Let’s take a close look at online therapy, a rather new form of psychological support. First of all, online therapy is not considered psychotherapy. Also, it will never replace traditional face-to-face therapy. In a few words, it comes down to chatting with your doctor.
But is this type of therapy effective or not? In this article we will be addressing the pros and cons of online therapy. This is not an exhaustive resource on the topic. For more information, seek the advice of your primary doctor or healthcare provider.
What Is Online Therapy?
Online therapy is a relatively new development in mental health care. With online therapy, the therapist or counselor gives the client psychological support and advice through some technological medium. It could be by e-mail, video conferencing, online chat, or by Internet phone.
Even though it uses the internet as a communication tool, it provides the same confidentiality as old-school methods. It is also known as distance therapy, e-therapy, Internet therapy or web therapy. It may involve a single therapist or even networks. However, this type of therapy is pretty complex and promises to insure support as often as possible. It includes services of texting, voice messaging, video chatting and audio messaging between therapist and client.
Online therapy is good for those who live in rural areas that do not have psychologists or therapists readily available. It also provides easy access to mental health care for those who are disabled or housebound. E-therapy is convenient and affordable. It also makes it easy to gather information and learn behaviors and strategies that can improve mental health.
The Pros of Online Therapy
1. It’s Good for Remote Areas
Online therapy allows access to mental health treatment for those living in rural and remote areas. Those living in such areas may have no access to other forms of mental health treatment. There may be no psychologist or therapist where they live. So this may be the only form of treatment they can get.
2. Online Therapy Can Be Easily Accessed by the Disabled
It’s easily accessible to those who are disabled or housebound. Mobility can be a big issue when it comes to accessing mental healthcare. This is the case where online therapy may be the only option.
3. It’s Convenient and Affordable
Attending therapy sessions online at home allows for scheduling sessions when it’s convenient for that person. Many states now require insurance providers to cover online therapy just as they would traditional therapy.
4. Mental Health Information Is Easily Accessible
The Internet allows easy access to mental health information that otherwise wouldn’t be available to most. People feel fine discussing health care concerns with their family and friends. But discussing mental health concerns may not be as easy.
5. Can Be an Educational Tool
E-therapy can help people learn more about mental health. Even if someone feels that their mental health is where it should be, it can make their psychological state even better. Online therapy can teach someone new behaviors and coping strategies.
6. Online Therapy Sticks to the Relevant Information
There are situations when the online therapist cannot see facial expressions or body language. However, on the other hand on the line, the client knows this. Usually, since the sessions are either time or technology limited, the client wants to make the full of them. Video chat and voice-over-Internet technology sessions take the client closer to the therapist. Meanwhile, they keep the distance necessary for one to be honest in discussion.
The Cons of Online Therapy
1. Some Insurance Companies Will Not Cover E-Therapy
Whether online therapy is covered where a client lives depends upon the state they’re living in. Also, it relies on what type of insurance they have, if any at all. Some policies do not even cover online therapy. Therefore, paying out of pocket adds up.
2. Some States Will Not Allow Out-of-State Providers
Many states do not allow an out-of-state psychologist to provide mental health services. The provider needs to be licensed in their home state and their patient’s home state in order to provide care.
Deborah Baker, a legal expert for the American Psychological Association (APA), says that some states allow psychologists to render out-of-state mental health services for a certain amount of time. Usually, this ranges from 10 – 30 days. They can practice online therapy with clients in their own state.
3. Concerns of Confidentiality, Privacy, and Unreliable Technology
Online treatment makes these issues more complex. Confidentiality is just as important in online therapy as it is in traditional therapy. Information transmitted online is also prone to privacy leaks and hacks. Technology issues can also make treatment difficult.
4. Online Therapists May Not be Able to Respond to Crisis Situations
Online therapists are not with their client in person. They’re communicating with them through a technological medium from a distance. This makes it difficult for the therapist to quickly respond in a crisis situation. This is if they’re even able respond at all.
5. Those With Serious Mental Health Concerns Need More Than Online Therapy
E-therapy can be quite useful in a variety of situations. But it’s not suitable for those with serious psychiatric illnesses. It’s rarely effective in situations that are complex and heavy in detail.
6. There Are Potential Problems When it Comes to Ethical and Legal Concerns
Online therapy gets rid of geographic restraints, which makes it difficult to reinforce legal and ethical codes. Online therapists can treat clients from any part of the world, and states have different requirements concerning licensing and treatment guidelines. It’s important the know your therapist’s qualifications and experience before you begin treatment.
Offline vs. Online
The pros sound wonderful, but the cons should also be considered. Some insurance companies will not cover e-therapy. Some states will not allow out-of-state providers to service clients, even if it’s online. Confidentiality, privacy, and technology is now a concern. Online therapist may not even be able to help a client in their time of need. Finally, those with serious psychiatric issues will need more than online therapy to help them.
However, online therapy is great for the person that doesn’t live near mental health professionals or for the person who is not able to travel comfortably or leave their house. It’s also good for those without complex mental health issues. Otherwise, traditional treatment is the way to go.
Opinions, thoughts, and personal experiences on online therapy are welcome. Take care.
Images from depositphotos.com.