Have you tried online mental health counseling?
In today’s world, time is of the essence in everything you do. From curbside grocery pickup to prescription drugs dropped off at your doorstep, it’s all about convenience and saving precious minutes and seconds through your day.
This mindset has made its way into the healthcare industry – partly because of COVID-19 and partly because of global societal trends – with the growth of telemedicine. Online medicine not only helps doctors discuss physical illnesses with patients, but it has also become an important part of the mental health community. If you’ve never heard of or experienced mental health counseling online, we’re here to teach you what it is, what the benefits are, and what you should consider if you are looking for mental health providers. .
What is teletherapy?
Teletherapy, or online therapy, is an umbrella term to describe speech therapy, occupational health, or mental health services through a secure online connection.
Specifically when it comes to mental health, it is also known as online mental health counseling or telepsychology. Teletherapy can be carried out by video (webcam or camera on your smartphone or tablet), by phone or by SMS.
In recent years, teletherapy has developed as an application-based technology. For example, TalkSpace is a virtual business that allows patients to connect with licensed therapists via text, video, and voicemail. BetterHelp bills itself as the world’s largest therapy service, connecting patients to therapists via messaging, live chat, live phone, and video conferencing.
Since the pandemic struck, healthcare providers around the world have relied on online services to treat mental health. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2020 that more than 80% of high-income countries were deploying telemedicine and teletherapy resources. In a way, COVID-19 has helped de-stigmatize the need for mental health interventions.
To help meet these needs, counselors, therapists, and psychologists who traditionally held face-to-face sessions quickly switched to online therapy. The transition was made seamlessly with the help of software vendors who have helped bridge the gap between patients and clinicians. AmericanWell is a telehealth company that securely connects physicians and patients via mobile and web platforms for live video therapy visits. Doxy.me is another popular secure telemedicine platform used by many clinicians.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Numerous research studies have been conducted over the past decade to determine the difference, if any, between face-to-face mental health therapy and online therapy modalities.
In most cases, online therapy is effective for mild to moderate conditions if services are provided by licensed clinicians using a secure connection. Mental health treatments depend on the disorder because some advanced techniques are needed for more serious conditions. Thus, online therapy may not be suitable for everyone.
As for research, one study concluded that internet-based cognitive therapy may be a viable alternative to in-person therapy. Another study was more conclusive with its results. An in-depth analysis looked at 20 studies that determined that online cognitive behavioral therapy produced equivalent overall effects compared to face-to-face treatment.
Additionally, a comprehensive review of 15 studies found little evidence to suggest a difference between face-to-face psychological therapy and teletherapy.
The effectiveness of online therapy also applies to people receiving treatment for specific mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. A smaller study of 49 undergraduates found online video counseling to be effective in treating mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
A large review specifically looked at 40 randomized controlled studies of computer-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) for depression. The results revealed that CCBT, with the help of a clinician, helped treat symptoms of depression, although self-guided CCBT did not have the same effect.
Benefits of online therapy
The beauty of online therapy is its ease of access: therapists can treat patients from anywhere. For people with typical 9 to 5 jobs, scheduling regular mental health visits was difficult in the past due to time constraints. Many therapists and counselors have regular working hours, so making an in-person appointment usually means taking at least 90 minutes after factoring in driving time.
Now, teletherapy allows patients to schedule a video chat during their lunch break or a phone session on the way home from work. For those who work from home, teletherapy offers the ultimate flexibility to see a mental health care provider whenever they want.
Extended access allows providers to reach patients in rural areas who do not have the time or resources to get to their appointments.
Online therapy is also aimed at a younger, tech-savvy generation who are comfortable texting and using their smartphones for health purposes. For those who now conduct online therapy in their own home, there is an added level of comfort of sitting on your own sofa or chair instead of being in a desk. This type of environment can make it easier for you to open up with your thoughts and feelings.
Some of the app-based and online therapy companies offer monthly subscriptions that provide more financial flexibility than a typical office visit. For context, BetterHelp costs $ 60 to $ 90 per week. Your local therapist may charge between $ 75 and $ 150 per visit. Check your insurance benefits to see if they cover teletherapy. Some plans cover 100% mental health visits, whether the sessions are in person or online.
Disadvantages of teletherapy
Online therapy is not for everyone. Some of the people who need talk therapy the most, such as low-income households, may not even have internet services to access these platforms. The same goes for older people who have difficulty using electronic devices or who have difficulty reading.
While some people don’t mind missing the in-person connection, others may find it lacks the privacy of a face-to-face chat. Clinicians often retain body language throughout your therapy sessions, which can be difficult to interpret on video.
Aside from technology and impersonal barriers, be aware of any privacy concerns or misrepresentation from online vendors.
Anyone can apply as a therapist, but only licensed therapists have received the education and training to provide evidence-based treatment. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an online provider you find, ask them what state they are licensed in and what their license number is.
You should also make sure that the site or app you are using is secure, so that your medical history and conversations are kept private. Part of therapy or counseling involves opening up and being vulnerable about deeply personal information or beliefs. You want this information to remain private. Ask your provider if they are HIPAA compliant and use a secure network for video calls, audio calls, and messaging.
Free online mental health screening at INTEGRIS Santé
Contact your primary care physician if you are interested in online mental health services. They can provide you with references from reputable authorized suppliers.
If you’re unsure whether you need a therapist or a counselor, use this free, confidential, anonymous mental health screening to guide you. Visit our INTEGRIS Mental Health Clinic page to find more mental health resources, including a list of our providers.