Benefits of Online Therapy
With online therapy gaining popularity and an increasing number of mainstream services providing access to online support (e.g. the NHS and universities), it is important to understand what the role of online therapy plays. What the strengths and limitations of this mode of support are and who is best served through an online platform.
A literature review conducted by Rochlen et al. (2004) looked at the limits and benefits of online therapy.
Let’s discuss it.
What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy, not too dissimilar to normal therapy, is providing mental health services and support over the internet. Online therapy can also be classes as e-therapy, e-counselling, teletherapy or cyber-counselling.
Online therapy can occur in a handful of ways, being one of the main benefits of online therapy. Whether over the phone, messaging, video call, online therapy is versatile in both its approach and its delivery – making for a great opportunity if you’re short on time.
Online therapists require the same qualifications and experience to that of their physical counterparts, so there should be virtually no difference to the quality of counselling over the internet.
What Can Online Therapy Help With?
One of the benefits of online therapy is that it can be applicable to a wide range of situations. While it cannot be applied to any situation, as some cases require close or direct treatment, there are various disorders it can help with.
Some of the conditions that can be effectively treated with online therapy include:
Advantages of Online Therapy
As a means of therapy that is centred around your availability, preferences and suitability, online therapy is a benefit in itself. Here are the most prominent benefits of online therapy and what you can expect going into these sessions.
1. Convenience and Increased Access
The review showed that the most commonly cited benefit of online therapy was the convenience it offered and the ease of access. In particular people with limited mobility, time restrictions and with limited access to mental health services benefited from being able to access online therapy services.
They also suggested that people who were disillusioned with mental health services might be more likely to access online support. I have found in my own practice that I am often approached by clients with disabilities who would otherwise not be able to access support.
Online therapy can also offer a level of flexibility that a standard therapist would not be able to provide. This is beneficial for those with unpredictable health and mental health needs.
Contrary to the popular concern that online therapy lacks the intimacy needed to establish a therapeutic relationship, the review found that people tend to feel disinhibited by the online interface. Therapists have found that clients tend to “cut to the chase” much more quickly, often from the first session. The review was looking at text-based therapy and found that clients tend to open up quickly when they could not see or be seen, suggesting that the perceived anonymity provided a safe space for clients to disclose difficulties. This has an added benefit of saving time and money for the client who feels able to get to the heart of the issue more quickly.
Another benefit of online therapy interface allowed users to pass other forms of information and multimedia effortlessly and quickly.
As a therapist, I have often sent clients links to resources during sessions and clients have sent me articles or online resources to illustrate something they wish to explain.
This can deepen the understanding and connection between therapist and client, and allows therapist to provide tools and resources for additional work between sessions.
Online therapy due to its more versatile approach is more generally than not a more affordable solution. With no premises cost, or your travel costs, one of the main benefits of using online therapy is centred around cost, and accessibility.
Going to a physical office requires being out in public, with the opportunity to bump into other people. People you may know. And people you may not want to find out you’re attending therapy.
Online therapy offers the benefit of being much more private. And the fact that you can schedule your appointments whenever you’re available, when no one is home, online therapy is a great choice for many people.
Limitations of Online Therapy
While the benefits of online therapy far outweigh the limitations, it’s important to discuss the limitations to find out if online therapy is the right solution for you.
1. Crisis Management
The main challenge noted for online work is that online therapy does not easily allow for crisis management in the case of a mental health emergency. This can present a challenge in the case that a therapist becomes concerned about a client’s wellbeing.
2. Missing Nonverbal Cues
However good an Internet connection might be, it is not the same as sitting in the room with someone and there is a certain degree of ‘information’ that a therapist picks up from a client through nonverbal communication. It is arguable that some of this information might be lost through an online interface.
Who should use online therapy?
In response to these limitations, I would suggest that it is important that clients take responsibility for their own safety. Only you can know before you begin therapy whether it is right for you, and if it is likely that you are going to require additional support then online therapy may not be appropriate.
However if you feel that you are in a safe place and are ready to start work on your difficulties research suggests that it can be a very effective means of therapy and support.
A benefit of online therapy is that it completely removes the blockade of physical limitations, time restrictions, or lack of access to services – or the online approach just appeals to you.
Some studies have even shown that you might be more likely to open up sooner online than if you were to try standard face-to-face therapy. So why not give it a try?
By Dr. Tara Davis
ROCHLEN, A.B., ZACK, J.S. & SPEYER, C., (2004), Online Therapy: Review of Relevant Definitions, Debates and Current Empirical Support, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 60(3), 269-283