Is Online Therapy As Good As In Person?
Let’s face it we live in the digital age. From cyber social structure to buying groceries, the Internet has become the go to place, not only for information and advice, but also for services and products. I admit I love technology. I’ve always loved cameras, gadgets, and yes, the Internet! But I also love an old school, off grid experience. No power, no problem. I’m not sure why I love these two extremes but I do and I also love both traditional in person therapy as well as online therapy. Both have their place in our ever busier, stressed out lives.
The reality is, online therapy can be face to face when using a video platform, this is my approach. Sure, there is a screen in front of you, but you still experience facial expressions and other non-verbal communication not available with phone or text which are also other forms of teletherapy. So, it’s important to see what is being used when choosing an online therapist to find the right fit for you.
Let's look at some research that's been done on online therapy versus traditional therapy and see what site says about the effectiveness. “There was support for the application of psychotherapeutic interventions through the Internet; online therapy was especially effective for treating anxiety and stress-effects that lasted after therapy ended and on average was as effective as face-to-face intervention.” 1 Online therapy is especially effective when using CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), one of the main tools I use with my clients in both life coaching and counselling.2
Some of the pros to online work are pretty obvious:
- Availability. The client is able to get therapy without going anywhere. This has a whole host of benefits within itself. For example the client may be mobile limited and housebound. The client may live in a small town where there are no therapist. The client may have difficulty arranging their schedule to see a therapist due to work hours. Also because there’s more flexibility in scheduling on behalf of the practitioner this makes them more available to clients. For example a therapist could Offer sessions for two hours on the weekend without having to go into work open up the office and so on.
- Confidentiality. The client doesn’t run the risk of someone they know seeing them walk in to the therapist office. This is especially beneficial for professionals or those who live in smaller towns.
- Comforts of home. One online therapist reported their clients actually felt more comfortable in sharing vulnerable issues and disclosing how they feel because they’re in a familiar setting there at home3. They feel like they can relax and really share what’s on their mind.
- Flexibility & Convenience. As already mentioned with the client not having to go anywhere this makes it very convenient for clients to book an appointment and to attend a therapy session. Whether they are a mother with small children or they work long hours this convenience provides an opportunity for those who might not otherwise be able to get therapy.
- Opportunity & Specificity. Clients can find a more specific therapist to meet their needs and this provides them with more effective tools. For example not only can they find a therapist Who understands depression but also is of the same faith or similar faith. Both therapist and client can be far more specific in choosing who they work with and in line with the clients needs. Clients Are not limited to just the few therapists in their area but can search for wider for therapist not only skilled in their particular issue, But also works with the tools the client might already be interested in. For example I had clients come to me because they wanted a Christian therapist who is well-versed in cognitive behaviour therapy for relationship issues. That’s pretty specific.
So while this is a benefit I am leaving it off the bullet points because it’s not exclusive to online therapy. Nor will all online therapists be testing their clients and thus you may not know their effectiveness. But competition combined with ratings and reviews, lead to greater effectiveness. Often ratings are more available for online therapists. Because there’s more competition online therapists are learning they’ve got to be more effective. In fact there are companies working on platforms to rate therapists based on client progress reports. This maybe a ways off in becoming the norm, I do believe it will eventually be a standard of care. Well many studies report traditional therapy is about 50% effective, those doing testing with their clients using some firm of progress report are generally far more effective than 50% since they can address failures in therapeutic alliance and see what methods are and aren’t working. I have colleagues that even offer a money back guarantee because they’ve yet to have a client who’s not improved. This is not to say good therapy can cure all mental illness, but rather there should be a significant improvement in symptoms or the client should be informed the therapist does not have the skills to help them so they can find someone who can.
What about the limitations of online therapy. What are some pretty obvious ones first of all you have to have good Internet connection. And even with a good Internet connection there still technology glitches with computers freezing, Internet hiccups, software issues, and other hardware mishaps. Clients who are not well-versed in technology may find it frustrating at first to have to figure out their camera and their microphone as well as complete online tasks such as filling in reports and surveys. Additionally, just as in gave to face therapy there are some legal issues that need to be considered based on location of the therapist and the client. Another con is confidentiality problems if the clients email is not private. Because a lot of people have their computers and phones easy to access by the family members it is possible for there to be a breach of confidentiality at the clients end and the therapist has no control over that. Many online therapist refused to use email for that reason and do everything through secure platforms. Other therapists like myself warn the client about this potential invasion of privacy and encourage our clients to use a private email for all correspondence and scheduling. And lastly online therapy would be inappropriate for suicidal clients or those requiring physical intervention such as major addictions, those experiencing ongoing psychosis, or severe eating disorders. These need an appropriate treatment facility.
So of course I am writing this from a biased perspective being that I’m an online therapist. I really do find it to be easy to use with my clients. And since I’ve been the tech-support in my home for many years I don’t mind guiding clients in using the technology either. So for me it’s been a great opportunity to provide services to those who live near or far. If you want to give online therapy a try I do offer a free 15 minute consultation book yours below: