The pros and cons of online therapy

The pros and cons of online therapy

Online therapy, mental health treatment delivered over the Internet by a mental health counselor, has been an effective and convenient option for years. However, in these days of societies with COVID restrictions, this has become more of a necessity than an option, requiring some adjustment for clients and advisors alike.

As a psychologist who has worked for over 25 years as a “traditional” face-to-face counselor, I was skeptical at first. Will the client and I really be able to establish a proper relationship in cyberspace? How about my ability to decipher body language in a Zoom meeting? Would I be able to provide sufficient emotional support behind the screen to a client in emotional distress? I leaned toward the cons while the obvious pros mumbled unconvincingly in the background.

My first online session didn’t do much to convince me otherwise: problems connecting to the Internet, a failure to turn up the volume, and my uneasiness with the new “office” made it a failure. After a few more sessions, however, things took off. It soon became a comfortable routine and the client was just as “real” in this setting. I’ve even had clients try both settings, face-to-face and online, and then choose to continue online. The pros were starting to outweigh the cons and why?

The Professionals

Confidentiality: Most, if not all, clients value privacy highly when seeking mental health treatment. Online therapy offers additional privacy as you do not need to go to an office where you may meet other clients or therapists. This is especially convenient for a client who may leave the office emotional and in need of some alone time.

Time and logistics: No time (or expense) wasted in transport and the session can even be squeezed in during lunch at work or after work at the office. Even the car can sometimes be used as an office!

Effectiveness: Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective in treating mental health issues like depression, anxiety disorders, and mild to moderate addiction.

Accessibility: Anyone with a reliable internet connection can access an online meeting. This means that people living in remote locations, with disabilities or with children to care for can now easily access treatment.

Convenience: Online therapy, done from the comfort of your home, often offers you the opportunity to have sessions that fit into your own schedule, as opposed to standard office hours.

Location: No location! You can choose your preferred therapist regardless of their country of residence. Having worked in several different countries over the years, I have had the pleasure of being able to provide continuous therapy to my clients all over the world, even though we

countries and time zones.

The cons

Confidentiality. Keeping your personal information confidential is always a top priority in psychotherapy, but online counseling adds a layer of complexity, especially when the therapist sends information and exercises to the client rather than delivering them privately. This is an issue that needs to be resolved between the client and the therapist.

Insurance. Some, but not all, insurance companies will accept to cover online treatment. In these times of the corona, however, insurance companies also had to adjust their requirements. However, checking with your insurance company can give you peace of mind.

Not during treatment. People who are in acute distress, suicidal or have a serious psychiatric illness will need immediate treatment or personal care and electronic therapy cannot provide sufficient help in these cases. However, if you are already in online treatment, your consultant will be able to help direct you to the necessary facilities.

COVID. Last but not least, online therapy offers the obvious and 100% safe option of catching Covid in the office and avoiding the hassles of quarantine. We recently had a consultant in the office with covid and then clients and therapists who were in close contact, myself included, had to be quarantined for a week.

I hope this article was able to provide an overview of the pros and cons of online therapy. Personally, I am a convert and a big supporter of online treatment for clients with mild to moderate psychological problems, and I highly recommend anyone who is still skeptical to give it a try!

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