Everything You Need to Know About Online Therapy
What is "Online Therapy"?
Online Therapy isn't new, but the COVID-19 pandemic certainly brought online therapy to the forefront of how mental health treatment is provided. But what is it exactly?
Online Therapy is sometimes referred to as "virtual therapy," "telehealth," or "telemental health." It's where you meet with your therapist online using a secure, HIPAA compliant*** platform. Typically, you'll meet your therapist using video conferencing (like Zoom). It's easy to use and an incredibly convenient way to access care.
***Note: HIPAA compliant means that all your information is encrypted and kept safe from cyber attack.
How Effective is Online Therapy?
Now that you know what it is, you might be interested to know if it works. Traditionally, psychotherapy (i.e. counseling services) have always been offered in-person. Although some providers had already expanded into providing virtual healthcare (think of "tele-doc"), most insurance companies were unwilling to cover the cost of telemental health. With COVID-19, however, all of that changed.
Nowadays, insurance companies are covering the cost of online counseling, making now one of the best times to begin your therapeutic journey. But the question still remains... is it effective? Does online counseling work or is in-person therapy better?
The great news is, the research has shown that virtual therapy is just as effective as in-person services. In fact, Hilty, Ferrer, Parish, Johnston, Callahan, and Yellowlees (2013) conducted a review of several research articles on the effectiveness of telemental health services back in 2013. The results of the review concluded that the effectiveness of virtual therapy treatment was comparable to that of in-person. Essentially, individuals who received therapy in-person had similar results to those who received online counseling.
A more recent research study sought to collect evidence for telehealth in the context of the pandemic. Reay, Looi, and Keightley (2020) found similar results in their study, concluding that telehealth is an effective mode of delivering psychotherapy services.
There are several research articles showing that online counseling is just as effective as traditional in-person therapy for the assessment and treatment of mental health conditions.
So, you can feel confident knowing that, if you decide to pursue telehealth services for yourself, you'll be just fine!
How to Do Online Therapy?
Once you've decided that you want to pursue online counseling, the next question you'll ask yourself is, "How do you do online counseling?" Thankfully, that part is pretty simple!
1. Find Who You Want to Work With- Start off by identifying the therapist you want to work with. Review their website and see if they are providing virtual therapy. If you're not sure, or you have questions about what to do next, contact them.
2. Contact Them - Once you know who you want to work with, it's time to give them a call. Some therapists offer a free phone consultation to discuss your needs, answer questions, and make sure they are a good fit for you. Don't be afraid to request virtual therapy if this is something you're interested in.
In my practice, I offer a free 15-20 minute phone consultation to discuss your needs and see if I'm a good fit for you. You'll get a chance to learn about my expertise and we can discuss what therapy would look like when you work with me.
3. Schedule Your Appointment- Once you've determined that you've found the right therapist, it's time to schedule that first appointment. Remember that, due to the pandemic, therapy services are in extremely high demand. This means that you might need to be flexible with your scheduling options.
Mental health services are no different than going to a doctor's appointment. Make it a priority for yourself to get the care you need. If you have to take a therapy appointment during working hours, consider utilizing your lunch hour or taking sick time for the appointment.
If you need a "doctor's note" for your appointment, ask your therapist about this. I always offer a discreet, work excuse for any of my clients seeing me during working hours.
4. Prepare for Your Appointment - Be sure when it is time for your appointment, you're ready. Unlike receiving care in-person, you'll be responsible for finding a quiet space to meet with your therapist. If you can't take the appointment in your office or home, you might need to get a little creative. Consider some of the following options:
~Book a Room~
Consider reserving a room at the local library, or reserving a conference room or office in your workplace.
~Coordinate with Roommates~
Ask your spouse/roommates to leave for the hour so you can have your appointment.
~Download a Free "White Noise" App~
If you have thin walls in your office or in your home, consider downloading a free "white noise" app. Have a device play the white noise outside your door (This is what therapists do for sessions that are in-person).
~Consider Making Your Car a Comfy Space~
Many of my clients that are working professionals take their lunchbreak in their car and join me for their therapy session using their phones. Your car can give you a quiet and safe space to join your session. This isn't the most ideal option, but it does work in a pinch!
~Go to a Safe, Outdoor Space~
Many of my clients like taking their therapy sessions outdoors. They'll go for a walk at a local park or campus quad, and take the call using headphones to help increase the "privacy factor" of their sessions. Once again, this is not the most ideal choice, but it works when you're left no other options.
Begin Your Online Counseling Journey
Now that we've gone through all the main points, it's time for you to take that first step on your self-growth journey. Online counseling is an amazing option that produces good results, is convenient, and opens up the possibilities of the awesome providers you can work with.
I hope this article was helpful. And, if you're ready to begin your personal development, and you think I might be a good fit for you, contact me now. I'm happy to chat with you about your specific needs and see how I can help you meet your goals.
Hilty, D.M., Ferrer, D.C., Parish, M.B., Johnston, B., Callahan, E.J., & Yellowlees, P.M. (2013). The effectiveness of telemental health: A 2013 review. Telemedicine and e-Health, 16, 444-454. doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2013.0075
Reay, R.E., Looi, J.C., & Keightley, P. (2020). Telehealth mental health services during COVID-19: Summary of evidence and clinical practice. Australasian Psychiatry, 28, 514-516. doi.org/10.1177/1039856220943032