Are Online Therapy Sites Effective?
By Toni Hoy
Updated January 31, 2019
Reviewer Christine Clawley
If you're going through major life-transitions, a breakup, feel confused about your identity, suffer from low self-esteem, or are experiencing mental health or emotional problems, online therapy sites can be an effective and convenient way to get the support you need. A licensed professional can also help address issues related to stress, anxiety, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, unhealthy relationships, health issues, cultural assimilation issues, decisions surrounding your career, or problems with day-to-day functioning. Online counseling can also help you learn to cope in healthier ways and make positive changes in your life. Most of us need some kind of support during difficult times in our lives. For some, the prospect of seeking counseling may bring up unacknowledged fears or stigmas. However, many of these fears are unwarranted. Some people may fear that there is something is seriously wrong with them, that they will be judged, and that they cannot be helped. This is often not the case, and there is nothing to be afraid of if you are considering seeking counseling.
However, some people with anxiety, social phobias, severe depressive symptoms, and a history of trauma may find it difficult to seek counseling and keep appointments for fear of being judged, rejected, or further traumatized. Seeking out mental health treatment in person may feel like a daunting process as it often involves meeting with several counselors, selecting a counselor, dressing and getting ready, driving to a session, filling out paperwork, opening up, and then driving back home. However, for many people, the thought of actually seeking out a therapist for in-person treatment can simply add additional stress and anxiety to their already compromised emotional state. For some, this entire process may take at least several hours and may be beyond what that person is capable of. Online counseling can be a great alternative to in-person counseling as it cuts out the commute time, allows the client to have sessions within the comfort of their own home, and choose their preferred method of communication-video, phone, or web chat.
Online therapy can be a great tool for individuals who have the time or financial constraints. Some problems are best resolved with the help of a professional, especially if you have been suffering from symptoms, such as anxiety or depression for more than six weeks. Fortunately, online therapy sites are becoming more common and can offer treatment that's just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. In fact, many online therapy sites offer the convenience of sending messages and scheduling appointments 24/7.
Online therapy sites are platforms that offer a confidential and private way for clients to receive quality treatment from a licensed therapist in the comfort of their own homes. This can be a huge benefit to individuals who live in rural areas or areas with a high volume of traffic. For some clients, this cuts out an hour or more in commute time. This can also be helpful for individuals suffering from anxiety, social anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, chronic pain, severe health issues, and other diagnoses.
The process of seeking online therapy is usually quite simple and straight forward. The platform will prompt you to answer questions about your current mental and emotional state, health challenges, social and/or relationship issues, and your reason for seeking therapy. This information is used to match you with a therapist that specializes in treating your specific issues. Most online therapy sites also provide user testimonials and therapist biographies, so that you can choose the therapist that you feel will provide you with the type of help you're looking for. However, if you are matched with a therapist that you feel is not a good fit for you, for whatever reason, you can always request another therapist. It's important that you are aware of your rights as a client, understand that you can terminate therapy at any time, or ask to work with another therapist. However, if do you feel your therapist is a good match for you, termination is usually a joint decision and openly discussed. Therapists are also aware that some clients will be seeking short-term services, while others would like longer-term services in order to delve deeper and work on personal and professional self-development.
Once you are matched with your licensed online therapist, you can expect to receive treatment that is similar to in-person therapy, both in methods and effectiveness. Your online therapist will use the same techniques as a traditional therapist, but you'll have the added benefit of being able to receive treatment anonymously and without having to leave your home. As mentioned earlier, this is especially helpful for people who may live in remote areas with no close access to in-person therapy services, or people who may have physical limitations that make traveling to appointments difficult.
In some cases, therapists have found that clients appear to open up more quickly and also experience relief of symptoms more quickly for various reasons, including the client being present within the safety of one's home, the physical distance from the therapist, or the sense of anonymity. For most clients, there is an unconscious desire to be liked by the therapist or please the therapist, which can lead to self-censorship, omission of important information, or avoiding talking about important issues. However, with online therapy, many clients often feel a greater sense of freedom to open up and talk about what is most important to them. Most people fear being judged, especially when they are revealing sensitive information or vulnerabilities about themselves. With this sense of safety, physical distance, anonymity, as well as different communication options (video, phone, or web chat), most clients are able to break through these barriers that prevent honest discussion with greater ease.
One other benefit of online therapy is that it is usually more affordable when compared to face-to-face counseling. While out of pocket sessions may cost upwards of $150/hour, most online counseling sessions cost $60/hour. It also allows you the freedom to schedule appointments when it's most convenient for you since your therapist is able to offer treatment remotely and doesn't need to be in a specific location to offer assistance.
However, there are certain instances where online counseling may not be appropriate. This may be your individual choice or the therapist may recommend face-to-face counseling if you have had a recent suicide attempt, severe trauma, or suffer from a severe, persistent mental health diagnosis. If this is the case, your therapist can also help guide you to further treatment in your area to help you find the support that is right for you.
If you think you could benefit from an online therapy site, most sites, such as BetterHelp. Online counseling is convenient and begins your journey towards balance, self-discovery, and healing.