Is Online Psychiatry Effective?

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated January 26, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Technology has had a large impact on many industries, including that of mental healthcare. Online psychiatry and internet therapy may soon become more popular than more traditional in-person therapy, and recent studies indicate that the former is just as effective as the latter.

What Is Online Psychotherapy?

Online Therapy May Benefit You

Online therapy is known by a few different names, including e-therapy, e-counseling, teletherapy, and cyber-counseling. Essentially, it means that a mental health provider delivers psychological advice and support over the internet. This can occur in several different ways: via email, video conferencing, phone calls, online chats, or messaging. These methods can be divided into two categories: in real-time (video conferencing, phone calls, and online chat) or with a time delay (emails and text messages).

The History Of Online Psychotherapy

The practice of remote therapy has existed for a long time. The famous neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, corresponded frequently with his patients via written mail during his practice between 1886 and 1938.

Online self-help groups began emerging as early as 1982 in the form of group chats and online forums. 

The growth of online counseling and mental health services spurred the founding of the International Society for Mental Health Online (ISMHO) in 1997 to explore and support mental health services in the digital age. The mission of the ISMHO is to promote the understanding, use, and development of online communication, information, and technology for the international mental health community.

The Effectiveness Of Online Psychiatry And CBT 

Multiple studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of online therapy utilizing CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for treating disorders like depression and anxiety, and the results are largely positive. It allows treatment of patients with many different psychiatric conditions.”

Online psychiatry has received support from a variety of sources, including the patients who use it. A study published by the World Journal of Psychiatry reports that videoconferencing-based telepsychiatry incurred high levels of satisfaction among patients.

The review concluded that "videoconferencing-based telepsychiatric assessments are reliable, and clinical outcomes of telepsychiatric interventions are comparable to conventional treatment among diverse patient populations, ages and diagnostic groups, and on a wide range of measures.

Benefits Of Online Psychotherapy

Online counseling offers several potential advantages. For example, it’s often less expensive than traditional therapy. There are many reasons why this may be, one of which is that it eliminates the overhead associated with things like office rental and hiring costs. That savings to the provider may result in lower rates for clients. 

Also, internet therapy is usually more efficient than face-to-face therapy. Travel time to sessions is eliminated, and with some platforms, including BetterHelp, quick messages may be exchanged as the need arises.  In fact, research has shown that because online therapy requires 7.8 times less of a therapist's time than in-person treatment, an online psychologist can treat significantly more people online than they can in person.

Internet therapy breaks down barriers to accessing therapy in other ways, too. 

Online therapy can reduce the discomfort that some may experience when sitting with a therapist in person. They may have fewer concerns about encountering others, particularly friends or colleagues, in an in-person waiting room. 

Finally, studies indicate that some patients using an online platform for therapy may also adhere to therapy guidance better than patients who visit an in-person psychotherapist. 

Comparison Of Online And In-Person Counseling

The research so far comparing the outcomes of internet therapy to in-person therapy is encouraging. While communicating in writing obscures paralinguistic features, and voice-only communication does not allow for visual cues, these are less critical than one might think to the success of online therapy. And teletherapy, including video, is a popular option as well. It would certainly seem that online therapy is a popular choice for many, whether as a stand-alone form of treatment or one to be used in conjunction with face-to-face therapy.

Limitations Of Internet Counseling

While online therapy can be beneficial to many people, it is not appropriate for everyone. The treatment of serious mental illness may not be appropriate for online therapy, and online therapy is also not recommended for individuals who are in crisis or unable to commit to staying safe.

There are certain things that electronic therapists just can't do. For example, making a firm diagnosis for a court order is just not possible, nor is prescribing any form of medication. Effective regulation of these online services, including where confidentiality concerns arise, is also still an open issue.  However, it's clear that this new horizon in treating mental health issues is here to stay, and many anticipate the eventual removal of some of the limitations to online therapy.

Takeaway

Telepsychiatry is an excellent way for those with mental disorders to manage their psychiatric care. A 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine states: “Users of BetterHelp experienced significantly reduced depression symptom severity after engaging with the platform. The findings suggest that this intervention is equally effective across gender, self-reported financial status, and self-reported physical health status and is particularly effective for individuals without a history of psychotherapy.” 

Online platforms like BetterHelp are designed specifically to match patients with skilled licensed mental health practitioners with a wide variety of specializations. 

Online Therapy May Benefit You

BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped people with a variety of mental health disorders and concerns. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Samuel is an extremely smart man and makes me feel like he actually cares about me and my mental health. He goes the extra mile in finding me local groups and clinics and refers me books to read. I still have a long way to go but I’m glad it’s with him. Thank you, Sam”

“Julie is by far more than just a therapist. She is a god sent angel. She knows and understands mental health inside and out. She also has a great ability to keep the session focused and hone me back in if needed. She shows the most amount of empathy and understand I have had the pleasure in having of a therapist. She gives homework appropriately and has so many tricks up her sleeves. I am honored to have her in my life.”

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