Sometimes just a short message from her on my writing makes me something new or helps me gets closer to a solution within me.”

Takeaway

Studies show that online therapy is effective, too. In fact, one review of 17 studies found that online cognitive behavioral therapy might be more effective at treating depression than in-person therapy. 

If you’re interested in online therapy, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist to get started.

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