April 29th, 2020

Online therapy is currently serving a necessity. In reality, it does so much more

By Dan Whale

  • Therapy
  • Anxiety

Lockdown has required many people to swap their face-to-face therapy with virtual sessions, but online therapy should not be viewed as just a backup.

Like so many other parts of life, therapy has been largely affected by the current situation we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, it is at this time when many people feel they need to speak to their therapist the most. The conditions of isolation, uncertainty over the future, loss of work and, in some cases, bereavement, are proving to be detrimental for mental health.

Thankfully, there are ‘socially distant’ therapeutic options available. Some providers offer message-based therapy and certain therapists are carrying out sessions over the phone or using Skype. HelloSelf, of course, has its own online video platform.

However, whilst this form of therapy is currently the only way people can speak to their therapist, it shouldn’t be viewed as a temporary, second-best solution. Research suggests online therapy can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy and it also comes with a range of additional advantages.

Online therapy vs face-to-face: What the research says

In 2018 Etzelmuller and colleagues wanted to see if online self-help cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with online video CBT therapy could prove as effective as combining online self-help therapy with face-to-face CBT.

They found that participants not only rated their experience as effective, but as equally as effective as face-to-face treatment.

Furthermore, Berger (2015) conducted a review of studies assessing the therapeutic relationship in internet interventions. His conclusions showed that participants in the studies rated the strength of the ‘therapeutic alliance’ (relationship between therapist and participant) as highly as participants using face-to-face therapy.

Perhaps most importantly, in 2017 a group of researchers (Carlbringer et al) reviewed 20 studies which compared the efficacy of CBT delivered online to face-to-face interventions. They found that online interventions produced an equivalent overall effect when compared to face-to-face therapy. This research suggests it is not just the case that users of online therapy rate it similarly to face-to-face, the outcomes it’s generating are of a similar standard.

It is also important to note that not all the studies included in the sample made use of video calling. The enhanced visual and auditory components of video call arguably add a more human touch to any therapeutic interaction, in that it allows both therapist and member to communicate with each other using body language and tone, although additional research is required in this area.

Initial research therefore suggests that online therapy is, or at least can be, just as effective as face-to-face - and that is before we look into the numerous advantages that online therapy brings with it.

Advantages of online therapy

Whilst modern technology undoubtedly has its flaws and drawbacks, there are certain aspects of online therapy that you cannot get with face-to-face.

Flexibility

Online therapy allows you to choose when, where and how you see your therapist. Having to align your schedule with that of your therapist to find a time appropriate for you both can be tricky. By taking things online, you are both suddenly a lot more available. You may be able to have a session after putting the kids to bed or before you leave for work in the morning.

Accessibility

Online therapy makes tailored, mental health support more accessible to everyone. If you are someone that finds it difficult to leave the house, or perhaps live in a remote location, finding a therapist can be difficult. Finding a therapist that is suited to your needs is harder still, and then there’s the issue of keeping them if you, or they, choose to move. Online therapy can remove all of those obstacles.

Insight

Technology can be used to offer a certain level of insight that cannot reasonably be expected from a therapist in-session. For example, HelloSelf video sessions offer members word clouds and sentiment tracking, with body language analysis to be available in the near future. Members are also able to watch their sessions back, with key moments being highlighted by themselves or their therapist.

Between session support

Despite what you sometimes see in films and television, most therapists will tell you that it’s very rare to suddenly ‘get better’ in sessions. Therapy helps you identify unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving in your day-to-day life and make changes to become your best Self - but the majority of the work is done outside of sessions. Having your therapeutic journey online makes it easier for you to track your progress, set yourself reminders, check notes and more. This saves you trying to cram your week’s experiences into one weekly session with your therapist.

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At HelloSelf we fully appreciate that online therapy is not for everyone, which is why we offer all members the ability to book face-to-face sessions as well as online. We do, however, want everyone to have an accurate impression of what online therapy is and what it can offer.

Our online video platform currently supports of 60 therapists and thousands of members. If you would like to know more about it, please get in touch at hello@helloself.com.

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