Online therapy, also called distance or internet therapy, is a type of mental health counseling that uses a variety of internet or phone based communication mediums. Despite much suspicion from mental health professionals, most current research suggests that online therapy can be every bit as effective as face-to-face therapy — in most situations. If you’ve been considering talking to a therapist, here’s a look at 4 ways online therapy might be appropriate for you.
1. Getting to a counselor’s office is problematic for you.
Many small towns or rural areas have particularly limited mental health services. With online therapy, talking to a counselor in another city can be a lot easier, more convenient, and less time consuming. Even if you have a plethora of psychologists nearby, it can be difficult to actually get to their office — and this can be a great excuse to put off counseling. Whether you’re homebound, don’t have transportation, or just have a really busy schedule, having access to therapy on your phone or computer can take away those excuses and get you help faster and more easily.
2. Talking through your issues is especially difficult for you.
Admittedly, online counseling does pose some ethical issues and limits your counselor’s ability to analyze your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. However, for some patients this anonymity is exactly what makes online counseling an improvement over face-to-face therapy. When you don’t feel watchful eyes on you, it’s often easier to talk about things that can feel shameful — like addiction or sexual abuse. This is especially true in a culture so comfortable with text messaging or emailing.
3. You’re looking for a specialist or second opinion that isn’t easily accessible.
Even if your town is filled with mental health clinics, that doesn’t guarantee the kind of counseling you’re looking for is going to be there. Nor does it mean you’ll be able to find a second opinion. With online therapy, you can find a medical specialist that you’re looking for without actually having to travel long distances. Counseling across state lines can have some legal and financial ramifications, but some insurance plans do allow limited coverage for online therapy.
4. Your concerns are not based in a serious psychiatric disorder and do not pose a threat to yourself or others.
Again, talking to someone online can be great for some people. If you’re feeling stressed out, anxious, or overwhelmed, battling addiction, or even just looking for strategies to cope with some personality disorders or issues like depression, you might find chatting online helpful. SMART Recovery, which is a form of addiction counseling, offers online chatting 24/7 and scheduled group counseling — just like face-to-face meetings like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
However, for more intensive psychiatric disorders, face-to-face therapy is necessary in order to study body language for an accurate diagnosis. Similarly, if you’re trying to handle suicidal tendencies, face-to-face therapy is a better option. Even so, no matter what you’re facing, online help is better than none at all.