The world is always changing and with it changes the way services are delivered. Technology connects people like never before and allows them to do things that were previously impossible. It used to be that the only food delivery you could get was pizza or Chinese and if you wanted a hearty, chef-inspired restaurant cooked meal, you had to get dressed, drive to the restaurant, and stand for 30 minutes until a table became available. With the invention of apps and websites like GrubHub and DoorDash, you can have food from any restaurant you want delivered right to your door. Likewise with grocery shopping, buying clothes, and automatic delivery of your petâ€™s favorite food. Intangible services have also become more readily available. People are no longer limited to dating people that live in their neighborhood, book clubs can have members from around the world, professionals can give their opinions easily and to as many people as have access to a computer.
Along with the rest of the world, the way therapy and counseling is being delivered is also evolving. With the technology that is now at just about everyone’s fingertips, therapists and counselors can reach clients in ways they never could before. People now have options that were previously closed off to them. Getting good and proper mental health treatment is easier than ever for people all over the world and from all walks of life. Online therapy, or e-therapy, has made it possible to get mental health help from anywhere at anytime, making it more accessible than ever.
People are asking themselves if online counseling is right for them, when the real question should be “Is counseling right for me?” If the answer is yes, then the first thing to do is start looking for a therapist that matches your particular need. Do you need or desire frequent or regular contact? Do you have a busy or inflexible schedule? Do you live in an area where you have limited access to multiple therapists with different areas of expertise? Do you need to talk to someone immediately? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then online therapy could be the right fit for you.
When exploring online therapy for the first time, many potential clients are curious about what will be different. The short answer is that besides the method of delivery, online counseling works much like like traditional face-to-face therapy. Sessions are often structured the same way and achieve similar outcomes.
Just like with traditional therapy, it’s important to prepare for e-therapy by ensuring that the therapists you’re checking out have been licensed and are running a legitimate practice. Any licensed therapist – regardless of how he or she delivers their services – will have received extensive training in a variety of techniques. If there is a specific concern like PTSD, addiction recovery, or couple’s counseling, clients can and should research therapists who specialize in the relevant area. One advantage online therapy has vs face-to-face is that it can be much easier to find a therapist that specializes in whichever field the client needs, especially for people living in rural or underserved communities. For example, if a client is in need of therapy specifically to deal with symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it’s “luck of the draw” whether there is a therapist with experience helping with OCD symptoms within a reasonable distance from the client’s home. Connecting with therapists online greatly increases options, making it more likely that each client can find the therapist that is the best fit for his or her specific and unique needs.
As for the therapeutic experience itself, once the initial period of adjustment to a new format is over, most people find it to be remarkably similar to face-to-face therapy. The objectives are identical: the clinician will work with the client to identify goals, the most appropriate therapy style (for example, cognitive-behavioral) will be selected, and the therapist and client will then begin working together within this framework. Just like with face-to-face therapy, e-therapy sessions may include journaling or creative assignments, worksheets, or selected readings.
As for talking remotely vs in the same room, the difference isn’t as big as most clients imagine. Clients have more options in how they talk to their therapist – the offer of messaging, live chat, phone, and video sessions give clients more choice. The quality of digital communication has increased so markedly in the last few years that online conversations are now happening with high quality visual resolution and excellent audio, making the experience as smooth and fluid as a face-to-face experience. In fact, multiple studies have shown very similar outcomes and patient satisfaction for online counseling compared to the face-to-face style. E-therapy has some unique advantages, too. Besides skipping the drive and the waiting room, which can be crucial for those with busy schedules, some clients actually find it more comfortable to be in the familiar surroundings of home rather than a clinician’s office.
Another thing to consider is that online therapy often offers one option that traditional therapy does not: namely, more frequent access to the therapist. Unlike brick-and-mortar practices that simply charge a flat hourly rate for “facetime”, many e-therapy practices include unlimited monthly access to the counselor via messaging. For people who feel comfortable with this kind of communication, or for those who would appreciate the extra support, e-therapy may be worth considering.
Whether a client is new to therapy or just e-therapy in particular, it’s natural to wonder how the process works over the internet. Just like with any other clinical practice, therapists that work over the internet are fully licensed and trained to respect client confidentiality at all times. Any reputable online therapist will also take extra steps to ensure client’s information is protected, since the sessions are happening over the internet. This will ideally include using a specialized app or otherwise secure communication gateway to protect sensitive information from being exposed to third parties.
As for the psychotherapy itself, the only difference is the method of delivery. The e-therapist is required by law to have the exact same type of licensure as a “traditional” face-to-face therapist. Just like with office therapy, over-the-internet sessions will be tailored by the clinician to best fit the particular needs of the client. This can include the type of psychotherapy involved, such as Cognitive-Behavioral, Dialectical-Behavioral, psychodynamic methodologies, etc. In some cases, the therapist may decide to incorporate various styles of teaching methods to help clients build the knowledge necessary to use new tools or coping skills. Regardless of how it is delivered and what type of psychotherapy is used in particular, the basic therapeutic process and goals are the same: to help clients identify unhealthy patterns of thinking and communication, cope with painful events, and discover new, constructive ways to deal with life’s challenges.
One advantage psychotherapy over the internet has is greater flexibility in regards to convenience, scheduling, and overall time required per session. While the time with the therapist will be the same as during a traditional office visit, e-therapy has the added advantage of saving clients the physical commute to the therapist’s practice. This can also make couples counseling easier in particular, since there is less coordination required for both parties. In the case of families, this can also help parents avoid having to find childcare during sessions, since they are happening from the comfort of home – something that can be helpful financially, too. Eliminating these kinds of barriers can also eliminate some of the excuses people may use to not seek help. At the end of the day, the convenience offered by therapy over the internet can be a game-changer, especially for potential clients who are undecided about psychotherapy as a whole. If therapy over the internet is faster, simple-to-use, and cost-effective, then why not give it a try?
Although it’s delivered differently, online therapy doesn’t work in a radically dissimilar way to the brick-and-mortar kind. To this end, research continues to support very similar patient experiences and outcomes overall. To decide if online therapy is right for you, the first question should still be, “is therapy in general what I need right now?” If it’s time to seek help, e-therapy makes the whole process faster, more convenient, and often more affordable. So how does it work?
Just like with face-to-face therapy, it’s important to only work with licensed providers and to take some time beforehand to verify that the practice is legitimate. Also like with brick-and-mortar practices, clients will identify a therapist that seems most appropriate for their goals and needs, book a preliminary session, and pay in advance. Once it’s time for the appointment, most e-therapy practices have dedicated online “gateways” or an associated app that is used to communicate securely with the provider over a computer or smartphone. At the client’s scheduled appointment time, that person simply logs in from wherever they happen to be. At this point, it works much like any other kind of video chatting: a screen will open with the therapist, and the session will begin as the two parties talk in real-time.
Just like office therapy, online counselors will first go over some main goals or problems to be worked on. This is also a time for the client to express anything in particular that they might feel will be helpful to the therapy process. Both online and office therapists will then select from a variety of professionally-developed tools and therapy styles to begin working with the client to through problems or towards goals. Whether the therapy is online or in person, the amount of time it takes to begin having an effect depends greatly from one person to another, based on factors like personality types, severity of the symptoms, and willingness of the client to do “homework” or other exterior assignments. A typical course of therapy is weekly for 8-12 weeks, but some people go for years, while others may find they only need a few sessions.
One thing that most e-therapy practices offer differently than their traditional peers is increased access to services. Access to the e-therapist may be billed per-session or monthly, but either way, some form of text messaging is usually included in the fee. This is a unique benefit that can help clients feel more connected and supported by their therapists, whether that be for a specific crisis or for ongoing help with a goal like challenging a pattern of thinking.
Ultimately, the similarities between e-therapy and the brick-and-mortar kind are much greater than the differences. Once clients get used to speaking via video, phone or messaging, instead of face-to-face, the course of therapy will unfold in much the same way, with the therapist using identical kinds of research-based treatment modalities, like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, trauma work, or Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy. As stated previously, a patient can expect almost identical outcomes with e-therapy compared to the face-to-face variety. As with all therapy, online counseling is most effective if approached with honesty, an open heart, and a willingness to do the work required to change certain patterns of thoughts or behaviors.
When deciding whether or not online counseling is the best fit for an individual, it’s important to understand both the upsides and the downsides to this form of therapy. Embarking on therapy for the first time or picking it up again represents a commitment of time, money, and emotional energy that means doing a little research first is well worth it.
While scientific study and anecdotal evidence alike have concluded that online therapy is roughly equal to face-to-face sessions in terms of client satisfaction and outcome, the truth is that e-therapy still may not be right for every person.
The primary disadvantage, of course, is lack of actual face-to-face dialogue. For some people, a face-to-face discussion may simply feel more reassuring or comfortable, especially among older generations who may have started using digital communication much later in life. For those who grew up around smartphones and high-speed internet, interacting with a therapist online may actually be more comfortable instead of face-to-face, especially since e-therapists also often include access to text messaging as well, which is another form of communication that is ubiquitous among younger Americans. On the other hand, if someone isn’t comfortable operating computers, tablets, and other digital devices, let alone communicating via video chat and/or text messaging, online counseling might not be the right fit. Although this concern is expressed by many patients before trying online therapy for the first time, the reality is that the medium actually works for a surprisingly large number of people. A minority of clients ultimately do decide online therapy doesn’t work for them, but it’s impossible for any person to know for sure unless they actually try it out instead of guessing whether or not it’s a good fit.
Another disadvantage of online counseling is that while the technical requirements aren’t anything excessive, having access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone is necessary. It used to be that to get the best experience, someone seeking online therapy should have broadband internet and a decently fast computer because computer or connection “lagginess” can make conversations seem more stilted, difficult, or less personal because the face-to-face interaction between the therapist and the client isn’t of a high enough quality. Today however, all a client needs is a smartphone with a data plan or access to wifi. Most e-counseling sites have apps for Android and iPhones and a computer may not be necessary at all.
Video chatting is a fairly high-bandwidth activity and although the typical American household can handle it without problems, there will always be exceptions. For example, for people who pay for internet by data usage, or who have usage caps, online counseling may take up too much data to be worth it. To ensure the best therapeutic dialogue, it’s also important that the device used to access e-therapy be new enough (and the network speed fast enough) that there’s no choppiness or cut-offs. In rural areas, e-therapy is a great solution to address the common scarcity of local therapy resources, but unfortunately some of these same areas also have substandard internet access that may make online counseling difficult.
Accessing therapy online has myriad benefits, starting with convenience. Getting therapy from the comfort of home eliminates the hassle of having to travel to appointments and sit in a waiting room, which can be a tremendous boon to busy students, professionals, and parents alike. E-therapy also brings an unprecedented number of options for counseling services to everyone equally, no matter where they are located. For people in rural areas, those with limited mobility, and those without access to reliable transportation, e-therapy may mean it’s finally possible to get quality treatment for the first time. Considering that rural areas in America have higher-than-average rates of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide, online therapy could finally help bridge this gap.
The convenience factor also takes away some of the excuses that may prevent people who need help from seeking it, like not having time, not being able to find the right kind of counselor, or having to travel too far. Being able to easily connect with a specific kind of therapist (eg, one who specializes in phobias, speaks a certain language, or uses a particular method like DBT) over the internet can also help potential clients find the best match possible for their individual position. This can result in a far more personalized and satisfying course of therapy, now that it’s no longer necessary to rely on the literal luck of the geographic draw when it comes to brick-and-mortar practices.
Another big advantage for online therapy is saving time by cutting the travel and waiting-room time out of the equation entirely. For people with packed schedules or who dont have access to good transportation, accessing therapy via the internet could mean the difference between whether or not counseling is even possible. For the millions of Americans struggling with anxiety, depression, a bipolar diagnosis, or a host of other psychiatric conditions, having easy, convenient access to counseling can make a real difference. Evidence-based methods like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy used by licensed counselors (including those accessed via the internet) have decades of studies and data backing up just how big of a positive impact talk therapy can have on quality of life.
Another significant advantage of online counseling is cost-related. Not having to maintain a physical office can help therapists save money and the savings are often passed along to clients. Additionally, most practices offer a higher level of access (such as unlimited text messaging) to the therapist for the amount of money being paid. Finally, when gas or transportation money and time savings are also factored in, e-therapy may make sense for a whole subset of people who didn’t think that counseling was in the realm of affordability.
Ultimately, the advent of online counseling has made it much easier to access services for a wider variety of people. The benefits of counseling to improve home life, work productivity, and general satisfaction are no longer restricted only to people who happen to have a therapist that’s a good fit located near their home. Even for clients who live within range of good providers, e-therapy may also be a better choice simply because it takes less time, is often more affordable, and in general has more flexible scheduling.
The potential to be able to access a therapist from anywhere can be truly life-changing for people who live in areas where there aren’t a lot of options for traditional therapy. Even for people in dense urban areas, the types of therapy offered and range of therapists accessible via e-therapy is likely still better than what is available locally. Especially for people who have less-common conditions or who want therapists with a specific cultural background, the world of online counseling opens up many otherwise-impossible options.
Many people may have preconceived notions about the quality or efficacy of e-therapists, but online therapy is a rapidly growing field whose effectiveness has been backed by scientific research. Ultimately, for most people, the advantages of getting quick, easy, convenient access to a therapist should outweigh initial reservations about the delivery method.
Although multiple studies have found the outcomes for online vs. face-to-face therapy to be extremely similar, there are certainly some differences. The main disadvantage for online counseling is the human factor. For some people, especially of generations that didn’t necessarily grow up communicating via FaceTime and other digital methods, the concept of e-therapy may seem strange. It may be difficult to imagine opening up and trusting an individual that has never been met face-to-face. Even though scientists have been studying various forms of telemedicine for over a decade – including demonstrating it to be effective – for some people, not having conversations face-to-face may be a dealbreaker.
However, it’s impossible to know if e-therapy won’t work unless it’s actually tried; many skeptical people have been pleasantly surprised, especially because the quality of online communication has grown so much. It’s also important to look beyond possible doubts at the sheer list of “pros” that come with accessing therapy online. The most important argument for online counseling is simple accessibility.
Many Americans live in areas that are underserved by mental health professionals; the current mental health and addiction crisis that our country is experiencing is a powerful reminder that many people simply don’t have easy access to therapy and support that could be life-changing or even life-saving. Finding a local counselor that specializes in whatever area the client is in need of is difficult on its own, let alone finding a therapist with immediate availability that is also within a reasonable geographic distance. For the 60 million Americans who live in rural areas, this problem is compounded by the fact that there is a shortage of basic primary care medicine in these areas, let alone mental health care. For these communities, simply being able to access care from home instead of having to travel dozens of miles may mean the difference between therapy being viable or not.
When considering the pros and cons of online therapy, it’s also important to recognize how crucial therapy can be (in any form), and that it’s impossible to quantify the precise increase in quality of life. Simply put, the reduction in barriers to access provided by online counseling make the adjustment to delivery method worth it for anyone who is struggling. For example, an exhausted mother with an infant who is seeking help for depression may find herself having to choose between extra sleep or a time-consuming drive to the therapist’s office that also requires lining up childcare. In this situation, the barriers to traditional care could seem overwhelming. When e-therapy is considered as an alternative, the mother may finally be able to get the help she needs, helping raise her personal quality of life as well as her skill and attentiveness as a parent.
When therapy is used as a method of accountability for making big life changes – such as getting sober – the “pros” of getting any kind of help at all again outweigh whatever personal adjustments are required by the change in delivery between e-therapy and office-based care. For example, the opiate addiction problem has significant overlap with rural and underserved communities. Studies have found time and time again that getting professional support makes a big difference in whether someone manages to stay sober or not over the long term. Many people in rural or underserved areas that are in recovery may only have a local AA meeting as a source of support – and that method doesn’t work for everyone. Part of this is because addiction is often a means of self-medicating a diagnosis like depression or anxiety. These conditions need to be dealt with on their own with a qualified therapist in order to stop the symptoms that a recovering addict was attempting to control with drugs or alcohol. So when deciding whether online therapy is worth it, these factors are incredibly important for anyone struggling with substance abuse.
There are many more situations that go beyond the basic arguments of whether or not online counseling is a worthwhile alternative to old-fashioned therapy in an office. The concept may seem strange, and some traditionalists may ultimately be uncomfortable with it, but for the vast majority of people, removing the commonly-occurring barriers to treatment for mental health conditions is ultimately reason enough to give it a try.
When trying to decide whether to seek therapy and which kind may be right, cost is an ever-present factor. Many insurance plans don’t cover therapy or only cover a certain number of sessions. Sliding-scale clinics often have long waiting lists, leaving many Americans who are interested in therapy wondering how to get the help they need.
Comparing the cost of brick-and-mortar therapy to the online variety can be complex, because there are different types of therapists with sometimes widely different hourly rates. Generally, however, because an online therapy practice is structured differently than a traditional counseling practice, it is more affordable. For one thing, online therapists are able to pass along the savings of not having to lease the physical spaces needed to conduct face-to-face meetings. Quantifying access itself is a little more tricky to compare. This is because many online therapy models include a level of access to the therapist, such as unlimited messaging or texting, that old-fashioned practices simply don’t cover as part of their hourly services.
There are also many online counseling platforms that offer weekly or monthly plans so you can find one that fits into your budget. For example, you can sign up for unlimited text based counseling at a fraction of the cost of a live session. That means you could spend what it would cost to have two monthly live sessions for almost daily contact from your therapist. Many of these plans have different options such as phone or video sessions or live chat, so you can choose which works best for you and which will accommodate not only your budget, but also your time.
There are also so-called “secondary” cost savings when it comes to the cost of online therapy. For example, the cost of gas and wear and tear on a vehicle is saved because the client doesn’t actually need to travel to a physical office – for clients who would have to drive 15 minutes or longer to reach a physical appointment, this can add up over time. For clients with careers, time savings can matter, too. Conversely, for clients with children, not having to arrange childcare eliminates a hassle and possibly another expense.
Because a typical course of therapy (around 12 weeks in length) requires a significant investment of time, money, and emotional vulnerability by the client, doing research before starting out is very important, no matter which kind of therapy is being considered. To avoid getting stuck with someone unprofessional or ineffective, there are a few things that everyone looking for a therapist should do.
To begin with, when considering counselors, remember that any reputable therapist will have some kind of official license. Some of the most common are LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist), LPC (licensed professional counselor), LCSW (licensed social worker). Regardless of where (or how) they practice, all licensed therapists have formal training. While the style and type of training can vary from one certification to another (and even from one school to another), they all include some form of academic work, apprenticeship or clinical hours, and exams or boards that need to be passed. Providers with PhDs or other doctorate-level degrees have done extensive work under the supervision of experts in their field, and may or may not have an additional licensure. When in doubt, it’s always OK to ask. If additional verification is important, it’s also possible to contact state board organizations to verify that the provider is in fact holding a current license in good standing.
Ensuring that the therapist has a professional license is the first step towards making sure that you’ll get what you need out of sessions. Although there are plenty of great life coaches, self-proclaimed healers, and religious leaders out there, there is no governing standard for any of these positions, meaning that quality can vary quite widely. Avoid this by looking for someone who has graduated from formal training. This way, you’ll also be ensured that youâ€™ll have access to evidence-based, proven types of talk therapy that are delivered by a professional who has received specialized training. If needed, you can also search for therapists who have listed additional experience in specific areas, such as dialectical-behavioral therapy or childhood trauma
While there are a variety of training methods and professional license types, all of them require the therapist to adhere to certain professional standards; the difference is simply which kind of training has been involved. Why is licensure so important? While there are undoubtedly plenty of great people doing counseling work without a license, making sure that you hold to this standard has several benefits, the first being that you’re sure to get someone who has undertaken formal training and passed exams. Another benefit is that insurance is more likely to cover licensed counsellors instead of, say, energy healers or religious leaders.
When trying to decide which type of professional therapist is the best fit, it’s important to note that different types of licensing may have different hourly rates, too. As a general rule of thumb, those holding doctorate-level degrees tend to charge more than those that hold a graduate degree, like an MSW. Whichever type of therapist you ultimately decide to go with may also depend on your particular needs, such as whether or not you might need medication prescribed.
Many sites offer affordable counseling at a weekly or monthly rate and they help take a lot of the burden of finding the right therapist out of your hands. Sites such as eTherapyPro, Betterhelp, and Talkspace have many counselors that you can choose from and all of them have already been vetted and hold the appropriate licensure. Most of those sites even allow you to switch counselors if you find that the one you are working with isn’t quite right for you. These sites will usually have pictures of the providers along with a professional biography that lists training as well as special areas of expertise. These online counseling platforms even often offer free consultations or free trials, making finding a counselor that is a good fit at an affordable price easy and accessible.
Although online therapists practice identically to their traditional peers, following these steps to ensure licensure and professionalism should help eliminate doubt about whether e-therapists can deliver the same quality of care. As long as they’re licensed, all clinicians have received a minimum level of professional training, regardless of the type of practice they ultimately choose to pursue. From there, counselors with all levels of experience with all kinds of specialties can be found online. Finally, there is always an element of “luck of the draw” regarding counselors, regardless of their level of training or whether they operate an online or brick-and-mortar practice. Sometimes, the provider just might not be the right fit for a client’s needs. One of the advantages of e-therapy is that it makes it easier than ever to access different therapists until the best fit is found.
If researching by type of therapist is too overwhelming, simply begin your search by trying one of the online counseling platforms that have hundreds of counselors to choose from. Usually, you’ll just indicate what you need help with and you will be automatically matched with a counselor that specializes in that area. Remember that the first or second search result may not be the best, as these are often rankings that sites pay for, much like an old-fashioned ad. On the website itself, there should be clear, professionally-shot photos of the therapists along with brief biographies summarizing where they’ve been educated, what certifications they currently hold, and any areas of specialty. If you need an extra layer of reassurance, you can search the status of any therapist’s licensure in the state they are registered to practice in. If this information is unclear at any time, simply move onto the next e-therapist.
Most reputable online therapists or counseling platforms use integrated software right from the site to conduct counseling appointments via secure video chat. Other online therapists may use an external app, but it’s important to do a quick check to make sure the app is legitimate (eg, available in Apple and Android stores) before downloading anything. While some therapists do use Skype or other popular chat tools, it’s recommended that this is only done with therapists that the patient has already worked with in-person, because not having dedicated communication software or a gateway on the website may indicate less-than-top quality or a therapist that isn’t actually experienced doing remote counseling sessions. The last step in verification is to talk with the counselor, either via video, phone, or text messaging, and discuss exactly what technology will be used to access the therapist and how it works. Most reputable therapists are more than happy to discuss all of these things, including holding a brief discussion or interview to gauge initial compatibility.
Most people think that counseling is only for people suffering from depression, anxiety, or maybe PTSD. The truth is that therapists can help with all kinds of problems, many of which overlap into the physical health and wellness areas. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful for anyone looking to make a change, whether that be embarking on a weight loss plan, trying to stop a bad habit, or quitting smoking. In fact, statistics prove that behavioral changes like quitting smoking are much more likely to “tick” when professional talk therapy is involved.
Counseling can also be useful for people dealing with a variety of health challenges, including injuries, cancer, heart disease, or even an illness or injury of a loved one. In all of these cases, professional support can help with fears or anxiety around a diagnosis, coping with medically-caused life changes, and even managing physical symptoms like pain. In fact, for people recovering from surgery or with limited mobility, online counseling is one way to improve treatment outcomes across the board, but especially when it comes to pain management. The opiate epidemic has made many doctors and patients alike wary of prescribing opiates for conditions like chronic pain; cognitive-behavioral therapy and other kinds of mindfulness work have been proven in studies to help improve pain and quality of life, while avoiding the pitfalls of narcotic pain medicine. Furthermore, for those dealing with medical challenges, e-therapy presents a unique advantage. Since a patient literally doesn’t even need to leave their bed to speak with a trained therapist, the benefits associated with professional counseling are now accessible to virtually everyone regardless of physical mobility.
Online therapy is also applicable in other areas of “wellness”, Depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions can have very real physical effects on the body, including a weakened immune system, insomnia, and blood pressure or rare heart issues. Getting help for these conditions translates into a healthier physical body, too. For people attempting to manage psychiatric symptoms in multiple ways, like with diet and exercise, e-therapy might also be more convenient to fit into a schedule that is already getting full due to going to the gym and/or cooking healthy food from scratch. In turn, having ease of access to quality professional support via e-therapy can also help make other wellness goals more likely to last in the long-term.
One reason that remote counseling has become so popular is that it simply makes access to therapy dramatically easier and more convenient. Studies have shown that therapeutic outcomes and patient satisfaction are nearly identical between video chatting and face-to-face counseling sessions, meaning that e-therapy is a great choice for nearly everyone. That being said, geographic considerations are the most cut-and-dry reason why someone might seek out e-therapy for the first time. Simply put, many parts of America may simply not have easy access to quality practitioners. For people in rural parts of the country or anyone lacking their own vehicle or easy access to public transportation, being able to engage in talk therapy from home means that getting help has become much easier. In the past, long transport times and/or limited providers put many people “off” from trying to seek professional treatment, but this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. On a related note, people who desire a specific kind of counselor (eg. LGBTQ+, African-American, other languages) have a much higher likelihood of finding exactly the right kind of therapist if they include online providers in their search. The same is true for clients who may have physical limitations that make getting to physical appointments difficult.
Online counseling may also be the right fit if you’re struggling with a busy schedule, have a family, or simply need to save time for other reasons. For parents of young children, getting therapy at home means that childcare doesn’t need to be a worry – something that can be a critical difference between whether or not therapy is realistic. E-therapy also eliminates the time and expense of commuting to appointments, while often allowing more scheduling flexibility than traditional practices, both of which can be great for busy students or professionals. Savings on childcare and commuting, along with the generally more affordable nature of E-therapy, can also mean that accessing therapy is finally a realistic option if online counseling is considered.
E-therapy is also a great choice for anyone else who is already comfortable with using video chat as a form of communication. Besides the practical considerations of distance and types of provider available, online therapy is also simply more convenient, and the idea of accessing therapeutic support online today is simply not as strange as it once may have been. For people with lots of experience communicating via the internet and smartphones, this form of communication is perfectly natural. In addition, many online therapy practices also offer extended access to the therapist via text message, a benefit that also may be appealing to people who are already using text messaging extensively in their lives.
When trying to decide if e-therapy is right for you, the bigger question comes first: is it time to seek out the help of a professional counselor of any kind? While almost anyone could stand to benefit from the growth promoted by a course of therapy, there are many situations that can be readily improved by talk therapy. It may be time to seek the help of a therapist if:
Working with a professional through problems and painful emotions while learning new skills is a great way to begin improving your overall quality of life, along with relationships and even career. For anyone interested in starting this process with the help of a professional, e-therapy should be considered. Besides being a great way to find the precise kind of therapist needed regardless of location and schedule, online therapy gets nearly identical results as traditional therapy and has other upsides, too. Convenience, greater access to the therapist via text messaging, and privacy – all for what is often a lower cost than traditional therapy, are valid reasons to consider using an e-therapist.
Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most well-studied and evidence-based types of talk therapy available, which is why it’s also in high demand. One reason CBT is so effective is that it provides actionable tools to identify, challenge, and change a variety of unhelpful thinking patterns to manage symptoms of a psychiatric condition, adjust to a big change, improve interpersonal skills, etc. Overall, access to online Cognitive-Behavioral therapy should be easier than trying to find a nearby office provider who both specializes in this area and has an opening in their schedule.
When searching for a reputable online counselor, be sure to look for therapists with up-to-date licensure and a profile that lists CBT as a subset of their training or skills. Making certain that the therapist is licensed ensures that you’ll get the best-quality treatment by a professional with academic and practical training on how best to use CBT for a variety of situations. Also double-check that the e-therapist’s practice has a registered physical address to ensure the business is being run legitimately. Finally, don’t be afraid to call with any questions. Many practices will even let you have a brief phone introduction with the therapist to ensure that you’re a good fit for one another.
The online counselor’s website should have all the information needed for what technical requirements there will be for sessions. These days, many practices have “gateways” straight from the website or use a 3rd party app within the browser to communicate securely with an easy-to-use interface. Although the concept of e-therapy can be intimidating for some users, you don’t have to be a computer genius to participate. Generally, you just need a decent broadband internet connection and a computer or smartphone that is less than 5 years old.
For potential clients wondering about differences in quality, there are now multiple studies supporting the use of CBT in virtual environments. That is to say, a good e-therapist will be just as effective at using CBT to help a client as a brick-and-mortar peer; the difference is simply in delivery. Starting CBT with a specific goal will go a long way towards getting the most effective and timely treatment possible. Additionally, CBT treatment with an online therapist may include worksheets, journaling assignments, or other “off-clock” work to help the client learn to identify the thinking errors and associated solutions that are at the heart of this therapeutic form.
For anyone looking into starting a course of CBT, consider e-therapy as one of the easiest ways to benefit from this proven type of treatment. Looking online instead of just locally will greatly broaden the number and quality of therapists available. E-therapy also allows for a greater selection of secondary criteria to best suit your needs, whether that be having a therapist who is female, someone who specializes in co-occurring substance abuse disorders, or countless other factors. Ultimately, using the possibilities of e-therapy to connect with an experienced, well-trained, and compatible CBT therapist is worth any initial adjustment that might need to be made if it’s your first time using online therapy.
For individuals interested in online therapy, there are only a few concerns specific to online therapy; most of what should go into the decision applies to regular therapy too.
When deciding if online therapy is right, it may be useful to consider how comfortable with using technology to communicate the interested person is. While the tools used by e-therapists are generally simple, secure, and easy-to-use, some people just aren’t comfortable either with the technology itself, or the idea of communicating remotely. There are people who don’t even like talking over the phone, or who have never used video chat to communicate. For those people, the text based form of e-therapy might be best. Although e-therapy is generally understood to be as effective as face-to-face therapy, there will always be some people who are inherently uncomfortable with the format. Interestingly, younger generations have expressed that they may be more likely to want to communicate via live chat than face-to-face, illustrating a wide generational shift in comfort with using these kinds of technologies for important conversations.
The bigger questions to consider before trying out e-therapy would apply to anyone seeking therapy in general. If possible, identify some main goals or primary problems that can be addressed by a professional counselor as a therapeutic goal. Examples would include struggling to cope with PTSD symptoms, learning new ways to live with anxiety, or working on becoming a better communicator with a spouse. That’s not to say that there must be a therapeutic goal, however. If the central issue is murky, that doesn’t mean you aren’t ready for therapy, just that it may take more time to get to the root of the problem. Next, to make sure that the therapy is as useful as possible, make sure you’re ready to discuss the issue(s) as openly and honestly as possible. Dishonesty fundamentally interferes with the therapeutic process, and being unwilling or unable to start working on changes will make the process more difficult.
On the other hand, you may be ready for therapy if you’re tired of living a certain way, if symptoms of an issue like depression have begun to interfere with other areas of life like work or home life, if your marriage is having problems, or if you simply feel ready to grow as a person. Those who are either struggling with substance abuse or are already sober may also find tremendous value in the support and insight of a professional.
E-therapy may be especially attractive for people with busy schedules, limited mobility or transportation, or those who have already tried to find a face-to-face therapist only to discover there isn’t one nearby who is taking new clients. For people looking for greater access to therapists for the same (or less) than the hourly rate traditionally charged by brick-and-mortar practices, e-therapy is also a great option. Finally, it is also a great choice for people who may simply want the convenience and privacy of being able to do counseling sessions from the comfort of his or her own home for whatever reason.