Research has found that online therapy can be effective in treating anxiety, depression and trauma. There is no difference in patient satisfaction depending on whether therapy is performed online or in person, and for either of the two methods of receiving therapy, the results are better as a person attends more sessions. Online therapy can be an effective and convenient way to access mental health services. But that doesn't mean it's right for everyone.
Whether or not online therapy is right for you depends on your condition and the severity of your symptoms. This type of online therapy is basically the same as regular therapy, except that it happens online rather than in an office. Sessions usually last an hour and can take place weekly or as often as you and your therapist decide. In between sessions, you may have limited contact with your therapist via text and email.
Or, you may just have to wait until your next session, unless you are in crisis. As you can see, online therapy, like traditional therapy, is imperfect. Is it better or worse than face-to-face therapy? I would say it depends on perception. But it does appear to be effective for a certain subset of the population (people who are not suicidal or people who are not in the midst of a major crisis requiring more intensive intervention).
While online therapy is a much newer form of therapy, current evidence suggests that for many people it can be as effective as face-to-face therapy. Talking from the safety of your own home can even make it easier for you to open up about your problems. Online therapy also allows you to reach a qualified specialist from anywhere in the world, while avoiding the expense, travel time and hassle of having to meet in person. Another literature review of studies on CBT online found that it leads to a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Online CBT was also found to be as effective as face-to-face therapy in treating panic disorder. Online CBT was also significantly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobia. Therapists can offer virtual options directly through their personal practice. Online platforms also provide opportunities for people to connect with therapists within their networks.
Virtual therapy seems as effective as face-to-face therapy in addressing mental health needs. However, another review of 19 studies found that online CBT was superior to placebo and on the waiting list, and as effective as face-to-face therapy for the treatment of anxiety. I have been doing therapy exclusively online for the past two and a half years, the last year of which has been in my own private practice. Some people may feel more comfortable undergoing therapy in a digital environment, especially younger people who are more familiar with these methods of communication, but other therapists and patients alike may take more advantage of therapy that uses more direct human contact.
If you have reliable Internet access, online therapy gives you relatively quick and easy access to a treatment that might otherwise not have been available to you. Confidentiality is as important in online therapy as it is in more traditional forms of treatment administration. One of the biggest concerns of online therapy is that therapists do not have the opportunity to observe the patient, something that is usually an integral part of an evaluation and diagnosis. Online therapy offers easy access to mental health support from virtually anywhere with many flexible options.
Online therapy removes geographical restrictions, making it difficult to enforce legal and ethical codes. Some online therapy services even offer free tests so you can test interaction with a therapist to help determine if it's right for you. The messaging aspect of some online therapy services can also be useful for tracking your progress and monitoring any setbacks. Hosted by editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares the pros and cons of online therapy.
The drawbacks of online therapy include ambient noise (especially since many therapists and clients are currently attending sessions from home), technological problems, and lack of non-verbal communication. Online therapy may require you to investigate the privacy policies of video and messaging platforms to protect your information. Online and in-person therapy options allow more people to access mental health care than ever before. While online therapy is usually cheaper than in-person therapy, the cost can vary considerably depending on where in the world you live, the benefits you have access to, and the type of service offered.