“Modern” online therapy is relatively new, because the Internet is still relatively young. But many professionals have used technology for more than a century to treat patients who are far away – they called this technology “the telephone.” Telephone consultation in talk therapy has been acceptable for many years, and more modern telehealth services have been in use for a variety of health conditions for more than two decades. There isn’t a huge body of supporting research around all forms of online therapy – but there is some, and it is quite promising. You will find some online resources in S2S.
Online therapy can be delivered in a few different ways. There is video therapy (where someone might Skype into a session with you), chat or text-based therapy (like having a conversation in Facebook messenger), phone therapy, and any mix of those services. Some providers offer exclusively online therapy. You may be able to find a provider who can mix online and offline sessions (so they see you in person infrequently but check in using the Internet.)
Online therapy can be attractive for several reasons.
- It can be less expensive than in-person therapy.
- It can be convenient if you can’t afford transportation or if your therapist is far away.
- It can be less embarrassing, if you are uncomfortable that you might be seen going into an office for therapy.
- It’s convenient. You can work around the rest of your schedule, and you don’t have to get dressed up (although we recommend wearing something appropriate for video chatting).
However, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Just like with in-person therapy, you may not get a good fit for a therapist. It’s okay to ask for a change.
- Some things don’t translate well over text or video. You lose a lot of nuance in body language and tone of voice in text. And even though video helps, you might experience issues with lighting or sound.
- There are a lot of providers out there, so it can be hard to find the right one. You’re going to need to vet the information.
- Payment can be complicated. You may have to sign up in advance for sessions, or pay monthly to use the service, and the provider may or may not take insurance.
There are other mental health services and supports in addition to therapy that you may also receive online. These include working with or talking to a peer support specialist, life coach, or person who has received training on how to support others. Whether they are working alongside a mental health professional or not, these individuals can be helpful and valuable professional resources for you, but they are not considered to be a substitute for therapy with a licensed professional therapist.
In addition to online therapy itself, you can also find a lot of online therapy-based tools out there. Usually these are tools or worksheets adapted from therapeutic techniques. They might be interactive modules or lessons. For example, from the area of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you might find a resource worksheet or app you can use to help you list your feeling and what you can do with them. While, again, these do not substitute for therapy, they can introduce and orient you to some accepted therapeutic techniques and help you demystify what might happen when you meet with a therapist. They can also help you decide if these are tools and techniques that you will find helpful when you do search for therapy later on.