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4 min read

Is online therapy effective? It depends on the patient!

Key Takeaways:

  • Online therapy is a relatively new invention - one that is revolutionizing the way many get mental healthcare.
  • Online therapy can be just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional in-person therapy depending on the patient’s needs.
  • Speaking with a therapist over the phone is a great way to determine if online therapy may be right for you.

Small things can often create big problems. Dust in a computer, a loose screw in an engine, a virus in a population that loves large in-person gatherings.

That third small thing - the COVID-19 virus - changed the world forever.

The field of therapy and psychology is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way many people do therapy.

Just like education, however, the digitization of therapy is often questioned in terms of its effectiveness and efficiency. Can one really connect in the deep and vulnerable way that therapy requires from behind a computer screen?

The short answer to this question is yes; online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy.

In fact, for some people, online therapy can be even more effective.

Let's explore the benefits and drawbacks of online therapy, and try to determine if it may be right for you.

Benefits of Online Therapy

Drawbacks of Online Therapy

So, is online therapy effective?

Benefits of Online Therapy

Online therapy, at its surface, is pretty much the same as in-person therapy. A patient logs on - rather than walking in - to a therapist's office and speaks with the therapist about their concerns.

With the exception of things like somatic experiencing and stimulation-based therapies like some forms of EMDR, it seems that the only difference between online therapy and in-person therapy is the distance between you and the therapist.

But there are a few differences to keep in mind when deciding whether to go to online or in-person therapy. Let's start with some of the benefits of going to online therapy!

Price

Because online therapists don't have to rent or own office space, online therapy can often be cheaper than in-person therapy.

Most in-person therapists will charge around $200 to $400 per session, while some online therapists charge as little as $100.

Price is often the deciding factor when many choose a therapist, so this can make online therapy an attractive option. However, as we'll discuss below, cheap doesn't always mean value for money.

Convenience

Another big draw of online therapy is the convenience associated with it.

Instead of getting dressed, hopping in the car, driving 20 minutes, attending a session, and driving home, patients in online therapy simply have to log into their patient portal.

We should note that this can actually be a great way for those who have previously rejected therapy to start going: Someone with a fear of public spaces, for example, can definitely benefit from therapy but may have been putting it off because they are too terrified to go to an actual office.

Online therapy saves time, which is one of our most precious resources.

Safety

Of course, in the age of COVID, safety needs to be a priority. While the number of those affected by COVID has dropped substantially, it's still around. And some people, namely the elderly and immuno-compromised, are still in danger of contracting COVID or any other respiratory infection.

Online therapy reduces the chances of these people getting sick in a therapist's office, which of course is an absolute necessity when it comes to seeking therapy for some.

Online therapy is a modern invention - one with many benefits for those who need their therapy to be cheap, safe, and convenient.

But we would be remiss if we didn't mention some of the drawbacks of online therapy.

Drawbacks of Online Therapy

No invention is perfect, and online therapy is no exception.

While it has many benefits, there are a few things to consider before attending online therapy.

Psychological Implications

For some mental health conditions, staying at home is not necessarily the best way to do therapy.

Those with depression, for example, sometimes find themselves caught in a loop of fatigue and listlessness. Often, this can be exacerbated by a lack of responsibility to go anywhere.

For these patients (which, by the way, are certainly not all patients with depression), the accountability associated with going to a therapy appointment might mean the difference between a week of progress and a week of falling back into old depression habits.

Therapeutic Flexibility

Often, a therapist may need to use physical sensations in order to demonstrate points and help a patient progress.

For example, someone with an anxious fear of snakes may need to be in person with their therapist so that they can experience their fear in a safe place.

A trauma therapist may need to use some stimulation, like in EMDR, in order to help their patient process things as effectively and as healthily as possible.

You lose this therapeutic flexibility with online therapy.

Less Therapist Vetting

The last and most famous drawback to online therapy is that, thanks to a few unscrupulous providers, there is a chance that your online therapist isn't who they say they are, or that they have not been properly vetted by their associated practice.

While it is against the law for anyone without a therapist license to claim to be a therapist, some people still do it.

Even if an online therapist is licensed, there's no guarantee they are the right fit for you. Many companies offer therapist matching, but do it in a way that is either unintentionally ineffective or deliberately random to save costs.

In-person therapy, by contrast, is usually provided by smaller practices with a better understanding of their client base and more effective vetting protocols.

This is not to say that online therapists are scammers - there are thousands of extremely good therapists that operate online. It's just something to consider when finding an online therapist.

So, is online therapy effective?

Yes, it can be - so long as:

  • You're the type of patient who does not need in-person therapeutic techniques (speaking with a therapist is a good way to determine this.)
  • You vet your therapist thoroughly by reading reviews and checking their credentials.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we offer telehealth therapy to our patients in New York and Texas.

Each of our therapists is a doctoral-level psychologist with the experience and know-how to provide the highest quality of care possible.

Best of all, our patient coordinator is on-hand during business hours to help you find the right therapist for you. Give us a call to get matched now. Feeling better might be closer than you think.

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