Online therapy is one way that I reach my clients and I find this new method of delivering help exciting and one which I believe will eventually change mental health practices beyond belief. I also find this extremely effective and easy to use and there are numerous benefits to utilizing online methods. For example, below are just some of the reasons that people are exploring online therapy :
1. They live in a remote place where counseling services are not available.
2. Are living overseas for school or for business.
3. They live in a small community where everyone knows them, making privacy and confidentiality a challenge.
4. Their work or lifestyle requires a lot of travel making a commitment to therapy difficult or to the other extreme, they are housebound.
5. Finding a local therapist is tough.
6. Online therapy is often cheaper than face to face sessions.
These are all valid reasons but not all mental health professionals are convinced that online therapy really works. I recently followed and contributed to a discussion thread on a mental health website concerning the effectiveness of delivering therapy over the web. Opinions were generally split 50-50 with the major concern being privacy. Are we sure that conversations are not being picked up somewhere else? I am sure that there are therapists delivering online therapy under the worst of conditions but there are also many more who are using state of the art programs that provide secure places and log-ins for meetings and video conferences. Something which will surely develop as time goes on.
So what drives someone to look at this medium? Many of the people who approach me feel that they have been let down or in some cases, abandoned by their local mental health care. While we must look at this in context of patient expectations, this seems to be a major reason. This is where responsibility comes calling. At this stage in the development of online therapy, I always ask my clients if local face-to-face services are available or have they looked into it. One of the advantages of online therapy can also be seen as a disadvantage that services are often delivered globally across time zones but do you really want to be calling the other side of the world in an emergency?The way it stands at the moment is that online therapy should not be seen as a replacement for traditional methods but as a supplement. I have patients who have progressed to web-based therapy after a move or a certain progress has been made in therapy.
Returning to the discussion thread mentioned earlier, it seems that CBT therapists are the ones that seem to be embracing this more than most and one can imagine why. The whole concept of gently probing and challenging negative thought patterns can be done just as easily online as face to face. However, many of them said that they could imagine having to market their practice a bit more if they offered online therapy. Something that didn’t sit well with some of them but as we all know, competition is often good for quality reasons and I am convinced that should online therapy develop in the way I think it will, regulation will quickly follow.
Another challenge is the attitude towards online therapy by the managed care systems and insurance companies. It is hard to believe that they will be quick to embrace online therapy while they have been trying to cut the hours permitted for traditional therapy methods. One can only imagine that it will be the cost factor that will eventually persuade them. I read somewhere the other day that many of them are slowly starting to warm to the idea but they feel much more study is needed before they commit. I guess that is the status quo at the moment, the jury is out. All I can say is that, in my experience it can be very effective under the right conditions.
Please note the following:
- You must be at least 18 years old to engage in online counseling.
- You must not be suicidal or a threat to others.
ONLINE THERAPY IS NOT FOR YOU IF :
- You have serious thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
- You have a chronic mental illness requiring intense treatment.
- You prefer face-to-face therapy and it is available to you.
- You are uncomfortable with computers and keyboards.
If you would like more details on how online therapy could work for you, just drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals,couples, groups and companies