Mental health providers had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic just as the rest of the world did. In-person therapy sessions became risky, yet, patients’ need for mental health treatment was just as important. In fact, cases of anxiety and depression were higher than ever. Clients still needed mental health care services and mental health professionals were in high demand to support them during the simultaneous COVID and mental health crises.
As a result, many healthcare professionals started offering support services online. This trend also spread to mental health care services. It is believed that this adaptation has made it possible to save many lives during the pandemic and the trend doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy is very similar to seeing a mental health therapist in person. A patient signs up for one or multiple sessions and gets to interact with a mental health professional. During virtual therapy, a therapist can offer you the same advice and support as if you were sitting across the room with them in a private office. The sessions are often conducted by phone calls, text messaging, or video conferencing, and they can be done from your own home. All you need to start virtual therapy is an internet connection and a willingness to reach out for help.
Is Online Therapy Legitimate?
Online therapy is definitely legitimate. You will have your therapy sessions done by a licensed therapist who is subject to the same licensing laws as a therapy provider of in-person therapy. The online services are required to be HIPAA compliant, so your safety and confidentiality are intact. For some people, traditional therapy in an office is more comfortable, but many find that there are several benefits offered by having therapy online.
That being said, online therapy platforms such as BetterHelp have been purported to not always be as effective as therapy providers that have preexisting brick-and-mortar locations.
Benefits of Online Therapy
Let’s take a look at some of the ways therapy online can be beneficial.
A session of therapy can be accessed by simply pushing a few buttons to make an internet connection. By going online, you eliminate transportation time to and from the office. You also eliminate the time spent waiting in a waiting room. When it is time for your therapy, all you need to do is log onto the site, or even dial a phone number, and you are ready to get started.
By having your therapy while you are at home, you don’t have to worry about having a comfortable seat. You can attend in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers, enjoy a snack or cup of coffee, or cuddle up with your dog or cat. For those who have trouble dealing with the outside world, the therapy sessions don’t involve having to come into contact with anyone other than the therapist and this makes it much easier to relax.
Not only are your therapy sessions protected by the state laws that all therapies must comply with, as long as you are in a place where you feel nobody can listen, but you also do not need to be accidentally overheard by office staff or other clients. You don’t risk people seeing you entering or leaving the building where the therapy takes place. Only you and the therapist know that a session is taking place.
It has been proven that people are more apt to share personal information over a computer than they are to share in person. The computer gives a sort of confidence booster where you don’t have body language or facial expressions that can make you feel the other person is judging you or is bored. You also know that you can break the connection and never have to see the person in public, which helps you feel freer to be open.
No Travel Restrictions/Continuity of Care
If you are someone who travels for your job, having to physically attend sessions may get complicated. With everything online, you can sign in at home, at a hotel, or even on the beach. If you should move, you don’t have to take into account the location of your therapy office. Moving from one state to another may pose an issue if the therapist isn’t licensed in the new state, but that is something you can find out in advance.
For some people, physically attending a session is difficult. Anxiety about leaving your home may be a factor. Other factors include being physically disabled or living in rural areas where you are limited in your choices for mental health services. In all of these cases, having an internet connection is all that you need to give you a number of options for therapy.
May Save Money
While online services will definitely save you money in gas, there are other ways you may be able to get therapy at a lower cost than in person. Some therapists offer discounts for booking multiple sessions. Most insurance companies now cover virtual therapy programs. You will need to do some homework on both the actual therapy cost and whether or not your insurance covers teletherapy, but in many cases, you will see savings in the cost.
How Online Therapy Can Save Your Life
Mental health issues that are supported by therapy are less likely to escalate into life-threatening issues. Yet, many people avoid seeing a counselor. Having access to someone via the computer helps to make reaching out much easier and eliminates some of the most frequent reasons for avoiding seeking help. Getting the help and support you need can make a big difference in your emotional well-being and keep you from plummeting into darker places.
Treatment is More Approachable
When you can get the help you need from a location where you feel comfortable and safe, you are more likely to reach out. Knowing that you are safe to be open and honest is a great relief to many who feel pressured to seem like they have it all together much of the time. You are able to show vulnerability without feeling like you are letting others down or feeling like you are going to be considered weaker for needing help.
Greater Convenience Than In-Person Therapy
Many virtual therapy sessions offer several ways to connect. If you aren’t comfortable with video chat, they may allow texting or phone calls. There are also a large number of places that offer availability 24/7. You may have access at hours that traditional therapists don’t offer. You may also have access to a virtual community. You may also have access to a patient portal where there is someone available to chat if you need help getting through an anxiety attack or are having a difficult moment. They are available when you need them, not just limited times.
You May Be More Open
It can be difficult to sit across from a stranger and be totally open, especially when you are the one that others normally come to for advice. As mentioned earlier, there is a greater tendency to be open when talking on the computer. In order to get the mental health care you need, you need to be completely open and honest with a counselor. You need to be able to put aside thoughts of being judged negatively. The relative anonymity offered by computer communication helps ease these thoughts and enables you to reveal yourself completely.
The Feeling of Being Stigmatized Eliminated
Even though progress has been made, there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to seeking help for mental health issues. This stops many people from reaching out for the help and support they desperately need. When you are able to eliminate having to take time off of work for appointments and get rid of the risk of being seen entering or leaving the therapist’s office, you are more likely to reach out. Nobody has to know you are getting help unless you want to share that information. There are many professionals who could have benefited from getting help but are held back because of the stigma. You don’t have to put yourself at that risk and try to get through difficult times alone.
Scheduling Often Quicker
When a mental health crisis arises, you don’t have weeks, or even months, to wait for an opening. This is often what people face when trying to get help from physical locations. With online therapy, you may be able to get a counseling session the very day you call. In other cases, you can be connected immediately with crisis help and even have help sent to you at your home by someone miles away. This alone could be the intervention you need to keep moving forward. You aren’t alone.
Final Thoughts on Online Therapy
Talking with an online therapist can be just as effective as in-person therapy for many mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. For more intense mental health conditions, in-person therapy may be preferred, but the additional support offered by treatment services online could definitely be a benefit. Your emotional health is an important component in life. The treatment and support you get from services both in-person and virtual therapy are worth it, especially when the services concern a very important thing – your life.
Clear Behavioral Health’s Virtual Program is a fully online, mental health intensive outpatient program open to any California resident. Our licensed therapists are experienced in treating a wide range of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, chronic stress/burnout, ADHD, OCD, and more. Give us a call today to find out how we can help you.