As online therapy is becoming more popular, you may be wondering if it is effective and if online therapists are real. With the rise of telemedicine, like online psychiatry and online psychology, more and more licensed mental health professionals are providing high-quality care through online platforms. Below, we’ll discuss online psychologists, their credentials, and the various treatments they provide.
The Legitimacy Of Online Psychology
You may find therapists with a variety of credentials, including the following:
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Although requirements vary in different states, all of BetterHelp’s therapists, social workers, and other professionals providing online therapy are required to meet their state board’s licensing requirements. They also need to have an individual National Provider Identification (NPI) number and must have at least 1,000 hours of therapy experience with teens, adults, or couples.
Options For Therapy Services
Mental health professionals often don’t have to choose between in-person and online therapy when offering mental health services. Many therapists who have traditionally practiced the field of psychology in person are also beginning to take their practice online. Options typically include live chat, phone therapy, and video therapy for their appointments. If you find an online therapist or psychologist in your community, you may be able to opt for a hybrid option that includes in-person and online therapy for customizable mental health care.
If you’re living with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression, you can talk to any of the above professionals about what you’re experiencing from the comfort of your home by attending therapy online. You may find that they can provide you with valuable support even if you don’t feel well enough to visit a therapist’s office. If you’re experiencing something that requires medication, you likely have to speak to a physician, such as a psychiatrist, but you may find that some psychiatrists are willing to treat you online or in a hybrid format. An online psychiatrist may also be able to provide you with a medication management plan virtually.
It's important to note that at this time, BetterHelp does not offer prescription or medication management services.
Virtual Therapy And Its Benefits
If you’re new to the idea of online therapy, you may be surprised to learn about how many types of therapy are available online. Below is a list of therapy types that can be conducted online:
- Couples therapy and marriage counseling
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Play therapy
- Family therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many individuals have noted that online therapists can typically provide the same treatment that traditional face-to-face therapists can, and research shows that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of mental health challenges.
Depending on your insurance provider’s mental health plan, virtual mental health services may be covered. The pricing model and subscription services that BetterHelp offers can often make therapy more affordable and available. Online therapy may also help fight mental health stigma by serving as an option for people who may be hesitant to seek help in person.
Finding A Qualified And Licensed Virtual Therapist
When searching for an online therapy platform, you may want to visit select sites and research the credentials of the mental health professionals available. While it may be difficult to confirm a therapist’s mental health credentials by yourself, by working with a company such as BetterHelp, you can find therapists who have undergone extensive verification. BetterHelp’s simple intake questionnaire can help you connect with the therapist most suited for your needs.
Online therapists and psychologists who work through reputable online therapy sites tend to have qualifications you would expect from a traditional in-office therapist. They generally list their certifications and experience on their profile, which you can view before you choose your counselor. You can often choose your online therapist based on the type of therapy they provide, as well as your mental health goals.
For example, if you think you’d like to learn more about cognitive-behavioral therapy or rational emotive behavior therapy, you can search for a licensed therapist who has training and experience in these therapeutic approaches. Different types of therapy (online therapy included) tend to work well for different concerns and goals. Virtual online therapy, online chat, and phone calls can be effective ways to work with your therapist.
While there are many reputable online psychologists and therapists, there are a few potential red flags to be aware of when looking for a therapist online. For example, a poorly written or designed website may indicate a fraudulent company. Additionally, if a therapy website only accepts a non-exclusive, untraceable payment method or doesn’t list contact information, these may also be signs that it isn’t a reputable platform.
What To Expect From Virtual TherapyOnline therapy tends to be similar to in-person therapy in several ways. When someone visits a therapist at their office, they tend to spend time discussing events that go on in their daily life, and they are free to discuss any problems or challenges they’re experiencing. This also occurs during an online session with a therapist.
You can speak openly with your therapist about a wide range of topics, from relationship challenges to concerns about your career. Your therapist may be able to guide you through life transitions and help you examine your thoughts and behaviors. A licensed online therapist might use evidence-based therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy, solution-focused therapy, or other therapy modalities.
What Are Virtual Therapy Sessions Like?
During the first web based therapy session, you can get to know your therapist, and they will probably ask you questions about yourself and your current situation to get a better idea of how they can help you.
As you work through multiple sessions, you will likely have time to explore your feelings about the situation, identify your healthy and unhealthy behaviors relating to it, and decide how you want to respond.
The therapist may ask you questions to guide you to deeper insights into your life experiences. They may also teach you techniques for recognizing and responding to your emotions and help you understand how to choose behaviors that will benefit you throughout your daily life.
Sessions sometimes end with an assignment, which might involve a behavior to notice in yourself (or others) and techniques to try in everyday situations.
Key Features Of Receiving Care Through Online Therapy
Text therapy or message exchanging: An additional benefit you may receive with some online therapy platforms is text therapy or message exchanging. With this feature, you can send messages to your therapist using a phone, tablet, or any device with messaging capabilities.
This feature may be particularly helpful if you lack a safe space to speak via phone or video chat.*
*If you or someone you know is at risk of domestic violence, you can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) at any time day or night. TTY is available at 1-800-787-3224.
Video chat: Online psychotherapy can take place via videoconferencing if you prefer face-to-face contact with a therapist. This type of communication still allows for observation of facial cues while providing a way to connect with a therapist without leaving home.
Seeking out a therapist based on their qualifications or experience can be a helpful starting point. However, this may not be enough to determine if you and a specific therapist are a suitable match for each another.
After therapy begins, you might decide that you would like to try another counselor. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel strongly that your personalities don’t mesh well or their availability doesn't match yours, BetterHelp allows you to change therapists until you find an appropriate match.
Through the BetterHelp platform, you can learn about various therapists from their profile and set up an appointment relatively quickly.
BetterHelp Wants To Support You
The online therapists and psychologists at BetterHelp want to support you in getting the best possible care for your mental health. They are professional therapists who have studied psychology and human behavior.
With BetterHelp, you have access to an exclusive chat room where you can leave messages for your therapist at any time. You may find this service especially helpful when you want to describe your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Your therapist will check the chat room periodically and respond as soon as they can.
The Cost Of BetterHelp
The cost of therapy through BetterHelp ranges from $65 to $90 per week (billed every four weeks), as opposed to up to $200 per session for traditional, in-person therapy, and it is based on your location, preferences, and therapist availability. You can cancel your plan at any time, for any reason.
If you’re unsure of whether online therapy is going to work for you, it’s okay to test it out and talk to your counselor about this and decide the pros and cons of online therapy.
Below are some reviews from clients regarding their experience with therapists at BetterHelp.
Leah Mullins, LCSW, LISW
“I was skeptical about this type of counseling but Leah made me feel confident from the beginning with her straightforward profile, thoughtful questions, and rapid responses. I feel that she truly sympathizes with my situation but also holds me accountable for finding solutions.”
Juan Carlos Navarro, LPCC
“Carlos was a blessing during the several months of therapy. I am beyond grateful that he was kind and understanding. We followed a structured plan to help me cope with my complex PTSD and anxiety. I now have new strategies that I can use every day. I would highly recommend Carlos to any person who wants a reliable and kind therapist.”
When should you seek mental help?
Several signs may indicate you might benefit from mental help, including feelings of overwhelm, unexplained fatigue, disproportionate rage, anxious or intrusive thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, and social withdrawal. If you are feeling any of the above and are thinking about seeking mental health help, you can reach out to an online therapy platform to connect with a professional licensed therapist from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection.
Are there only virtual psychologists?
There are many licensed online psychologists who offer a wide range of services, including online cognitive behavioral therapy, couples counseling, substance use therapy, and other psychology fields. Online therapy users with BetterHelp can connect with therapists and psychologists via messaging, phone, and video conferencing.
Can you obtain medication management online?
While BetterHelp currently does not offer medication-related services, there are other virtual platforms that may be able to help. It's important to consult with a medical doctor before beginning or changing any treatments involving medication.
What is the difference between psychology and psychiatry?
Psychiatrists must attend medical school and obtain a medical degree before practicing psychiatry. Once they are licensed, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication. They may also recommend a number of other treatment methods, including talk therapy or lifestyle changes. A psychologist is generally focused on understanding human thought and behavior—often with a view toward helping to solve health-related challenges and social issues. Psychologists can specialize in several different areas and work in widely varying arenas, including talk therapy, social work, counselor settings, and more.
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