Online therapy – is this for me?
This article explores the world of online therapy. It examines and advantages and disadvantages of online therapy and could help you decide if this is something you are interested in.
What is online therapy?
Online therapy refers to counselling which takes place remotely and not ‘face to face’ in an office environment. While some therapists offer email and instant messaging services, the two main ways that online therapy is conducted are using the telephone or a video conferencing system.
What are the advantages of online therapy?
- Your therapist does not need to be local to you. You therefore have a much wider choice of therapists to work with and can therefore choose a therapist who you feel is best suited to your needs.
- You do not need to leave home to have therapy. This can enable you to fit therapy around other areas of your life such as work or caring commitments. If you have a disability which prevents you from leaving the house, online therapy enables you to access the support you need.
- If you are deaf or have hearing problems, video conferencing technology can transcribe the audio into text which can help with communication.
- You don’t have to always be in the same location for each session. If you travel around the country for work, you can access therapy from wherever you are.
- Online therapy can allow you can save time and reduce travelling costs.
- If you choose telephone counselling, you can remain anonymous. Your therapist will not see what you look like and this can give you confidence to be honest and open with your therapist about how you are feeling.
What are the disadvantages of online therapy?
- Online therapy can reduce the opportunity for non-verbal communication to be identified and worked with. With video conferencing, often only the head and shoulders can be seen. When conducting phone therapy, the therapist and client do not see each other at all.
- Online therapy may not be as confidential as face-to-face sessions. If you are accessing therapy from your own home, you may be interrupted or overheard by other people who are in the house.
- Technology can sometimes fail! A good internet and/or phone signal is required for online therapy, and sometimes this will not work. This can mean that therapy sessions are cancelled or delayed.
- Online therapy may not allow you the time and space to process your sessions. One advantage of travelling to see a face-to-face therapist is that the journey time can give you valuable thinking and processing time, both before and after your session.
How does online therapy work?
Online therapy typically follows the same pattern as face-to-face therapy with the following aspects being consistent with both methods:
- You will meet at the same time each week, generally for a 50-minute session.
- The session will adhere to the same rules of confidentiality.
- Generally speaking, the cost of face-to-face and online therapy is similar.
- The therapist will be working from a secure and private location.
Additional factors which the therapist will have to consider will include:
- Which video conferencing platform to use? There are many to choose from including Zoom, Teams, Google Meet etc. to name but a few. The therapist will be confident using their chosen system and will ensure that this is secure.
- In the case of phone sessions, the therapist will decide who makes the initial phone call to the other. It may be that the therapist phones the client, or the client phones the therapist.
- A policy of what to do if (and when) the technology fails. Some therapists may decide to charge of these sessions, some may be happy to re-arrange.
Online therapy has grown in popularity over recent years, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows therapy to be accessed by a wider range of people and I hope that this article has given you some insight into both the advantages and the disadvantages of this approach.