Insights From Online Counseling Service Studies: Which Conditions Can Be Helped?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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There is a growing body of research investigating the efficacy of online therapy for a variety of mental health disorders. Studies report that online therapy is often as effective as traditional in-office therapy, and it can help with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, and PTSD. Insomnia, eating disorders, self-esteem issues, relationship difficulties, and challenging life events can also be treated with online therapy. Still, severe mental illness may be best treated with in-person therapy.

Promising studies on the efficacy of online counseling services

Online counseling services can improve mental health

While in-person therapy and online therapy can both have pros and cons, research has shown online therapy can be a viable alternative to traditional therapy. A 2021 meta-analysis found that video therapy is often popular, convenient, and effective. However, according to an APA survey, more than 50% of Americans polled believed that therapy for mental health conditions could be too difficult to find, which is why they may avoid in-office visits. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages that an online counseling service can offer is convenience.. With this form of remote therapy, it may be possible to send in-app messages to a therapist on your schedule and make appointments that work for you.

What conditions can online therapy services help with?

Online therapy sessions are currently being studied for their efficacy in treating severe mental illnesses. At this time, it is considered best to treat major psychosis, suicidal ideation, and antisocial personality disorders with traditional in-person therapy sessions. Sometimes, inpatient treatment may also be necessary. These conditions may require more intensive health services as well as the ability to execute quicker crisis and medication management when urgent situations occur, so online therapy may not be an appropriate choice.

An online therapy platform may be effective in treating mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, sleeping or eating problems, and PTSD. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis, online therapy may be helpful in addressing stress, self-esteem, challenging life decisions, relationship difficulties, and other situations in which an objective mental health professional’s guidance could be beneficial.

Depression

Depression is often classified as a chronically low mood or loss of interest that lasts more than two weeks and is not caused by a significant loss or negative event in someone’s life. Childhood and adult depression may affect nearly 15 million Americans, which is around 6% of the population. To be diagnosed, depression generally must be severe enough that it causes impaired functioning in several areas of your life, including social interactions, work or school, sleep, concentration, and activity levels. As a recent study explains, online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression.

Anxiety

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that around 40 million Americans over the age of 18 may be affected by anxiety. That's about 18% of the population in the US. Anxiety can manifest as constant or excessive worry that can be difficult to control. It may involve physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, irritability, nausea, and panic attacks. Online therapy can be particularly helpful in treating anxiety and the effects of stress, according to researchers.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder may affect about 2% of the population. This disorder is generally characterized by episodes of extreme mood disturbances that include periods of depression and mania. Online therapy may be effective in treating bipolar disorder.

Substance use disorder

Substance use disorder may affect one in 10 Americans over the age of 12. Symptoms of this disorder can include needing an increased amount of the substance over time to feel satisfied, going to great lengths to obtain the materials needed to engage in the addiction, and spending long periods of time engaged in the addictive activity. Diagnosable substance use disorder usually disrupts daily life and functioning. Addictions can be addressed through online therapy

PTSD

PTSD, affecting about 6% of Americans in any given year, is another mental health disorder that may be treated through online therapy. You may be living with PTSD if you have experienced a traumatic event or series of events that has negatively affected your life. Symptoms may include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hypersensitivity, hypervigilance, panic attacks, and changes in sleep patterns or appetite. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of any of the disorders described above, or if you are facing other health challenges, therapy may be an effective way to improve your mental well-being. If traditional in-office therapy isn’t an option for you, or if you feel uncomfortable speaking with therapists in person, you may find online therapy to be a more convenient option. You can speak with an online therapist from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have a reliable internet connection.

Online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy in treating a variety of mental health conditions and concerns. Consider reaching out for support and guidance from licensed therapists via an online platform. In many instances, health insurance may even cover part of the cost of online therapy services.

Online counseling services can improve mental health

Takeaway

As online therapy grows in popularity, studies looking into its efficacy have also grown in number. These studies show that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy, and it can help with substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, and more. Other potential reasons to turn to online therapy could include stress, self-esteem issues, challenging life events, and relationship problems. In some cases of severe mental illness and mental health crises, it may be best to seek out professional help in person. To learn more and to speak to a mental health professional about therapy online, reach out to BetterHelp today. 

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