Therapy can be an important and healing experience for anyone. But you don’t always have to visit a therapist’s office in person to get the benefits of therapy. In fact, thanks to the advent of widespread telecommunications technology and new advancements for the COVID-19 pandemic, online therapy is more accessible than ever. Not sure whether it’s right for you? Let’s look at seven key benefits of online therapy for mental health.
What Is Online Therapy?
Online therapy, in a nutshell, is similar to traditional or in-office therapy. You sign up for an appointment with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. Then you talk about your day, your feelings, or anything else you like depending on the point of your appointment and your mental health treatment recommendations. The therapist listens to you, offers support and advice, and helps coach you through your thoughts and feelings. Depending on what you need, your therapist may further recommend prescription medications, offer pet therapy to treat PTSD or other conditions, recommend that you try cognitive behavioral therapy, or offer other mental health treatment strategies to assist with your requirements.
The major difference between online and in-person therapy is that the former doesn’t take place in a therapist’s office (for you, at any rate). Instead, you communicate with your chosen therapist via video conferencing software like Skype, Zoom, or something else. You use a webcam and a microphone throughout the therapy session.
What Are the Benefits of Online Therapy?
Even though online therapy doesn’t have you reclining on a couch while a therapist writes on a notepad in front of you, it can still be very effective and results in positive mental health outcomes. In addition, online therapy provides seven distinct benefits of online therapy.
1. Get the Therapist You Want, No Matter Your Location
Firstly, online therapy can be beneficial for those who require mental health assistance because it allows them to choose any therapist they want without considering the location. If, for example, you find an excellent therapist who works in New York City, but you live in California, you might still be able to work with them. Provided that the therapist is covered under your insurance, you can simply account for the three-hour time difference and receive invaluable mental health support each time an appointment rolls around.
Note that this provides an ancillary benefit in the form of reduced travel time. When you sign up for online therapy, you don’t have to waste time traveling to or from your therapist’s practice. You can just sit down at your computer, sign into your videoconferencing portal, and get started with your appointment whenever it works for you.
2. Accessibility if You Have Limitations
Similarly, if you have mobility limitations due to a physical or mental disability, you can still get mental health support from an online therapist. Your online therapist can schedule your appointments at the ideal times for you, all without you having to sacrifice the quality of your appointments or mental health assistance. You don’t have to get in a car, go into an office, or handle any other aspects of traveling out of your home.
3. Often More Affordable
In addition to the above benefits, online therapy for mental health can be advantageous due to its lower potential cost. Some therapists charge the same amount for online and in-person visits. However, therapists who only treat online patients may charge lower average rates overall. That’s because they have fewer overhead costs to treat their clients — for example, online-only therapists don’t have to rent full offices.
Because of this, many online therapists offer affordable treatment alternatives to those not covered by health insurance or those with other financial difficulties. If you do have insurance, rest assured that your policy likely covers online therapy now, even if it didn’t previously. Remember, this benefit isn’t guaranteed. But depending on your therapist or insurance, you may very well get the mental health support you need for less money with online therapy versus in-person therapy.
4. More Comfortable Than Traditional Therapy
Perhaps the most important benefit of online therapy for mental health is increased comfort. Many therapy patients find that online therapy is superior to in-person therapy in terms of comfort because:
- They can go to their therapy appointments from the comfort of their own homes. They don’t have to go outside their comfort zones. This is an important benefit for those who are receiving mental health support for one or more mental health disorders
- They don’t have to speak to anyone other than their therapist, like a receptionist or assistant
- They can enjoy a beverage or snack in the middle of their therapy
- They can rest assured that they can get back to their daily routine or important tasks as soon as their appointment is over
For many, simply having a therapy appointment in a familiar environment like your bedroom can work wonders for improving how effective therapy is. Therapists appreciate the increased comfort inherent in online therapy as well. When their clients are more comfortable, they are more likely to open up and be honest about their thoughts and feelings. That’s an invaluable advantage for a therapist who needs as accurate information as possible to make proper recommendations and prescriptions.
5. Convenient Appointment Times
As touched on above, online therapy is beneficial since you can work with any therapist who provides online services. But this skirts around an additional benefit: extra convenience for appointment times. No longer are therapists required to have their appointments during standard office hours or in the thin stretches of time after the traditional workday to allow for people who visit them after work. With online therapy, you can sign up for a therapy appointment any time you and your therapist decide it is best. Because it only takes a few minutes to connect with your therapist over the Internet, appointment times are further not limited by travel requirements or other prep elements.
6. Increased Privacy
Many people appreciate online therapy for mental health reasons because it offers them increased privacy. What if, for example, you were to drive to a therapist’s office only to find that a neighbor is visiting the same therapist as you? This can’t happen if you stick with online therapy. With online therapy, no one has to know that you visit a therapist if that matters to you. This can be important for your reputation and for your own comfort.
Of course, licensed online therapists are still beholden to the same privacy restrictions and moral requirements as their in-person counterparts. For example, online therapists are not allowed to share your information with anyone, including the police, for any reason. So long as you protect your Wi-Fi network with a good antivirus firewall and other digital security measures, online therapy can be much more secure than in-person therapy in more ways than one!
7. Possibly Greater Insights for the Therapist
Lastly, online therapy for mental health could benefit your therapist and, therefore, you by proxy. Since online therapy requires you to use a webcam, you can potentially show your therapist your home environment, like your bedroom, kitchen, or other areas if you and your therapist agree that this may be helpful.
When your therapist sees how you live, they can help you understand facets of your personality or aspects of your habits that could impact your mental wellness. This additional insight could be invaluable when prescribing the right treatment strategies for your needs. While it’s not a guaranteed benefit, it is an important potential you shouldn’t discount when selecting between an online or in-person therapist.
Ultimately, online therapy – just like regular therapy – isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve already tried in-person therapy and found it to be less than ideal, give online therapy a try. You might be surprised at just how helpful the right therapist communicating with you over the Internet can be.
Of course, there are alternatives to therapy if you want to pursue greater everyday wellness. 1AND1’s resources, ranging from recipes to yoga tutorials and more, can help you achieve your mental and physical wellness goals in no time.
Efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy in patients with bipolar disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials | NCBI
Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial | ScienceDirect