In a perfect world, a helping hand is always available when you are not feeling your best. Without any judgment or fear. Without asking too much for that help. But we live in a time where it sometimes takes weeks or months to contact mental health specialists (not to mention that for some, it's a luxury rather than a necessity).
Even when you choose to start therapy, your therapist can’t always be with you. Your greatest life challenges may be waiting just around the corner, but you will have to wait a week or two to discuss them with your therapist.
If you are longing for a specialist who will always be by your side, online therapy might be your answer. People started seeking and providing remote mental help as soon as the technology allowed them, and the first phone sessions became popular in the 1960s.
And in 1986, with the online question forum Dear Uncle Ezra, therapy started creating healing connections via the internet. People soon realized that they don't have to be in the same place to engage in therapy.
However, it is only recently that online therapy has grown in popularity. Why? While the Covid-19 pandemic facilitated the growth there are also other reasons worth mentioning. With online therapy companies came consultations at a lower cost, and other benefits which help bringing mental help closer to the modern lifestyle.
One of the all-time greatest problems for therapy was stigma. From the beginning of psychotherapy, it had the dark label of being the treatment of psychopaths, crazy, and weak people. Throughout history, psychotherapy has made certain problems, such as women's hysteria or social anxiety more "publicly acceptable."
In spite of that, seeking help for your mental struggles is still not widely accepted. While this only pinpoints that we, as a society, need to put more effort into changing and educating about it, online therapy offers a temporary solution.
While there is nothing shameful about seeking help, no one has to know you decided to do this. Instead of asking Siri "how to stop being depressed," you can start an actual depression online therapy without even telling your name to the therapist!
Everything you say will remain just between you two. All conversations and files are encrypted and visible only to the person and the therapist.
Anonymity and security may help many people who worry that someone might find out they are seeing a therapist. A therapist can create a personalized plan on how to deal with depression or give you tips on how to reduce anxiety. The expertise of a good therapist will always be much more valuable than the stuff you can find on the internet.
And if looking them in the eye stressed you out, you don't have to. Anonymous therapy allows you to reach your therapist in other ways, such as emails or text messages. Messaging is also very beneficial for people who don't have a quiet and safe place where they can share their worries out loud.
Therapy was never a cheap option. It was always at the higher end of healthcare services. The reason behind this is that it requires constant attention from the therapist. A mental health problem, much like a broken leg, can't be fixed with a single visit to a specialist.
Online therapy services address this problem by collecting a large pool of therapists and overtaking client acquisition. Therapists can provide messaging therapy, during which they can talk to multiple clients at the same time. Studies show that online therapy requires 7.8 times less time a specialist spends on one customer compared to in-office therapy. All this contributes to making the therapy affordable. Some providers can offer this service for as low as $29/week.
Online therapy is more flexible and better adapted to our daily schedules. It brings the communication with your therapist to another level. You can write them back late at night or have a therapy session in the middle of your lunch break.
The comfort of your home can also have therapeutic benefits, especially for the ones who are feeling anxious about going out or visiting new places.
There is no need to travel to the therapist's office at a specific hour and wait in the hall until your time comes. Sessions often start after working hours (when everyone is moving), creating traffic jams and hustle at the subway.
Online therapy is completely different. It's not tied to one place. You can do it from your home, office, or even a park. From literally anywhere. Correction: anywhere where there's an internet connection. Find yourself a quiet place where nobody will disturb your thoughts, and you are ready for therapy. Simply access your therapist from your computer or mobile phone. It can save a lot of time, traveling expenses, and is more environmentally friendly.
Going to the therapist several times a month can be uncomfortable in some situations. People living in rural areas, having mobility issues or social anxiety, working shifts, or living very busy lives (almost all of us, right?) may find that getting mental help is just too much of a burden.
Aside from the issues of getting to the therapist, it sometimes takes a great of time to find one, and when you finally do, there is often a waiting period until the therapist is available. You might even spend half a day looking for a therapist you really like, only to find out that they don't accept new clients at the moment.
Scheduling an online therapy session is much easier. It usually takes from fifteen minutes to two days to connect with a therapist online. Having the entire country or your state to choose from also makes everything much easier.
While you can choose the frequency of your sessions, it's not common to meet your therapist more often than once a week. Most of the time, people have only two sessions per month. A lot can happen while you are waiting for your session.
You might have the time to consider some things, but also to forget these things or lose your motivation. The feeling that you have accomplished something may also fade away during that time.
Meeting a therapist for short sessions several times a month may be stressful. You might want to remember everything you need to say during that time, because after the therapist says "that's all for today," you have to wait for another week or two. However, more frequent communication would lead to higher costs, which you might want to avoid.
Fortunately, online therapy doesn't work like that. Most providers let you choose the frequency of the online sessions and allow you to communicate with the therapist in between them. This type of communication ensures that you will be able to reach your therapist with a question, additional thoughts, or just to share your positive feelings about your achievements.
It also means that your therapist will be able to help you through a crisis, remind you about your therapy plan, or simply check on you. Frequent communication with the therapist may help you receive more consistent care, which will help you get rid of depression or anxiety faster.
You may question whether meeting a therapist will have the same effect as sitting in front of them on the couch. Psychologists were interested in it too. They did a lot of research and concluded that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy in treating many mental health illnesses.
The most common ones, such as depression and anxiety, are among those successfully treated with online therapy. The therapist's presence seems to be unnecessary. On the contrary: specific therapies, such as iCBT (Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), can even be more effective than traditional therapy, as the person always has access to therapist guidelines, help, and online tools.
However, there are some mental illnesses that online therapy is not suited for. People struggling with schizophrenia, psychosis, mania, and suicidal thoughts should seek in-person treatment.
The global pandemic has shown that healthcare needs more plasticity and adaptability – the core features of online therapy. It was always on hand when someone couldn't access in-person care. It accounts not only for global disasters (that, hopefully, won't hit again sometime soon) but also daily changes in everyone's life.
People take vacations, travel abroad, and get sick during the flu season. Before the advent of remote therapy, it would mean canceling your meeting with a therapist or your therapist informing you that they will be unavailable. But with the help of technology, you can continue your treatment from anywhere.
Online therapy is an amazing option for those searching for more convenient, affordable, yet equally effective help. It opens a new door to the ones who haven't had the opportunity to try the therapy before. It also creates new possibilities for those who already tried in-person therapy, but are searching for something more comfortable.
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