With the backing of multiple high-profile celebrities and a marketing push, online therapy platforms are growing exponentially in size. Whilst many of us are familiar with what online therapy is by now (the clue is in the name), there’s still a certain confusion over their effectiveness – particularly in comparison to traditional live sessions.
With that in mind, let’s explore online counselling pros and cons relative to traditional live sessions.
Pros of online counselling
Studies suggest it’s just as effective as live sessions
The key concern over online counselling was if they’re less effective than live sessions. Whilst they can always compete on price and value, it’s not good news if they’re proven to be less effective (as then their use case is only for people without much money).
There are many studies finding that the efficacy and effectiveness of counselling sessions are not affected by the medium of communication. Thus, telehealth is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.
Research is on-going and there will no doubt be caveats (such as ineffective e-therapy by platforms with less-than-qualified therapists). But the conclusion is that as long as the firm is credible with licensed therapists, the effectiveness of the counselling is not in jeopardy.
Easier to start and easier to continue
Another huge advantage that online counselling platforms have over live sessions is that it’s more accessible. Starting therapy is a huge step for many. Whether it’s the stigma of it, the admission that one needs help, the social awkwardness of meeting with a professional, or simply the physical effort it takes to get to an office or cafe.
All of these factors preventing someone from going to therapy are significantly diminished with online platforms. Signing up is pretty much anonymous, and it can be done from the safety of our own home. No one will spot us, we can turn our phone off if we decide against it last-minute, and it’s a much easier way to take that first step.
Beyond this, it’s cheaper too. Many cannot afford traditional therapy, but such online counselling platforms are very cheap. When looking through the reviews of online therapy sites, we can see that some are drastically cheaper than what therapy is stereotyped to cost.
It has been proven that telehealth has higher retention rates than traditional face-to-face counselling, too. The accessibility of being able to message at any point during the day means that the client is more likely to stick around. It also means we do not have to stop having sessions because we have traveled somewhere for work or going on holiday.
Relatable and versatile
Mobile phones are simply the dominant way to communicate in 2021. This is how many young people wish to talk, via text, and it’s what they’re comfortable with. Arguably, it’s what they’re better at too, which is important when accurately expressing oneself.
Of course, we’re not all the same, and for those who prefer talking and/or seeing the other person’s face during the conversation – this is possible too! Online counselling platforms simply offer a variety of ways to communicate, meaning the client has more choice – and thus more opportunity to feel comfortable.
Cons of online counselling
Privacy and cybersecurity
A hugely important aspect of therapy is the promise of utter confidentiality. The only way some people can speak openly is because they know their therapist will never repeat the conversation no matter the circumstance. Of course, online therapists agree to the same principles.
However, one area that the professionals involved have no control over is the technology used to deliver the messages. If one is texting as their means of communication, this data must be delivered through servers and stored on the phone. This opens up the potential for security risks such as cyberattacks or simply leaving one’s phone unlocked.
This can mostly be overcome by having video call sessions, but there are still no guarantees unlike with a face-to-face conversation in a professional office.
Serious psychiatric illnesses
For people suffering from serious psychiatric illnesses, online therapy isn’t quite involved enough to treat it. Simply texting or having remote conversations isn’t enough to tackle more serious illnesses, as they require more direct treatment.
However, an online therapist can be a good stepping stone and, if they know of (or suspect) such a serious illness, they will likely advise the client to visit an appropriate professional. It’s still important to understand the limitations of remote communication, though. Of course, some therapists like being able to read the client’s body language, facial expressions, and so on to get a better picture of what’s going on, too.
Health insurance coverage
This is dependent on the country and health insurance provider but it’s possible that online counselling platforms are not covered. There are instances where being referred to a counsellor for live sessions is free (either Government provided or via health insurance coverage), however, online platforms are almost always private and thus not covered by some health insurances.
This is something that will differ from person to person, and it still doesn’t take away the low-cost advantage that online counselling often has in many other scenarios.
Conclusion: Online therapy vs live therapy
To conclude, online therapy is proven to be as effective as live therapy. Whilst some people may prefer live sessions, there is no doubt that online sessions offer more versatility to meet a variety of needs from the client.
Overall, there are slight security concerns, but not enough to warrant disregarding the larger, reputable providers (as shown on the online therapy reviews). Online therapy, even if it fails to fully treat someone from start to finish, proves to be an incredibly valuable stepping stone. Something that’s easy to sign up to, cheap, and can be a way to begin a long and healthy journey of therapy.
Speaks from heart, always too passionate and driven by emotions. Spins the words with kindness & sharpness, intriguing your ever-inscrutable minds.