Online therapy is undergoing a huge surge in popularity. Here are some reasons why increasing numbers of people are seeking support via the internet…
For many people, the idea of jumping onto their laptop for a lunchtime chat with a therapist is very appealing in terms of time and convenience. Yet for others, there are understandable fears and concerns. They may worry that online therapy won’t match the experience of being face-to-face in a room with a therapist and as a result, will be less effective.
However, a growing body of evidence shows that internet counselling can be just as helpful as its in-person equivalent (and in some cases, even more so). What’s more, virtual appointments are becoming easier to access than ever before with increasing numbers of therapists offering this option. Previously, it was thought that therapies such as EMDR would be impossible to carry out online but they have actually been working effectively, with many innovative digital tools being developed to enhance the process.
This is due in part to the Covid-19 outbreak, which caused online therapy to rapidly transition into an essential service for meeting people’s mental health needs. With strict social distancing in place, in-person support was all but impossible during lockdown and internet alternatives came to the forefront. This offered a lifeline to people who were experiencing issues like depression, addiction or relationship breakdown, not to mention the fallout from losses like bereavement or business collapse.
And research indicates that the digital approach can succeed. For instance, two separate studies in 2014 showed that online therapy was demonstrably effective at treating depression and anxiety respectively. And a 2018 study by the Journal of Psychological Disorders showed that online CBT therapy was just as effective at treating major depression, panic disorder, generalised anxiety and social anxiety. This is good news for anyone who would prefer to speak to a therapist over their laptop, tablet or phone.
It is also worth bearing in mind that ‘online therapy’ doesn’t just have to just mean video calls. Phone therapy is also an alternative, plus MTA offers a live chat option that can be particularly appealing to younger clients, or those who feel that they express themselves better via text. In short, the digital sphere opens up a whole new set of possibilities for how therapy can be carried out. What’s more, it’s also possible to have a blend of in-person or online sessions if you would prefer that.
With this in mind, here are six key benefits of doing therapy online:
1 - It’s more flexible and convenient
For some people, travelling to therapy appointments can be a logistical challenge. Those with busy lifestyles, or who work shifts, or who live in rural areas might find it tricky to fit therapy into their schedule. Appointments can also sometimes involve long commutes, meaning arriving at the session tired and stressed.
But with online therapy you can simply have a session from the comfort of your couch, car or even a quiet room in your workplace. Suddenly, your therapist is just a few keyboard clicks away rather than a trek across town.
2 - It’s more accessible and inclusive
Additionally, some people might struggle to attend counselling appointments for reasons of physical ability, age, health or mental wellbeing. This could include restricted mobility, conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, or issues like anxiety, agoraphobia or panic attacks, all of which can make it challenging to go to a therapist. New parents (especially nursing mothers), may also find it difficult to attend appointments, as might people caring for relatives.
Yet with digital sessions, more people can access the support, expertise and connection that they need without worrying that the journey to the therapist’s office will put them under added stress. Added to this, couples or families who live apart can now participate in relationship or family therapy much more easily.
3 - It’s more private
Over the past decade or so, therapy has dropped its earlier stigma and is now seen as a positive, constructive and responsible choice for managing wellbeing.
That said, many individuals still prefer to keep their therapy journey as private as possible for various reasons. This might include being a public figure, being from a cultural background where therapy is frowned upon or simply wanting to keep their personal circumstances to themselves. As a result, they can feel anxious about the idea of bumping into people they know in the waiting room of a therapist’s office or when entering and exiting the building. This can be a particular concern if they live in a smaller town where there might be less variety of therapy services.
Obviously, this isn’t an issue at all with online therapy as clients don’t have to travel any further than their sofa. That said, it is worth acknowledging that individual life circumstances can play a part in this. For instance, doing therapy from home can be tricky for some as they might share spaces with family members. If this is the case, then in-person therapy may be a better option.
4 - You will have a much wider choice of therapist
Up until recently, people were fairly limited in choosing a therapist as they usually had to see someone local. This could often lead to frustrations such as long waiting lists, challenges in finding the right personality match, difficulty with accessing more specialised professionals of a particular background or experience, lack of access to more niche forms of therapy or therapists (such as art therapy or psychodynamic), requirements for GP referrals for treatments like EMDR, or prohibitive costs in their part of the country.
But with online therapy you can simply search for the therapist that suits you best, choosing from a range of methods, qualifications and specialisms. You will no longer be restricted by factors like location or availability and can simply focus on finding the right person for you.
5 - It can lead to a better therapeutic relationship
Since lockdown began, therapists have noticed that some clients actually seem more relaxed, open and candid taking part in video call sessions from home. For instance, they might be more comfortable showing their true selves or sharing difficult information. Some people also find being in the room with a therapist too intense, so having the session online can feel more manageable.
Certainly, when sitting comfortably in the familiar space of your own living room it can be a lot easier to relax. Added to this, some therapists have noticed that seeing a client in their home actually gives them a better insight into the whole person. As a result, they might gain a better idea of how to meet their needs.
Added to this, if you have a challenging or emotional therapy session then you are already in the comfort and safety of your own home. This means that you will have plenty of options around you for immediate post-session soothing, such as taking a bath, making a cup of tea or playing with a pet. And at home, it’s also much easier to immediately start practising wellbeing techniques learned in the therapy session, like deep breathing or grounding exercises.
6 - It is ideal for social distancing.
Right now, there is a lot of reason to be hopeful that the post-Covid era is in sight. However, many people may still need to social distance for quite a while yet, particularly if they have an underlying medical condition. Thankfully, with online therapy you can still take care of your mental health while doing so. So whether you need support with anxiety, trauma or low mood, social distancing doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting help.
Of course, some people will always prefer being in the same room as their therapist and that is completely fine — the key is to work out what is right for you. It is also worth noting that for some issues (such as suicidality or psychosis), virtual counselling may not necessarily be suitable.
However, what online therapy offers is a sense of choice, so that you no longer have to worry about restrictions like schedules, waiting lists, location, costs, privacy, mobility or social distancing. This means that you can always find someone supportive to talk to, whether they are in the same city as you or halfway across the globe. For this reason, no matter what challenges you are facing right now, you never have to feel that you are alone.
Interested in trying online therapy via video call or live chat? Browse MTA’s accredited, world-class therapists and book an appointment today. Or if you prefer in-person sessions, we offer those too.
Explore our collection of trusted, experienced therapists, and start your journey to feeling better.
My Therapy Assistant changes to Lumo Health, reflecting our enhanced all-in-one mental well-being platform for businesses.