Psychotherapy, commonly known as therapy, is the first line of treatment that medical professionals suggest for depressive and anxiety disorders. Therapy is an umbrella term that covers different approaches to help people improve their mental health with different coping skills.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rapid rise in the adoption of virtual therapy. This has led to a debate regarding the effectiveness of online therapy sessions in comparison to traditional methods. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that online sessions offer the convenience of receiving therapy at home.
However, it deprives you of the safety and confidentiality you get when you’re in a therapist’s office. For instance, therapy sessions by URP are conducted in a calm environment that gives you space to think about your feelings. So, even when you’re in an online therapy session, you’re not in a focused environment. Let’s get a comprehensive idea of what online therapy sessions are, their pros/cons, and their effectiveness.
What are Virtual Therapy Sessions?
Online therapy, which is also referred to as teletherapy or virtual therapy, offers you support from any location. Unlike a traditional therapy session, you don’t have to visit a therapist’s clinic. They can offer assistance in various ways, such as:
- Video services
- Text messages
- Phone calls
Therapist can offer their services through their personal practice or from anywhere. They can use various online platforms available to hold an online video conference or audio call with clients. This method of therapy has become quite common lately.
Research by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the number of telehealth visits by Medicare recipients was around 5 million from April 2019 to December 2019. This figure jumped to 53 million for the same period in 2020.
In most cases, the approach taken by a therapist is the same as in a traditional session. So, if the therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy in an in-person setting, it’s quite likely that they’ll use the same approach in teletherapy. Not to mention you can also get relevant resources from the therapist after the online session.
Pros of Online Therapy
There are various benefits that people can get through their online therapy sessions. Here are the top three ones that compel people to attend virtual sessions.
Offer the Same Level of Effectiveness
According to research, the effectiveness of online therapy sessions is the same as in-person therapy sessions. This is the case for most of the common mental health issues that people nowadays are struggling with, i.e., feelings of anxiety and low mood. When the level of effectiveness is the same, people will obviously choose an option that offers greater convenience.
And this extends to different approaches to therapy as well. For example, one study shows that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has the same effectiveness in treating depression as in-person sessions.
Optimal for Remote Areas
With online therapy, people living in remote areas can have access to mental health treatment. Considering how most remote areas have little to no mental health resources, the people living there have a hard time accessing therapy. However, that problem is resolved with the arrival of virtual therapy sessions.
They don’t have to take time off work and then drive long distances to meet with the therapist in person. As long as they have a strong internet connection and an electronic device, they can connect with a therapist. This way, they can access high-quality treatment that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise.
Easy Access and Reduces Stigma
Online therapy sessions also provide therapeutic support for people with physical disabilities. This would save them from the hassle of reaching the therapist’s office. Plus, being in their personal space with the people they care about might also help them with their social anxiety.
Furthermore, online therapy sessions can help you maintain greater anonymity. You won’t have to deal with the stigma of anyone finding out that you are going to therapy.
Cons of Virtual Therapy
There is no doubt that virtual therapy can offer great benefits. But at the same time, there are a few cons.
Insurance Coverage Can be Difficult
The insurance coverage you get will depend on different factors, such as your state of residence and your current health insurance policy. And there are some health insurance providers that don’t offer coverage for online therapy sessions.
On the other hand, some practitioners won’t be able to accept insurance as payment for virtual sessions. Therefore, it can be quite costly for you to pay for the therapy sessions out-of-pocket.
Lack of Response to Crisis Situations
Online therapists might be based in a distant location from their clients. Some therapists might also be in a different state or country. Therefore, it can be challenging for them to respond effectively and quickly in case of a crisis.
For instance, the client might have suffered the loss of someone close or is experiencing suicidal thoughts. In those cases, it can be difficult to offer direct support and timely assistance.
Ethical and Legal Concerns
The legal and ethical concerns surrounding virtual therapy sessions are also important factors to consider. Because it blurs geographical boundaries, it becomes difficult to enforce any legal or ethical codes.
There are different guidelines that therapists might have to oblige to, depending on the location they are serving the clients. That can be a challenging task when it comes to online therapy.
Bottom line: Are Virtual Therapy Sessions Effective?
Virtual therapy sessions can be effective for some people seeking adequate mental health services. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s the right option for everyone. Ultimately, it depends on the individual’s condition and the issues they’re facing. If you prefer attending online therapy, then it’s best to research your options.
Go through reviews and consult a mental health specialist to know if online therapy sessions are the right choice for you. Finding the right therapist for an online session will take some time, but it is worth the effort.
Certified Advanced Transformative Coach Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist, specialist working with addictions. I have been working with people and helping to change lives for as long as I can remember in one way or another, while going through my own change, and learning about how the mind works, I bring together 20+ years of experience and learning from all paradigms of change models, to my current understanding of the 3 principles as uncovered by Sydney Banks in the 1970s.