Online therapy, mental health treatment conducted over the internet by a mental health counselor, has been an effective and convenient option for years. However, in these days of COVID restricted societies, it has become more of a necessity than an option, that has required a certain amount of adjustment for both clients and counselors.
As a psychologist who has worked more than 25 years as a “traditional” face to face counselor, I was sceptic at first. Would the client and I really be able to establish a proper connection in cyber space? How about my ability to decipher body language in a Zoom meeting? Would I be able to provide sufficient emotional support behind the screen to a client in emotional distress? I was leaning into the cons, while the obvious pros murmured unconvincingly in the background.
My first online session didn’t do much to convince me otherwise: problems connecting to the internet, failure to get the sound up and my uneasiness with the new “office” made it a fail. However, after a few more sessions things started to flow. Soon it became a comfortable routine, and the client was just as “real” in this setting. I even had clients who tried both setting, face to face and online, and then opted to continue online. The pros were starting to outweigh the cons and why so?
Privacy: Most, if not all, clients highly value privacy when seeking mental health treatment. Online therapy offers additional privacy, as there’s no need to go to an office, where one may potentially meet other clients or therapists. This is particularly comfortable for a client who might leave the office feeling emotional and in need of alone time.
Time and logistics: No time (or cost) lost in transport and a session can even be squeezed in during lunch hour at work or after work at the office. Even the car can occasionally be used as an office!
Accessibility: Any one with a reliable internet connection can reach an online meeting. This means that people living in remote locations, with disabilities or with children to look after can now easily have access to treatment.
Convenience: Online therapy done comfortably from your home, often offers you the possibility to have sessions that fit into your own schedule as opposed to standard office hours.
Location: There is no location! You can chose your preferred therapist regardless of the country they’re residing in. Since working in several different countries over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to provide continuous therapy to my clients worldwide, even though we are
countries and time zones apart.
Confidentiality. Keeping your personal information private is always a major priority in psychotherapy, but online counseling adds a layer of complexity, especially when the therapist sends information and exercises to the client opposed to handing it over in private. It’s an issue that should be addressed between the client and the therapist.
Insurance. Some, but not all, insurance companies will accept to cover online treatment. However, in these corona times, insurance companies have also been needing to adjust their demands. Still, checking with your insurance company can keep your mind at rest.
Not in-treatment. People who are in acute distress, suicidal, or who have a serious psychiatric illness will need immediate in-treatment or in-person care and e-therapy can not provide sufficient assistance in these cases. However, if you’re already in an online treatment, your counselor will be able to help you with directing you to the necessary institutions.
COVID. Last but not least, online therapy offers the obvious and 100% safe option from contracting Covid in the office and avoiding the hassle of quarantine. We recently had a counselor in the office with covid, and afterwards clients and therapists who had been in close contact, myself included, had to be quarantined for a week.
I hope this article has been able to provide a general overview of the pros and cons of online therapy. Personally I’m converted, and a big supporter of online treatment for clients with mild to moderate psychological challenges, and I’d highly recommend anyone who is still scepticsl to give it a try!