Virtual therapy aims to deliver a variety of mental health services by certified specialists via telephone, email, video chats, text messaging, or any other mode of remote communication.
But, is online therapy a legit option? Is virtual counseling as effective as traditional therapy? Let’s see…
To empower those with everyday problems, modern technology is adopting newer and newer tools to take psychotherapy out of the traditional office of clinicians to clients who need help in any location with an internet connection.
Online therapy can be a convenient and legitimate option for many people who are comfortable using the internet to receive assistance for addressing their mental health issues or those who don’t have access to a face-to-face therapist. But it isn’t without some drawbacks.
Online Therapy: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Even though online counseling is a legitimate option that benefits a lot of people who need help, it is still a new and somewhat unexplored form of psychological treatment. So, before you sit down to log in for your first online therapy session with high expectations, there are some things you should think about.
While there is no doubt that technology continues to contribute to how people work with a therapist, the research is still raw and there are a lot of mixed findings regarding the approach as well.
To start with, online therapy is not for those suffering from severe mental health conditions such as suicidal thoughts, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
Psychologists further argue that while undergoing therapy from a comfortable private place, the patient might present more self-control and hold back information that might prove a challenge for the therapist.
Another disadvantage of online therapy is that a therapist can do little in a crisis. For instance, if the patient gets nervous or loses control, the therapist will find it almost impossible to set their mind at rest as the interaction is done virtually.
Additionally, some online services offer psychiatric care and prescribe medicine, whether antidepressants or controlled substances, that can be potentially addictive. This is unlike how doctors are governed by Federal Law to see a patient face-to-face first before providing any medication which is regulated by the government.
Why You Should Consider Online Therapy vs. Traditional Therapy Services
Due to obligations or incapability, leaving home can be a barrier to receiving help for some people, which can be overcome by bringing online therapy to the doorstep.
As long as there is a reliable internet connection, online therapy sessions can take place from any location that suits the user.
One-on-one virtual counseling sessions with an accredited healthcare professional can also be scheduled depending on availability.
A single 45-minute in-person therapy session with a clinician can cost as much as $200. These high prices can act as a hindrance for those struggling with mental health getting the help they need.
Multiple health meetings in a month would eat significantly into the average monthly income of an individual. Although some insurance plans cover therapy, they come with many stipulations. Anyone expecting to pay for sessions out of their pocket will likely opt to go without therapy.
While ease of access is the key, virtual therapy apps are also an affordable alternative as users can expect to pay between $35-$70 for unlimited access with their chosen counselor, without the usual time restrictions, for one whole week.
Apps adopt subscription plans, a model that is popular with TV streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others, for which most consumers pay, and therefore, a recurring monthly bill for online therapy will not make a big financial impact.
- Ease of access
Another reason why you should consider online therapy is the ease of access and use. Almost every smartphone user knows how to find, install, and set up an app on their phones, something much less intimidating than trying to register with a local service provider.
Online therapy sessions provide better contact and communication with the therapist than in-person counseling. Traditional therapists usually provide service during standard business hours, but online services operate after hours and even on weekends.
Through online platforms, one can message a therapist 24/7 and receive a response, often within 24 hours. With traditional therapy, it is often not possible to connect with your therapist outside of a session or have a saved chat.
People in rural areas should consider online therapy because it can help them resolve their mental health concerns if no counselors are available where they live. Moreover, virtual counseling can also benefit those living or traveling abroad, dealing with different time zones.
Lastly, do not forget the cost of gas or long commutes in public transport involved in traveling across the city, sometimes at peak hours and having to deal with getting stuck in traffic; all just so you can speak with a therapist.
With virtual therapy, these extra expenses and hustles are not an issue.
Many people find it distressing to express their feelings over the phone or through video conferencing. Self-expression can be more convenient through text, and hence, many online therapy platforms provide live chat messaging.
For clients who find face-to-face discussions difficult or those suffering from social anxiety disorder, opening up in writing can be the preferable mode of treatment. You can think about your problems before writing them down.
Moreover, the preferred form of therapy can be changed at any time.
Is Virtual Therapy Effective?
Recent studies have suggested that therapy delivered online can be effective. And, in the aftermath of the pandemic, many individual therapists have also started to offer virtual counseling sessions to their patients.
In many cases, online therapy has been found to be as effective, if not more, than traditional therapy. Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was found to be as beneficial as in-person therapy in treating anxiety, stress, and depression in patients.
Nonetheless, some traditional mental health professionals are worried about the rapid proliferation of the commercial online therapy industry. There are concerns about appealing advertising and whether patient care is compromised by inadequate pay and training for therapists on the panel of digital companies.
But even though virtual counseling has some disadvantages, online therapy is a legit option you should consider to help address any mental health issues and other challenges you may be facing.
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