Online therapy is the digital way of seeking therapy. This isn’t to say an AI chatbot is your therapist – that is something completely different (but does exist!). Instead, online therapy is just therapy in the traditional sense but conducted over the phone. The therapist is still qualified, and you can still undergo a similar kind of session.
Online therapy took off in popularity recently since their astute marketing efforts through using influencers proved to be, well, influential. The likes of Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato have run campaigns with online therapy companies, offering discounts and promotional sign-up offers to help people take that first step in receiving help.
So now that we have cleared up “what is online therapy”, let’s explore exactly what online therapy can help you with.
What issues can online therapy help with?
Depression and anxiety are common causes behind new signups to online therapy sites, but in reality, online therapy treatment options are far-reaching. Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are two very destructive conditions that can be helped with professionally administered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, stress, trauma, and many other mental health conditions can also be treated through therapy.
The best online therapy platforms tend to cover a broad range of problems, but if you’re looking for a specialist within a niche, that’s also possible (i.e. LGBTQIA+ focused).
It’s quicker to cover what online therapy doesn’t do than what it does. The limits of online therapy are similar to traditional therapy in that a licensed therapist is not the same as a psychiatrist. This means they cannot diagnose and manage medication. Thus, conditions like schizophrenia and psychosis need to be appropriately treated via a psychiatrist, and potentially the same is true with PTSD and Bipolar. Online therapy may remain a useful supplement, but an in-person assessment by a psychiatrist is recommended.
Pros and cons of online therapy
Below are some of the pros and cons of online therapy.
Beyond the actual benefits of therapy in general, which are near endless, the advantage of the treatment being online specifically is that it’s vastly more accessible. It’s common that those who are in need of help are either not motivated enough to seek it, too shy, too scared, or cannot afford it. In all of these scenarios, it is exceedingly easier to download a mobile app in the comfort of one’s own home and begin texting a therapist than it is to organize a physical meeting.
It’s not just the first step being more accessible, but ongoing communication via text messaging (though it can be phone/video calls if you want) means it’s more of an on-demand service. You can receive help in the moments you need it most instead of waiting until the weekend for a session. You needn’t travel for miles either, costing both time and fuel in meeting up with the therapist.
Of course, like all digitally transformed industries, it’s cheaper too. We will cover the exact costs in the section below, but ultimately most working-class folks are priced out of traditional therapy, whilst almost anyone can afford online therapy. You can also change therapists more easily, and change service providers more easily.
Is online therapy effective?
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the ultimate advantage of online therapy is that it does not trade away effectiveness in favor of convenience. There is a multitude of studies that prove it is just as effective as traditional therapy, proving the vehicle of communication is not what’s important.
In-person therapy may be a better option when it comes to group therapy. Although the mode of communication is proven to not matter when conversing with a therapist (for the average person), this slightly changes when trying to reap the rewards of group therapy. For example, meeting and sharing the experience with other addicts who are also trying to receive help is a big part of some people’s treatment. The social aspect, confiding, and sharing are somewhat more impactful when done face-to-face.
Another con may be the idea of privacy and technology when it comes to online services, though it’s an issue that could be looked at from different angles. The very reason why many people sign up for online therapy is that it feels more private. You can do it from inside your bedroom as opposed to a physical location. But, technology is fallible, and we must consider that all of our conversations with the therapist and other sensitive data are being stored on servers that could be hacked. Phone calls avoid this issue, and we cannot be completely paranoid because, at the end of the day, Facebook, Google, and co already have us in a vulnerable position.
When should you see a person face to face instead?
As mentioned above, serious psychiatric illness should be treated with a face-to-face psychiatrist as opposed to an online therapist. They’re highly skilled at reading body language, which is more prevalent in real life.
Beyond this and the idea of group therapy being more socially prosperous when done face to face, it’s completely a matter of personal preference. Some people will inevitably just prefer an in-person meeting, whilst others do not. So, there is no right answer here, just do what makes you feel most comfortable.
How much is online therapy? How much cheaper is it?
Online therapy has a wide range of pricing unlike traditional therapy, which is traditionally… expensive. Online therapy can be almost as expensive, running over $200 per session or $400 per month, but it can also be as low as $30 per session.
$80 a week is a common price tag for some of the bigger companies, which can be further cheapened via promotional offers. For the flexibility and convenience offered, this price is extremely competitive. Remember, these are equally as qualified therapists as traditional therapy…
Where are the best places to seek help online
The list of online therapy services is seemingly endless. The biggest providers are the likes of Betterhelp, Talkspace, and Amwell. These have huge amounts of signups and tens of thousands of therapists between them. These are all broad in their specialty, in part because of how many therapists work for them, meaning they can treat many different issues at once.
There are some more specialist companies if that makes you more comfortable. For example, Pride Counseling is specifically for LGBTQIA+ patients, and ReGain for marriage and couples counseling.
The best place to start it is with two things: budget and credibility. Find out what your budget is and decide which ones meet that and which do not. Then, rule out companies that are not so credible. Any companies that are left you can read their websites and see which speaks to you the most, and even read reviews online.
It’s important to remember that whilst there is a bit of an on-boarding process, you do not need to stick within any given company that you choose. It’s much easier to switch therapists or websites via online therapy than it is with a traditional one – plus you could further benefit from another signup promotion. Though, building a long-term relationship with a single therapist is certainly the ideal scenario.