Having a challenging day or experiencing sadness can be natural for many individuals. However, if you are feeling down for an extended period or cannot get a break from your symptoms, you may find that reaching out for professional support can improve your mental health.
Several factors could keep people from receiving professional mental health support. Many may feel self-conscious or struggle to afford the cost of meeting with a psychologist or therapist. Others might live in rural locations and struggle to attend an in-person therapy session. Furthermore, some might have difficulty talking to people due to social anxiety and other mental health conditions.
By participating in online therapy, you may receive support from anywhere you have an internet connection, including in the comfort of your home. Before considering online therapy, it can help to know its benefits and how it might support you personally.
What Is Online Therapy?
The delivery of psychological services through telecommunications via phone, video, or chat has grown in popularity over the last 20 years. Receiving mental health care remotely has existed since 1960 and grew out of the need to reach people who experienced barriers to mental healthcare.
With the advent of the internet, this form of therapy has developed into a prevalent mental health service known as online therapy. It is the subject of many research studies that ascertain its efficacy and proposed benefits.
Online therapy is also known as internet-based therapy, cybercounseling, e-therapy, or e-counseling. It is a service where mental health support is provided over the internet via phone, video, or live chat sessions. Online therapy can be done through a variety of media, including but not limited to:
- Live chat
- Video chat
- Phone calls
This treatment method can provide a similar range of services as in-person therapy and may serve a diverse population of those with a safe phone or internet connection. While telepsychology has been used for the past 20 years, the invention of smartphone technology has expanded the reach of this service. Various mental health-based companies have created online therapy apps to improve the availability and cost-effectiveness of professional therapy.
Why Choose Online Therapy Services?
Being able to talk to an online therapist from the comforts of one's home may make a world of difference to a person who has a hectic schedule, cannot take off time from work, has no insurance, or is concerned with being seen walking into a clinical office.
No Physical Office Or Commute
Many people with anxiety and depressive mental health disorders may feel unable to make and keep appointments at physical therapy offices. Making appointments, getting dressed, and commuting to an office can seem overwhelming, and many choose to avoid therapy altogether.
With online therapy, these obstacles are often removed, and a person can receive support in the safety and comfort of their own home or anywhere with an internet connection.
Options For Those In Remote Or Rural Locations
You may live in a remote location or a populated city, which can cause a long commute to get to and from appointments. Some people live where clinical social services are not available, thus preventing them from receiving in-person therapy.
Individuals struggling with such a situation might find online therapy valuable. High demand in a big city may encourage individuals to turn to services like online therapy.
Online therapy services can help individuals with physical limitations receive mental health support. This service can be especially vital to individuals with limitations related to mobility.
Additionally, individuals living with mental health disorders may benefit from online therapy. For instance, a person with agoraphobia(the fear of places and situations that might cause panic) might not want to visit a physical therapy office. With online therapy, they can have clinical social services via video chat, telephone, or instant messaging and work on their fears in a safe environment.
How Do Online Therapy Services Work?
Online therapy operates similarly to in-office therapy. Online therapists are licensed to provide counseling, treatment plans, and advice for mental health-related conditions online. They can practice the same methods of psychotherapy services as in-office therapy providers, with a few exceptions.
Insurance And Telehealth Services
Some health insurance providers may cover the cost of seeing an online therapist. Online therapists who accept health insurance as a form of payment can meet with a client through telehealth services without additional costs in many cases. However, some online platforms do not offer the ability to pay with insurance, although they may be cheaper out of pocket.
Online Therapy Services Offered
While there are many services offered for various conditions, symptoms, and concerns, a few standard services can include:
- One-on-one online chats with a therapist or counselor
- Group chats
- Text messaging
- Live telephone therapy
- Video sessions
- Online videoconferencing
- Email chatting
- Virtual self-help
When you sign up for internet psychotherapy services, you may be assigned a therapist immediately or browse the group chat rooms. Some websites might also have virtual self-help therapy services where you can work independently with activities and videos that guide you through your symptoms and potential treatments. However, these sites are not intended to replace the advice of a licensed therapist.
Sessions with an online therapist are also not intended to replace emergency services. If you feel your issue is an emergency or that you or someone near you is in life-threatening danger, call 911. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available to assist 24/7. You can also text 988 to receive support over SMS.
Finding Professional Support
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 53 million in the United States are living with mental health disorders. This number equates to 1 in 5 people. There may not be enough in-office therapists, psychologists, and mental health professionals to treat this number. In some areas, you might have to wait a few months before receiving your first appointment for in-office therapy. Online therapy can help reach those who cannot find a therapist in an appropriate amount of time.
If you have difficulty scheduling appointments due to a busy schedule or other barriers, consider online therapy. You can schedule sessions with your therapist when most convenient for you. Furthermore, several studies have shown virtual therapy to be as effective as in-person therapy, with the added benefit of increased availability for those who live remotely or who are seeking a more cost-effective option. For example, in a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, psychiatrist Haim Weinberg found that many of his clients who shifted from in-person to online therapy felt more comfortable opening up online because of the defensive barrier of the screen and the comfort of being in their own space.
If you're interested in getting matched with a licensed therapist in as little as 48 hours, consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp, which offers phone, video, and live chat sessions. You can schedule an appointment with your therapist whenever you are both available. Couples can also take advantage of online therapy through a platform like Regain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few frequently asked questions on the topic of online counseling.
Are Online Therapy Services Effective?
Online therapy can be effective. A study in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare found that after a month of treatment, most individuals who used online therapy reported improved mental health. They also reported levels of overall satisfaction and comfort similar to those reported by individuals who used traditional counseling.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders reported that online cognitive behavioral therapy was an effective, acceptable, and practical form of healthcare. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found online therapy to be equally effective as in-person therapy in treating depression.
Online therapy has been proven multiple times to be as effective in treating stress, anxiety, and depression-related mental health conditions as face-to-face therapy.
Are Online Therapy Services Safe?
Yes, online therapy can be safe. As with in-person therapy, there may be limits set by the American Counseling Association's code of ethics that affect your level of discretion.
Discretion can be broken in cases where:
- Your therapist deems you a threat to another person
- Your therapist deems you a threat to yourself
- Your therapist is notified of child or elder abuse, or any form of neglect or abuse toward a vulnerable population
- Your therapist is ordered by a court to release information
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
What Is The Best Online Therapy Site?
BetterHelp is the world's largest and most successful online therapy platform. The platform offers care to those over 18 and allows a personalized approach to online counseling. BetterHelp has over 30,000 licensed therapists as of 2023, and they often donate therapy sessions to non-profits and individuals in need.
Is BetterHelp Worth The Money?
BetterHelp can be significantly cheaper than in-person therapy. For example, Forbes found that the average cost of traditional therapy in 2022 was $100-$200 per session. BetterHelp costs $60-$90 per session, charged every four weeks, saving users hundreds of dollars per month. Additionally, research shows that online therapy can help decrease symptoms of depression. For example, one study demonstrated how people who used BetterHelp experienced a significant decrease in depression symptom severity after engaging in online therapy.
Can you talk to a therapist for free online?
Is it OK to see a therapist just to talk?
Who is not suitable for online therapy?
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using Online Therapy Services?
Is therapy via Zoom effective?
Can I use BetterHelp for free?
Is there an app for online therapy?
Is therapy better in-person or virtual?
How Can I Do Therapy While I’m At Home?
What should you avoid in therapy?
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