There are times in our lives when we need some help in the form of therapy. It could be a result of a break-up, the end of our marriage or just some issue that we need to work through with the help of counseling. For some, conventional office-based therapy might be inaccessible for various reasons (cost, location, etc.), but there is another option. While most of us know about the conventional therapy session in an office with a counsellor, psychologist, or a psychiatrist, online therapy services are emerging that offer convenience and service from the same level of professionalism encountered face-to-face in an office setting. Several online therapy services have undergone evaluation by consumer advocates, and other agencies have posted fairly comprehensive lists of online therapy outlets, such as the one available at Lifeline Canada Foundation. It should be noted some of the services listed in these links are only available in certain countries.
Online therapy might not be for everyone, but there are many reasons that online therapy may be worth considering for you. Please keep in mind that online therapy is not meant to replace conventional therapy, but from some people, it might be the best—or only—option. Here are some reasons why it might be for you:
Convenience: The convenience of online therapy is apparent as both the patient and the therapist can schedule the sessions any time of day. Having sessions from your home, you are also in a very comfortable setting and can have sessions at night, weekends, or whatever times work for you and your therapist.
More Affordable: Online therapy is much less expensive than office-based therapy and could be an option for those whose health insurance doesn’t cover therapy. However, many insurance companies do cover online therapy. Make sure to contact your insurance company to see if this is an option.
Easier Access for the Physically Impaired: Those who are unable to leave the house due to physical or mental illness now have an option to receive therapy in a more comfortable environment without even having to leave the house.
Remote living: If you live in a remote area, online therapy could be a great way to receive therapy. For those who live outside a city location, it can be very difficult for them to drive, sometimes for several hours, for a one-hour therapy session, and there is a good chance there might not be a therapist in their location.
Takes the stigma out: Some individuals who want therapy but are uncomfortable going to a traditional office setting may do better with online therapy than with no help at all. A person who is seeking counseling isn’t comfortable speaking in-person with a professional might do well with this form of therapy.
Additionally, some individuals might not feel comfortable seeing other patients when either waiting for counseling or entering the office. As there is no office in online counseling, it is a practical alternative allowing the opportunity to by-pass the stress of witnessing or sitting with other patients.
More forms of communication: With online therapy, you can get therapy via email, texts, a quick phone call or video. The choices of communication are much more convenient.
While online therapy is a viable and convenient alternative to conventional therapy, there are some important things to consider. You should make sure to only talk to therapists that are licensed within your jurisdiction.
It is also important that your online therapist adheres (in the US) to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), just as any in-person therapist is required to do. In Canada, health information is regulated provincially. If you live in British Columbia, information about how your personal health information must be protected by counsellors or psychologists in private practice can be found at http://www.healthinfoprivacybc.ca/files/forms/privacy_faq_brochure.pdf .
Of course, as with any therapy, you want to have a good rapport with your online therapist and feel that the treatment is helping so that it can be a valuable and helpful experience for both of you.
Finally, there remains the question of whether online mental health interventions are effective. Short of conducting a thorough review of the emerging research on this topic, a list of several recent studies can be found by visiting this link on Google Scholar.
I want to acknowledge the assistance of www.consumersadvocate.org for providing an earlier submission on this topic.