Smartphones are a big part of your life. They help us find information, communicate, fight our boredom, and order food. There's an app for everything these days, from camera filters to choice makers. And as the pandemic locked us in our homes, therapy apps started gaining more and more attention.
You’ve probably heard about text therapy or seen an ad and now may wonder if you should try it. Is texting with your therapist enough to overcome your problems? Can it be that simple?
Messaging therapy is indeed an attractive option for those who dread phone calls, want to stay safe during the pandemic, or look for more affordable help. But can it be effective? Is it a modern way to feel better, or is it just another cool-looking but useless application like those x-ray apps? Let's find out.
How Does Online Therapy Chat Work?
All services offering text counseling usually have similar principles.
Firstly, you fill in a questionnaire about yourself and your struggles so that they can match you with the best therapist. However, if the match wasn't perfect and you don’t feel like working with your therapist, you can always switch to another one.
Some services connect you to a matching agent that will guide you from payment to a therapist.
Your therapy can begin immediately after the match. You can instantly write to your therapist and explain your situation, struggles, and worries. Your therapist will read your messages carefully and respond, offering support, empathy, and help. Little by little, you will work through your problems and find ways to feel better.
Most services offer unlimited messaging with one to several therapist responses a day. Some also have audio and video messaging.
You and your therapist can also agree on live messaging sessions. Talking in real-time helps to tackle the problems faster. It's very convenient in the beginning when the therapist asks multiple questions to analyze your situation thoroughly. Audio or video sessions are also available, but you often need to pay more for them.
In addition, some apps also have features such as exercises or worksheets that therapists give their clients in traditional therapy. If you use them daily, these tools will help to build healthy habits and improve your mood.
Are Online Therapy Chats Secure and Private?
Online therapy follows the same rules as in-person therapy. Messages are confidential and encrypted, so you can safely share your struggles. Your text therapy app will likely have a password. If you remember to log out every time you exit the app, nobody who can open your phone will be able to read your messages.
Most of the time, therapy services won't even ask your real name upon registration. Most therapy providers may later need some personal information in case of emergency, but some are entirely anonymous.
How Much Does Text Therapy Cost?
The prices vary depending on the provider and services. Text therapy can cost from $29 to $65 a week. The price is typically lower for long-term contracts, such as 6 months of therapy, and higher for monthly plans.
Online counseling, and especially text therapy, is significantly less expensive than in-person help, where you can pay up to $200 per session, depending on where you live. Why is the difference so big? Online chat therapy services can cut costs by allowing therapists to communicate with more people at the same time and providing them with a consistent number of clients.
It's also worth mentioning that most online therapy providers charge a weekly fee but bill monthly, so make sure you understand the service cost before purchasing it. Most of them are subscription-based, which means they will bill you repeatedly unless you cancel your therapy.
Some therapy providers have insurance that can cover a part of therapy, while others don't. However, not many insurers cover online text therapy. If you intend to use your insurance, make sure to check its conditions and learn what therapy provider accepts.
Can Chat Therapy Make You Feel Better?
Scientists were also curious about the effectiveness of online therapy. Studies about texting therapy come out every year, so let's look at what they have found so far.
A 2017 study found that asynchronous messaging therapy (messaging without live sessions) improves general mental health after 15 weeks of treatment.
However, online counseling is not suitable for everyone. If you have serious mental health problems such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, seek in-person treatment.
It's also not an option for people who are required to undergo therapy by a court or any other authority. Some platforms consult minors with parental consent, but others don't, so make sure you know their policy.
Benefits of Online Therapy Chat
There are plenty of reasons why people choose texting therapy over other options. We listed the main ones below.
It's sometimes easier to share
Meeting with a therapist can be intimidating. You need to tell your deepest thoughts to someone you just met, and not everyone likes that. Even for those who wanted face-to-face therapy, the pandemic shuffled the cards. The only way was video sessions, and it didn't feel like sitting in a cozy therapist's office at all.
That's where online messaging therapy can help. Setting a nickname and writing to a therapist instead of seeing them through a screen can reduce this awkwardness, especially at the start.
In the beginning, you may still feel the need to hide some things from your therapist, and that's completely normal. We learn to filter our thoughts. But when you write them, you can always catch yourself and avoid doing this with your therapist. It will not only help you connect with them faster but will also speed up your therapy progress.
Moreover, online counseling via text is very appealing for those who prefer to think alone and write their thoughts down. This way, a therapist can better understand the client without clarifying what they want to say.
Your therapist is there for you every day
With online therapy, you aren’t restricted to a specific session time. Some people may feel pressure to tell everything during one meeting. Some may notice that the session ends soon after opening up about something or digging deeper.
When you exchange messages with a therapist, your communication flows continuously. You can always drop a line if you forget to mention something.
Moreover, You don't need to wait a week or two to tell them what happened. Our memory is quite subjective, and with time, we remember things a bit differently. If we are telling the story after a week, our brain can miss out on details of feelings what would be good guidelines for our therapist.
Text therapy is private
Do you feel guilty curiosity when you hear someone on their phone discussing very personal matters in a public place? If you are afraid the same can happen to you because you don't have a private place to talk to, don't worry.
Online messaging therapy doesn't require a specific setup. You can text your therapist in a crowded room, and nobody will know who you are talking to and what you are sharing.
You may have a busy schedule, and tours to the therapist's office would be just too much. Or perhaps you are from a rural area with not many therapists to travel to. Online therapy is available for everyone. People with mobility problems, the ones who prefer to stay home, individuals who work night shifts can reach therapy with ease.
Therapists, however, do have working hours and may not answer you in the middle of the night or during the weekends. Still, it’s the only way for some to have support from a professional.
Online therapy offers you different ways to reach your therapist. If you don't like writing long messages, you can send audio or video recordings. While it's not exactly the same as live communication, your therapist may get some information from your body language.
It's more economic
Online therapy is by no means the cheapest therapy option for those who don't have insurance, or their insurance covers just a small part of the cost. Messaging therapy without video sessions is typically not covered by insurance, but its prices are low enough to be one of the most affordable options.
It costs from $29 to $68 a week, depending on the provider. One session with a therapist, on the other hand, can cost from $50 to $150. If the cost prevented you from reaching out, know therapists are always ready to read your texts.
Can You Still Use Chat Therapy if You Use a Computer?
The answer is yes. Most therapy providers have both mobile and desktop apps, and even if they encourage you to use your phone, you can always talk with your therapist from your computer.
What to Consider Before Starting Online Therapy?
While online messaging therapy is a comfortable option, it also has some limitations. Before you sign up, consider if these won't interfere with your therapy experience.
Therapy Progress Can Be Slower at First
Most therapy services guarantee daily responses from your therapist. However, it means that you will have to wait before they respond to your message. At the beginning of your therapy, your therapist will ask different questions to learn about your personality, history, and situation.
These kinds of questions are typically asked in the first sessions, but it might take some days for your therapist to get to know you from messages. For this reason, try to be as specific as possible with your first messages.
There Might Be a Different Kind of Therapeutic Relationship
Counseling requires specific communication with your therapist. It's called the therapeutic alliance. A therapist has to gain clients' trust so that both can work hand in hand to make the client feel better.
While your therapist may seem like your best friend because they get to know you so well, they are here just to help you.
The nature of messaging can create an illusion that your therapist is even closer to you. While this helps you open up, if you want to get the most out of therapy, remember that you are working together rather than just enjoying each other’s company.
You Might Need to Read a Lot
While some people prefer to express their thoughts in writing, others get frustrated reading long messages. And online therapy chats do include some long texts. As therapists don't usually respond instantly, they might answer all your concerns with several messages a day, and they will probably have a lot to say.
If you are one of those who can’t get all the meaning just reading the text, you can agree on audio messages instead.
Online Messaging Therapy Can Help You
Dealing with life challenges alone can be very tiring and frustrating. Reaching for professionals will greatly increase your chances of overcoming these obstacles. And text therapy is an excellent alternative to other therapy forms. If you would like to try online messaging therapy, we can connect you to a licensed counselor in minutes.