If you’re a therapy-goer or actively seeking out a therapist, you have probably noticed that everyone is talking about online therapy. You might be wondering, is online therapy the right fit for me? Transitioning to, or beginning, online therapy may seem like a big step. After all, talking about such personal matters through a computer screen doesn’t come naturally to everyone. When approaching the decision to begin online therapy, it’s important to consider the pros and cons.
What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy refers to therapy or counseling services conducted remotely via some sort of online technology. Your online therapy session may occur through video chat on the computer, or through a phone call. Some online therapists even communicate with their clients via text. Online therapy will look different for everyone depending on their particular mental health concerns and areas of focus.
The Pros of Online Therapy
It can happen anywhere, at any time. Online therapy is a great plus for individuals with busy schedules, or those who have trouble traveling for any reason. If you live in a rural area, or have accessibility needs that prevent you from traveling, online therapy may be the solution! Many therapists offer a lot of flexibility for online therapy sessions as well, meaning you can pick an environment and time that is most comfortable for you. In addition, therapy-goers will find that in-person slots are more limited than online therapy slots, and exist within a stricter schedule. In general, online therapy has greatly increased access to therapy.
Online therapy is usually covered by insurance. Online therapy also allows for therapy-goers to seek out clinicians that offer sliding price scales. Sliding scale price models allow individuals to pay based on what they can afford, so that even low-income therapy-goers have increased access to online therapy. In addition, since no travel is needed, online therapy will help you save on those pesky gas or public transportation costs.
Therapy increases your options for clinicians tremendously. Therapy is no longer limited to the range of clinicians near your home. New online therapy regulations even allow some therapists to practice in multiple states. This is particularly helpful for individuals looking for a specific type of care that is hard to come by. With online therapy, you can really dial down your search qualifications. If you are looking for a therapist that has a specific cultural background, speaks a certain language, or is part of a specific community, online therapy may be the choice for you!
Emerging research shows that online therapy can be just as effective! One burning question therapy-goers have about online therapy is, will it be as effective as in-person options? Certain therapy modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been proven to lead to just as much behavior change online as in-person. Of course, online therapy will not be as effective for everyone. If you find yourself in a high-risk or crisis situation it is always recommended that you skip the online therapy session and work with someone face-to-face, or go to the emergency room.
The Cons of Online Therapy
The atmosphere of online therapy to some, may be less than appealing. A lot of online therapy happens in the home, which can be full of distractions such as roommates, pets, or other responsibilities. In-person therapy allows you to be in a neutral and controlled environment where you can really focus on the therapy itself. In addition, with online therapy taking place on a laptop, phone, or tablet, there is always the chance of succumbing to digital distractions. A great way to combat these issues during online therapy is to create a plan with your therapist for dealing with distractions. You might find it effective for your online therapy session to take place somewhere private, like a car or a locked room. In addition, it can be helpful to let your roommates or family members know that you will be busy during the times of your online therapy session, so that you don’t have to worry about interruptions.
Online therapy may pose an issue for communication, as some individuals find it harder to share over a screen. In-person therapy also allows for your therapist to notice non-verbal cues that may help them in supporting you better. Although, research shows that many online therapy goers are just as satisfied with online therapy communication as they are with in-person communication! For many, this decision will come down to your personal communication style and how comfortable you are sharing via an online therapy platform.
How secure is online therapy? The privacy of your therapist's in-person office is hard to match, but security measures taken to protect your online therapy session are growing each day! Protections such as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are in place to help protect your sensitive information during online therapy. A secure online therapy session will take place on a HIPAA compliant platform, so that you and your therapist don’t need to worry about security breaches. If you have any concerns about safety in regards to online therapy, most therapists would be happy to explain to you how they are proactive and secure in their practice.
Some circumstances simply require face-to-face care. If you are in an acute crisis situation, or have a serious psychiatric issue, it is important that you meet with a clinician face-to-face so that they can provide you with the best care possible. Online therapy is not always the best option for a case where a therapist may need to intervene directly. If you are questioning whether this is the case for you, Unmute recommends asking for a phone consultation with a potential therapist so that you can discuss whether online therapy would be a good option.
When deciding whether online therapy is right for you, it is important to consider exactly why you are going to therapy and what you intend to work on. This information will help both you and your therapist evaluate if online therapy is the right fit. A good therapist will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of online therapy at length with you. Here at Unmute, we match therapy-goers to online therapists almost every single day! Our users from marginalized communities such as BIPOC or LGBTQ+ individuals often find online therapy to be the most viable option as they can expand their search radius to seek out a culturally competent online therapist. If you’re ready to give online therapy a try and aren’t sure where to start looking, you can get matched by starting here and one of our Therabuddies will match you to the right therapist!
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider for any personal medical advice.