Mental therapy is more accepted than it has ever been and no longer bears the stigma that it used to. With the whole world shifting to the web, so has the therapy world, and COVID-19 helped quite a bit with this process. Most people found it traumatizing to cope with the new reality of staying at home, many losing their financial security on the way, and thus, stress, depression and anxiety became more noticeable, as well as domestic violence cases. Moreover, going to see a therapist was prohibited or restricted for a long period of time. As a result, the popularity of online therapy platforms surged recently.
But is online therapy legitimate? Many people ask themselves this exact question. The definite answer is YES. If you choose a well-known online therapy platform, you can be sure that all the therapists on it are licensed and legit, and the platforms themselves are constantly checking the performance of their own therapists, weeding the ones generating bad reviews and low revenues.
However, online therapy is not exactly the same as face-to-face therapy, and it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this media when wanting to start therapy. Read the list below that compares it to the more traditional face-to-face, in-clinic therapy sessions.
Pros of online therapy:
The social stigma or awkwardness is eliminated
Even though seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of, some patients still feel shame and are afraid to run into people they know when they visit their therapist. Even if you’re not ashamed, you might don’t want to bring it up and start a conversation about it, as most people prefer not to “wash their dirty laundry in public.” Online therapy websites allow you to enjoy therapy from the convenience, comfort and safety of your home.
Online therapy is extremely convenient
The fact that you can take it from anywhere (and sessions in “strange” hours are also possible, depending on your and your therapist’s time zone and therapist availability) makes it a preferred option for many people. It’s easier to fit into any schedule, as you avoid commuting back and forth, the parking fees, and such. We live in a fast world, and sometimes the ability to take an hour break and have a therapy session from home, a hotel room, or one’s office is just priceless.
A wider variety of therapists makes it easier to find a match
You’ll be matched with a therapist according to your preferences, and the good thing is that if you don’t feel it’s a good match, you could change the therapist to another one. On some websites, you can choose or request a certain therapist, and you can even find patients’ reviews on the therapists themselves. Therefore, it’s much easier to find a suitable therapist you feel comfortable with. Also, if you’re not happy with one online platform, you can always change it to another, and there are many reviews available, helping you to find the best online therapy sites.
Cheaper than face to face therapy
In most cases, online therapy tends to be cheaper than face-to-face therapy. The reason isn’t pinned in competition but in the costs the therapists themselves save. Like in any other business, the rent, marketing efforts, commuting, secretary and staff costs, insurance, and any other cost that is paid, is eventually embodied in the price. Online therapy changed the game, and like a lot of technological improvements, the end customer enjoys a lower price. Traditional face-to-face sessions cost $150 on average, while online therapy costs $70 on average. That’s about 50% difference and makes therapy much more accessible to most people.
All online platforms support chatting and even live chats with your therapist as part of the service you pay for with no additional costs. It increases the interaction and support you get from your therapist and allows you to get assistance without waiting for a week for your therapy session. This is a very powerful service that most independent therapists just don’t give.
Cons of online therapy:
It can feel impersonal, and body language might be overlooked
The physical distance does create barriers. It’s harder to talk with a friend or loved one on the phone sometimes, and you sometimes prefer to see the person you want to talk to in person. It allows her to pick up on his body language and many subtleties. There’s an argument of how much human communication is actually nonverbal, and most experts agree it’s between 70%-93%. Examples of nonverbal communication can be posture, eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions, and more. As you can tell, many of these can be easily overlooked on a video call.
Online therapy is less intimate
Even though some patients feel more comfortable in online sessions compared to face-to-face sessions, it’s reported that people still feel more intimate when they share the same space together. Intimacy is important for many people and is perceived as an integral part of therapy. There is no doubt that online therapy is compromising it.
Online therapy is less effective and even unadvised for patients with serious psychiatric illnesses
When it comes to hard cases of psychosis, suicidal thoughts and even cases of serious addiction, a therapist needs every edge he can have to analyze the patient’s situation. In-person therapy has been proven superior, as human intervention can be necessary. A therapist must be able to assess the patient’s body language, as denial and repression of feelings is common in such cases, as well as high levels of unawareness.
Some insurance companies don’t cover online therapy platforms
Some health insurances cover psychological therapy but don’t cover online therapy. It depends on the insurance company and state, and you should check which is the best insurance company for mental health coverage when you buy one. Paying for therapy from your own pocket easily adds up to the monthly costs. However, we believe that it’s a matter of time before insurance companies will shift towards online therapy.
Final thoughts on the benefits of online therapy compared to in person therapy
We believe that there’s more positive than negative when it comes to online therapy. In most cases patients are very happy with the service they get, and online therapy is reported to be as successful as in face to face therapy. As long as the patient doesn’t suffer from severe psychotic conditions, online therapy is a powerful tool that will continue growing. We advise people who seek therapy to first try it online, as it can save them a lot of time and money if they find it successful.