Online Therapy: How Effective is it?
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Throughout the challenging two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, online therapy has been lifesaving for many. Despite physical isolation, people have been able to receive the mental health support they need from the safety of their own homes. In many cases, this has been a buffer to protect us from some of the negative effects the strain of these years has placed on our mental health. In some cases, this has been the difference between life and death.
How Effective is Online Therapy?
Studies over the last 10 years have shown that online therapy elicits comparable improvements in mental health symptoms as in-person therapy for a wide variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction, stress, and trauma. Interestingly, a more recent systematic review by Luo and colleagues in 2020, which included over 1600 participants, indicated that online therapy may even be more effective. This is likely reflective of the rapid and continuous advancements that video conferencing and online platforms have seen, especially in the last few years.
Client empowerment has been identified as a key contributor to the effectiveness of online therapy. As a client, you can make more flexible choices on where and when to take your therapy sessions. For example, you can choose to be in your own safe and comfortable space, rather than adapting to a clinic setting, and slot in sessions at convenient times throughout your day. Both can provide a greater sense of control and engagement with therapy. In addition, fewer scheduling conflicts, less travel time, and ease of access can significantly reduce stress and enhance therapy effectiveness.
Research also shows that the enhanced privacy of online therapy can reduce hesitations around mental health stigma and is associated with decreased inhibition. This makes it more likely for individuals to reach out when they need support and helps them to open up early on in the therapy process. Thus, a strong therapeutic relationship may develop sooner, and core issues may be addressed faster and more effectively.
What Challenges Remain in Online Therapy?
Three main challenges remain in online therapy: logistics, focus, and security.
A stable internet connection is needed to ensure a smooth and consistent therapeutic experience. Further, access to a private space is crucial to ensure confidentiality and create a sense of safety. These things are not always available to everyone and sometimes a little bit of creativity is required to achieve these. This is something you can bring up with your therapist, so you can find solutions together.
Being in separate spaces can feel like distance. Our brains scan people for non-verbal cues which can help with emotional attunement and communication. Some of this information may not be attainable in an online format, which can reduce our sense of connection. As a result, you may find yourself getting distracted more easily, be tempted to check your messages, or follow up on notifications that pop up. This distraction can be augmented if you are working from home and are getting fatigued from too much screen time. There are a few easy ways to help maintain focus during your therapy session, including turning off notifications, spending 10 minutes prior to your appointment gathering your thoughts, and using features offered by online platforms to create a collaborative environment. For a more extensive list of ways to enhance your online therapy experience, please check out our guidelines here [Online Therapy: How to Get the Most out of It].
Ensuring data privacy can be more challenging as online communications and digital footprints may be traced. Many reputable video conferencing platforms use high-level secure encryption and provide informative security and privacy statements. This reduces the risk of illegitimate third-party access. You can discuss any concerns you may have with your therapist and find out more about what online provider they are using.
Give it a Try…
Since first starting out, online therapy has swiftly progressed and has shown high levels of effectiveness in improving mental health symptoms. In particular, it provides clients with greater convenience, engagement, and control over their therapy experience. During the current Omicron outbreak, we are offering online sessions to enable therapy continuity and ensure you can continue to receive the support you need and want. If you would like to schedule your consultation, please book here .