Does Text Therapy Work?

Updated February 17, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

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We live in times where we can do just about anything from our phones. We can check our email, update our social media accounts, pay a bill, and organize files on our computers all from our mobile phones. Smartphone apps let you do just about anything you can imagine—and now, our phones are even starting to play a role in our treatment for mental health.

Yes, there are apps for mindfulness, stress management, meditation, and even ones to help you remember to take your medication when you need to. But, can our cell phones be a source of real, life-changing mental health treatment? If you haven't heard of text therapy, it's real, and many people are beginning to discover that it can work.

What Is Text Therapy?

Text therapy services offer a form of treatment that gives you access to a therapist through your phone. This method of counseling is growing in popularity. It is simply holding your therapy sessions through messaging interfaces, which can be chat messages or emails, via your phone.

What Are the Advantages of Text Therapy?

There are many advantages to using text therapy. How important these advantages are will vary based on the individual patient. Here are some of the advantages:

You Don't Have to Leave Your House

Sometimes actually making it to a therapy appointment can be difficult for people. There are many reasons why this is true. It could be that they struggle with social anxiety and don't want to have to sit in front of a stranger to talk about their struggles. Some may have a very busy schedule between their work life and home life, and don't have the time to get in one more appointment each week; or, they have small children at home that they are unable to find a sitter for, and can't leave them home alone. All of these are examples of why some people love text therapy. It gives them the ability to communicate with a licensed therapist from the comfort of their own home or whatever location is convenient for them.

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You Can Take Time to Process Through Your Responses

When you are sitting in front of a therapist, and you know that the clock is ticking and you only have 30 or 60 minutes total for a session, the pressure is on. This can make it very difficult to process information and honestly answer the questions that the therapist is asking you. When you are using text therapy, you can take the time that you need to think through the questions you are being asked. It's going to allow you the time to process and think of things that you might have missed if you were sitting face-to-face with the therapist.

This information could be key in helping the therapist to know what steps need to be taken to help you achieve your goals in therapy.

Some Things Are Easier to Put in Writing

Some people can communicate better through the written word instead of verbally. Writing things down can help people to process information. It can help them to reflect on their memories and their situations, and to come to revelations of things that could have been done differently on their part. It can also help them to see things that they may have missed in the moment. When you are meeting with a therapist, you are generally verbally answering the questions that they're asking. However, through text therapy, you are always writing that information down.

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You Can Look Back at the Conversation

During an in-person therapy session, the therapist is usually taking notes throughout your time together. However, while you are going through therapy, you are not usually taking notes about what's being said in the conversation. Later in the day, when you are no longer with the therapist, you may have questions about the session you had with them. But, since you don't have notes, you are unable to look back at that information. Text therapy allows you to see the conversation that you were having with your therapist. It allows you to look back through the information that they are providing so you can reprocess it.

Less Judgement

Some people report feeling less judged when doing text therapy, compared with in-person therapy. Now, your therapist should never be judging you, whether you are using text or in person therapy. Many times, the therapist is not judging the patient, but the patient feels this way because they are dealing with many difficult emotions such as shame and guilt. But, even if the therapist isn't judging them, just the thought that they might be can make some people clam up during therapy sessions. When these same people are talking with a therapist through text, though, they may be less worried about judgment, and can share what they need to.

Sense of Comfort and Safety

Therapy sessions tend to stretch people outside of their comfort zone. Most people aren't just naturally comfortable talking about their feelings and emotions with strangers. However, text therapy provides an opportunity for a greater level of comfort and safety. Patients know that no one is seeing them, which can help them to feel more comfortable being open. Some people also prefer text therapy because they don't want to be seen going in and out of the therapy sessions. This is a problem that the mental health stigma causes, and it keeps many people from getting the help that they need.

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What Are the Limitations of Text Therapy?

Text therapy isn't going to be the right form of therapy or treatment for every situation. There are some limitations on what type of mental health challenges can be properly treated through text messages. Many of the people that are helped through text therapy are struggling with things like anxiety, depression, grief, and relationship problems. The therapist that you choose will help you determine if text therapy is right for you.

You Cannot Receive a Prescription

Some mental health challenges will require the use of medication to help alleviate symptoms. Therapists generally can't prescribe medications. For this, a person must visit with a medical doctor.

The Tone of Voice Is Hard to Replace

Sometimes therapists can pick up on things that their patients are trying to communicate simply by hearing it in the tone of their voice. It might not be the words that they are saying, but the way that they are saying them. Text therapy removes the ability for a therapist to be able to pick up on these cues. All that they have to go off of are the actual words that the patient is typing into the message. They are unable to hear the emotion in their voice.

Nonverbal Cues Are Lost

Just like being able to get hidden messages from the tone of voice that their patient is using, therapists are also able to pick up on non-verbal cues when they are meeting in person with their patient. This could be as simple as reading their body language when they enter the room or seeing the way that their posture changes as they start talking about a different situation.

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What to Look for in a Therapist?

If you are interested in starting text therapy, the first thing that you need to do is find a therapist that offers the services. There are several companies, such as BetterHelp, that can provide you with a list of therapists that can help you. Many also have online tools to help you match up with a therapist for your situation. However, it is still your responsibility to do your due diligence and research your therapist.

You will feel much more comfortable checking yourself to see what the credentials are of the therapist that you might be working with. And, if the first therapist that you were matched up with doesn't feel like a good fit to you as you go through your first session, it's okay to stop working with them. This doesn't necessarily mean that text therapy isn't a good option for you; it just means that the individual therapist was not a good fit.

Text Therapy Through BetterHelp

As outlined in this article, certain technologies are increasingly being used as tools for administering therapy. Studies have shown that text therapy is a valuable component of online counseling programs when addressing an array of mental health issues. According to one study, text therapy can help lead to better outcomes by increasing engagement with therapeutic exercises, and reinforcing the skills learned in sessions. Researchers also stated that text-based therapy is more accessible than more traditional forms, relaying a statistic that shows almost 100% of the population has access to text messages. Overall, text-based therapy can help facilitate and complement an overall mental health approach.

As mentioned above, internet-based therapy is an efficient way of helping to manage symptoms arising out of a number of different mental health issues. If you’re concerned about privacy, online therapy through BetterHelp can be completely anonymous. Along with the ability to easily communicate with your therapist, you’ll be able to schedule sessions on your time. You won’t have to wait months for an appointment, or contact support staff just to schedule a time—just go online or through the BetterHelp app to quickly make or modify a session. Read below for reviews of counselors from those who have utilized text therapy through BetterHelp in the past.

Counselor Reviews

“Heather has been beyond amazing. I've only been talking with her for a few weeks, but she's helped me in so many ways. I love being able to text anytime, and she reaches out to me when she knows things are tough. I can't express how grateful I am to have her as my therapist.” 

“Adrianne responds to all my concerns. She takes the time to review what I text and then gives me suggestions and things to work on. I feel connected throughout the week. She is really good at understanding what’s important to me.” 

Conclusion

Finding the right therapist isn't always easy, but it's worth the investment of your time. A therapist can help you through your journey to improve your mental health and your overall wellbeing. Take the first step today.


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