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What Is Online Therapy?
Online therapy, or online counseling, is mental health treatment for the modern age. And it’s generally very effective in the vast majority of cases.
The good news is that online therapy is also usually a bit cheaper than in-person care.
So as long as you do your diligence on the provider, you may find that online therapy is the perfect answer to your needs.
Online therapy has been proven to be very effective. According to Mary Ann Dunton, professor and vice chair for research in the department of psychology at Georgetown University, “There are a number of studies looking at telemedicine for different kinds of disorders and they tend to be amazingly effective,”
Reasons to See an Online Therapist
According to the results of the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 43.3% of adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018.
Meaning that 56% of people did not get the health that they needed.
You can see an online therapy counselor for nearly all the same reasons you might see an in-person counselor. There are a few use cases that translate best to online care – while more severe cases of bipolar disorder, OCD, and others may fair better with in-person care.
Common reasons for using online therapy include:
- Marriage counseling
- Family therapy
- Borderline disorder
- Eating disorders
- Panic disorder
- Substance abuse
- Social phobia
Most credible providers offer HIPAA compliant chat/video, 24/7 access, and same day appointments.
If you’re on an existing psychiatric medication, you can receive refills online, but you must book through a provider that offers psychiatry services.
How Does Online Therapy Work?
Online therapy is easy. In most cases, it takes just simple signup, video connection and an hour of your time.
The steps are:
- Sign up with the provider of your choice and choose the type of therapy you’d like to receive. With most therapy providers you will choose between individual therapy, couples counseling and teen therapy. Read our article for more information on online couples therapy.
- You’ll then answer a brief questionnaire about your health and well-being. Questions include age, gender, relationship status, experience with therapy and even financial status — BetterHelp actually gives cost assistance to lower income patients.
- Then, choose a therapist. Therapists each have subjects that they specialize in, so be sure to choose someone who is best suited for your needs. BetterHelp recommends therapists and you make the final choice. You’ll be able to read therapist bios and specialties.
- Sign up for a plan and see your therapist. Some online therapy options offer video care, while others offer text-based therapy or some combination of the two. Video sessions are most standard.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Therapist
- How does the site structure their pricing?
- How do you plan to communicate with your counselor?
- Does the therapist have relevant experience to your situation?
- Can you change therapists effortlessly?
- Can you cancel your therapy subscription easily?
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Therapy can be invaluable in treating a variety of mental illnesses, and some forms of therapy can be more effective than others on online platforms.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is one of them. A study from 2018 drew conclusions from 64 studies to find a strong result.
This meta-analysis concluded that online therapy treating anxiety and depressive disorders is effective, acceptable, and practical health care.
Another 14 randomized controlled studies published between 2005 and 2015 in which CBT via online therapy was used to treat adults with depression. In fact, “The researchers conclude that online CBT is effective in reducing depressive symptoms and may be a good treatment modality for individuals unable to access traditional face-to-face therapy.”
One group that can greatly benefit from online therapy are people with eating disorders. Multiple studies published on the Archives of General Psychiatry, and Science Direct show that there were similar improvements in patients with eating disorders who received face-to-face therapy and teletherapy. “These findings underscore the potential applicability of telemedicine approaches to eating disorder treatment and psychiatric treatment in general.”
In terms of treating depression, teletherapy can be very helpful.
A study in 2016 stated that:
“The researchers concluded that there was “no evidence to suggest that the delivery of psychotherapy via synchronous telehealth modalities is less effective than non-telehealth means in reducing depression symptoms.”
Metanoia.org says this: “(s)ome cite real challenges. The therapist cannot see you, and thus cannot interpret facial cues, voice tone and body language. The therapist doesn’t have cues to discern what you are not saying, or how you are feeling about what you are saying. This is a real problem and it goes both ways. There’s a lot you don’t know about the therapist, and a lot the therapist doesn’t know about you.”
Despite concerns, most studies have found online therapy to be extremely effective. One of the largest studies of telemental health concluded that it is as effective as in-person care and increases access. It’s important to choose a provider with certified therapists and a strong method of delivery (video) to ensure you’re getting the best care possible.
The Major Options in Online Therapy
|Therapy service||Weekly Price||Therapy Suited For||Communication Through||Total Therapists|
|BetterHelp||$40-$70||Individuals||Live chat, phone, messages and video||7,000|
|ReGain||$40-$70||Couples||Live chat, messages and video||1,500|
|Talkspace||$49||Individuals, Couples, Teens (Ages 13-18)||Messages (text, audio)||5,000|
BetterHelp has become a trendsetter by employing 100% licensed therapists and a sleek mobile app. It was one of the first online therapy services, and today, they employ 3,500 remote therapists.
BetterHelp is a HIPAA compliant service and starts at $40+ per week and includes messaging, live chat, talking on the phone, or online video counseling. BetterHelp gets the best reviews on E-Counseling of any provider.
Learn more about BetterHelp with our full review here.
ReGain is mostly a couples therapy service. While they offer personal therapy, it’s clear they specialize in couples. Two people in a relationship share a joint account where they can communicate with the counselor together.
When you sign up, you are taken through an onboarding questionnaire, which asks you questions about your condition. All ReGain therapists are accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC or LPCC).
ReGain costs $40-$70 per week.
Learn more about ReGain with our full review here.
An extremely progressive company, Talkspace burst onto the tech scene by raising $31 million in venture capital in 2017. They take a pretty nontraditional approach, in that they only offer text-based therapy.
Your Talkspace room remains open 24/5, but you can message a therapist any time or place from any device. Therapists respond daily, 5 days per week.
Platforms are HIPAA-compliant, and they require passwords; their IOS app can accommodate both Touch ID and Face ID on enabled devices. Talkspace only operates on phone, you cannot use desktop computer
Plans start at $49/week. It’s important to note however, that not all experiences with text therapy are positive and that text therapy is not a replacement for in-person clinics.
Read more about Talkspace with our full review here.
Is Online Therapy the Right Choice for You?
There are many reasons that online therapy can be a good option. But of course, therapy is a very personal thing, and finding the right provider makes all the difference. If you feel like you need adjunctive therapy to your in-person provider and/or a more convenient solution, online therapy may be for you.
Consumers like an online therapy solution for a number of reasons. Some include:
It’s not always so convenient to get to an in-person appointment. Distance to the office, lack of transportation and a whole host of other reasons make it tough to get seen in person. With e-therapy, you can attend your appointments in your preferred timeframe, every time.
Some people feel that internet-enabled therapy affords greater confidentiality. There is more anonymity with online therapy. You will never run into anyone on your way there or in your therapist’s office. On top of that, some people feel that they’re able to be more comfortable and open while at home. As well as extra benefits for clients who will encounter less “triggers” if they stay home.
Every single therapist on every online therapy platform are licensed, verified, and experienced professionals. With thousands of options of therapists, there is a good chance you will find someone who not only specializes in what you need, but is also a good fit for you.
Even if you have insurance, traditional therapy can be very expensive, sometimes hundreds of dollars for one appointment. Most online services offer between $40-$80 a week, which is significantly cheaper.
When Is Online Therapy Not a Good Option?
There are some situations where online therapy is not the best option. If any of the following apply, get the appropriate help:
- You in an emergency situation (dial 911 now)
- You are currently feeling suicidal
- You’re a minor under the age of 18
- You do not have a reliable internet connection
- A court has required you to undergo counseling
Click here for a full list of resources for immediate help.
19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
Online therapy can be more affordable than in-person care and can be equally as effective. So if you’re one of the millions of Americans who seeks treatment every year, online care could be for you.
Remember, there are cases in which online therapy is not advisable, so it’s important to make your own considerations and follow your intuition when choosing a provider.
If you want to compare your options in more detail, read our article BetterHelp vs Talkspace.
Have you had an experience with an online therapy provider? We’d love to hear more about it in the comments!
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