Is Online Counseling as Effective as In-person?

Source: NetDoctor

As the world is changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and improvements in technology, more people than ever are seeking out online therapy as a way to cope with their mental health concerns. Online therapy or counseling involves providing mental health treatment and support through the internet. These sessions can be through email, phone, video chat, or messaging.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 70% of the world has now adopted online counseling platforms as a way to manage this new normal and not disrupt the mental wellness industry and the people who need support. Recent studies have shown that there has been a drastic increase in anxiety, depression, and others since the pandemic began. It’s more important than ever that individuals seek the proper support that they need. Online counseling may be an effective solution for many individuals with mental health concerns that is easily accessible.

Source: Rising Hope Clinical Assistance

Effectiveness of Online Counseling

Online therapy can be an incredibly effective tool for helping individuals cope with any emotional distress they may be experiencing. However, some people have concern over whether online counseling is as effective as the traditional in-person therapy treatments. In online therapy treatments, therapists don’t have the ability to completely observe their patients. A patient’s tone of voice, body language, and other non-verbal cues are typically part of the overall assessment of the patient’s condition. However, research shows that online counseling can be incredibly effective when treating a number of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Several recent studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy for depression during online counseling was actually more successful than traditional in-person therapies.

Source: CNET

Benefits of Online Counseling

Online counseling has many advantages in comparison to traditional in-person counseling. Here are some of the benefits to online counseling:

  • Individuals who live in remote areas or don’t have access to transportation can seek treatment easily.
  • Those who have physical disabilities or limitations are able to seek treatment without having to leave their home.
  • Online therapy is typically more affordable than in-person sessions.
  • Online sessions are more convenient to both the patient and the therapist. Schedules can be more flexible than in-person therapy, and there is no wasted time in commuting to an office.
  • There is more anonymity in online counseling. You don’t have to visit a doctor’s office and some platforms even let you use an anonymous name instead of your real name. Those individuals that feel embarrassed for needing help are more likely to seek treatment online than they would in person.
  • The ability to get mental health treatment in the comfort of your own home, with their own belongings surrounding them helps some patients to feel more comfortable sharing difficult emotions.
Source: WebShrink

Drawbacks of Online Counseling

While online counseling has many benefits, it may not be the best option for every individual seeking therapy. Here are some potential drawbacks to online counseling:

  • Technology can be unreliable. Technical issues such as dropped calls, frozen videos, or online chat issues can break down communication, delaying treatments.
  • While online counseling may be effective for many mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, it isn’t meant for people with more serious psychiatric problems.
  • In the event of a client crisis, the distance doesn’t allow the therapist to intervene or have the ability to offer emergency in-person support.
  • Online therapy is more impersonal than traditional face to face treatments. The therapist may miss body language or other non-verbal cues online that can potentially help with diagnosis and treatments.
  • Online counseling is riskier in terms of privacy due to potential data hacks and leaks online. However, now many therapists have HIPAA-compliant portals that provide secure therapy sessions over the internet.
  • Online therapy is a fairly new service, and some insurance providers may not provide coverage yet. Talk to your insurance provider and see if online therapy is covered under your policy.

Finding an Online Therapist

If you feel you could benefit from online counseling, there are many available options to choose from. There could be a local therapist you’d like online support from or there are a number of online counseling platforms and applications that will match you with a therapist that best suits your needs and budget. When looking for a therapist, it’s important to consider what you’d like to work on, the frequency of your sessions, your budget, and your preferred form of communication. It’s vital to find a reputable company that has trained licensed therapists. You can ask friends or family if they have any recommendations for therapists. It would definitely be beneficial to do some research to find an online therapist you feel comfortable with so they can provide you with proper support and treatment that you need.

If you’re facing any emotional challenges, you’re not alone. Reach out to a therapist today. They can provide you with the support that you need. Here is a list of the top online counseling platforms:

  • MyTherapist is an online counseling service that has licensed therapists you can talk to over the phone, video, or messaging.
  • BetterHelp is the world’s largest online counseling service that will match you with a licensed therapist that best fits your needs.
  • ReGain is an online therapy platform for individuals and couples experiencing relationship problems or wanting to strengthen their relationship.
Source: Dr. Sandra Rasqui

Bottom Line

If you feel comfortable using technology, don’t hesitate to give online counseling a try. Research has shown many mental health issues are highly treatable with online therapy sessions. An online therapist may be just what you need to get back on track to being the best version of yourself. The convenience, flexibility, and affordable price to receive treatment in the comfort of your own home is unbeatable.

However, online therapy may not be for everyone. For those experiencing deeper serious issues, they may not get the help that they need through online treatments. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, or having thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are also available over online chat.