Can online therapy help effectively improve mental health?
Online therapy is a more modern invention, starting with the popularization of the internet in the 1990s. Over the years, it has become a more widespread option for mental healthcare, with four out of ten Americans connecting with online therapy providers instead of face-to-face mental health services since 2021. However, some people might have reservations about using an online therapy platform for mental health issues, as it can seem that online services may not be as effective as those used in person. Understanding the statistics surrounding online therapy can help you decide whether it would be effective for you.
What can online therapy do for you?
Some people may wonder if an online therapy platform can be as effective and safe as traditional in-person therapy. To understand its effectiveness, looking at the types of mental health conditions often treated using an online platform can be valuable.
Participating in online therapy sessions can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms, help in treating mental illness, and make positive changes in your life. A licensed online therapist may address several concerns, including but not limited to the following:
- Unhealthy relationships
- Health challenges
- Chronic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Decisions surrounding your career
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Other mental illnesses
Can online therapy be effective in addressing mental health concerns?
People who have never tried online mental health care may be wondering, does online therapy work? Online therapy has been endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA) and many other reputable psychological organizations. In addition, many studies have backed up the effectiveness of virtual therapy. Below are a few statistics and experiences with online therapy that may offer further insight into this form of mental health treatment.
Online therapy statistics
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies on online therapy. However, several significant studies have been consistently cited and reviewed. Studies have determined effectiveness for multiple mental illnesses, stress, and relationship challenges. Below are a few statistics showcasing the effectiveness of online counseling:
- Depression: One meta-analysis of over 17 studies found that online therapy was more effective than in person intervention options for treating depression.
- Anxiety: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can be done online, and one study found that it was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
- Bipolar Disorder: Researchers found that 95% of participants with bipolar disorder had an increased quality of life after using online therapy.
- Couples Conflict: Research has shown that couples prefer online therapy over videoconference to in-person options due to the level of comfort it provides.
- PTSD: Internet-based treatment helps facilitate a strong therapeutic alliance for clients with PTSD and achieves a sustained reduction of symptoms.
- User experience
In addition to the above studies, specific studies have examined unique online platforms to discover user experience metrics. One study looked at the online platform of BetterHelp and asked participants to rate quality, convenience, effectiveness, achievement, affordability, and availability. Clients rated the online platform:
- 71% more effective
- 78% higher quality
- 76% easier to progress in
- 90% more availability
- 100% more convenient
- 80% more affordable
What types of therapy are effective online?
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Gestalt therapy
- Rapid eye movement and desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
- Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP)
- Mindfulness-based therapies
- Couples counseling
- Integrative therapy
- Internal family systems (IFS)
Differences in effectiveness between online and in-person mental health services
The challenge of reaching out to a therapist
In psychotherapy, the therapeutic process often makes it easier to approach, reflect, and recognize challenging life topics with an open mind. However, choosing a therapist, making appointments, and attending sessions can be stressful for some people. Below are a few reasons people might not contact an in-person therapist.
Fears about starting therapy
For some, the prospect of seeking professional help may bring up unacknowledged fears of stigmas. Some people may fear that something is wrong with them, that they will be judged, or that they cannot be helped. Although you may feel nervous about taking this step, mental health providers are trained to provide objective, supportive guidance, including online.
In-person therapy can feel dauntingMany people with anxiety, social phobias, severe depressive symptoms, and a history of trauma can find it challenging to attend in-office therapy appointments. They may fear being judged, rejected, or further traumatized during in-office therapy sessions.
In some cases, online therapists have found that clients can open up and experience relief of symptoms more quickly than in an office setting. This result may be due to the client being present within the safety of their home and the distance between them and the therapist. For some clients, there can be an unconscious desire to be liked by the therapist or please the therapist, which can lead to self-censorship, the omission of information, or avoiding talking about challenges.
TakeawayOnline therapy has been shown to be effective for a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. Whether you’re seeking online cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or another modality, numerous studies have found online therapy sessions to be just as effective as in-person therapy treatments. With online therapy services at BetterHelp, you can still have person contact just like in face-to-face therapy in an office, as you can connect with a therapist via videoconferencing. Connecting with a therapist, scheduling a session, and attending therapy can be more effective or efficient than in-person therapy. If you feel uncertain about online counseling, you can investigate the studies above or contact an online therapist for an initial appointment. You’re not alone, and high-quality support is available.
Below are a few frequently asked questions about online treatment.
Many people wonder if an online psychotherapy platform can be as competent and safe as in-person psychotherapy. A study from 2014 found that online CBT could be as competent as in-person counseling, and hundreds of other studies have discussed its competence since then.
Should I Try Online Therapy?
While online psychotherapy can be competent, professional counseling in an online format may not be for everyone. You might try both in-office and online psychotherapy to evaluate which option may be most comfortable and competent for you. Counseling is a personal process, so consider your options before deciding.
What Are The Types Of Therapy?
There are hundreds of therapeutic modalities to try. If you’re unsure which might be competent for you, you may be able to set up an initial consultation with a therapist to evaluate your options. Which type of psychotherapy you use often depends on your needs and your therapist’s education and experience.
Which Type Of Therapy Is Best?
The most competent type of psychotherapy may depend on your diagnosis, symptoms, goals, and values. Popular evidence-based treatments include psychodynamic therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. However, a few specific counseling formats are often competent for specific mental illnesses, like ERP for OCD.
How Do I Choose A Therapist?
You might choose a therapist by asking a healthcare provider for a referral, looking into therapists covered by your insurance, or using an online therapy platform to be matched with a professional. If you’re interested in a specific type of therapy, online therapy platforms tend to have a large pool of licensed therapists to choose from, so you may be more likely to find someone with experience in that type of therapy.
Do Therapists Hug Their Clients?
It is often not recommended for therapists to hug their clients, as it can breach an ethical barrier. Instead, your therapist might shake your hand or offer verbal validation.
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