Online Therapy Advantages and Disadvantages

Online Therapy Advantages and Disadvantages
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To begin with, what is online therapy?

Online therapy, also known as e-therapy, online counseling, teletherapy or cyber-counseling, is a comparatively new development in mental health. In online therapy, psychological advice and support is provided through internet. The services are provided through email, video conferencing, online chat, messaging, or internet phone. It is becoming quite popular among youngsters.

Online therapy allows people to communicate openly and freely with a therapist from wherever they want.  Online counseling utilizes modern technology which allows you to receive counseling via video, email or chat.

At the same time what is also true is that online therapy can never replace traditional therapy. . While online therapists cannot diagnose or treat mental illness online, they can offer guidance and advice to people experiencing problems in relationships, work, or life. Despite this limitation, online therapy is becoming quite popular. It offers mental health professionals another way of providing services to clients. Online counseling isn’t right in every situation and for every individual, but it does serve a suitable therapeutic need to those that otherwise might not seek help.

How Does Online Therapy Work?

Online counseling or online therapy can take on many forms. It allows you to receive counseling via video, Skype, phone, email or instant messaging. The online clinician should outline the services offered and the fees.

1. E-Mail Counseling

online therapy

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E-mail therapy is the most convenient and helpful way for people to get support for issues that need a speedy response and issues that are not complex. The person sends an email whenever they feel like it and read the reply from their therapist whenever they need to. One of the advantages of email counseling is that the individual has the therapist’s reply and can read it over and over again if he needs reassurance or hope.

Mostly email therapy looks like:

  • The individual pays the fee established by the therapist.
  • He sends an email detailing his issues, problems or questions.
  • The therapist spends time reading and contemplating a helpful response.
  • The therapist usually responds within 24 hours.
  • The email correspondence could be a onetime exchange or continue depending on how the therapist outlines email treatment.

The disadvantages of email counseling are that there are chances of written word being misunderstood, someone else can read the mail and turnaround time for the email response is not immediate.

2. Instant Messaging (IM) or Chat Therapy

online therapy

Real time instant messaging takes place in a chat window with your online therapist. You can use a chat program such as MS Messenger, Skype, Facebook, AIM, Yahoo Messenger or any other online chat programs.

Mostly instant messaging or chat therapy looks like:

  • The individual pays the fee established by the therapist.
  • Both set a time and day for the chat.
  • The individual tells his story on why he needs help and support.
  • The therapist immediately responds.
  • The chat continues for a set period of time.

The disadvantages of instant messaging are that there are chances of written word being misunderstood, and that the individual and therapist could be typing at the same time without each other knowing.

3. Video Counseling

online therapy

Video counseling is very much similar to face to face counseling. You and therapist utilize a video program like; Google Video, Skype, or other online video program and engage in a discussion using the computer’s camera, microphone and speakers.

Mostly video therapy looks like:

  • The individual pays the fee established by the therapist.
  • Both set a day and time for the session.
  • They agree on the video conferencing program
  • They exchange contact information on how to be reached through the video conference program chosen.
  • The session begins at the appointed time.

The disadvantages of video counseling include technical problems such as internet connection.

Advantages of Online Therapy

online therapy

The advantages of online therapy in comparison with traditional counseling are as follows:

  1. Accessibility

Online therapy or online counseling is easy accessible to everyone. People who are living in remote and rural areas may also take benefit out of this, as proper counseling services may not be possible in their area. Those that are physically disabled or not able to leave their home can also easily access such services with all convenience.

  1. Affordability

Online counseling involves the use of internet. Thus, it is more economical and affordable for both the therapist and the individual. Many a times a therapist may not afford to rent commercial space or may not be willing to do so. In such cases, online counseling lowers the overhead costs of investing in capital and property. It also reduces commuting and other administration procedures when compared to traditional counseling services.

  1. Convenience

Online counseling is very flexible and convenient as it gives the chance to both therapist and individual to choose the timings. This flexibility creates an opportunity for the therapist to extend their services globally to a larger geographical region.

  1. Social stigma

Online counseling allows more comfort and privacy as there is no need for to visit the counseling centre. Thus eliminating the social stigma associated with receiving therapy.

  1. Anonymity

Online therapy does not involve face to face contact. Hence it enables the individual to communicate more openly without any concerns for bias of race, gender, age, size or physical appearance. This type of counseling allows a level of anonymity because of the therapist being invisible and non-threatening to the person.

  1. Many forms of communication

Communication through the internet is mostly in written forms like chats, emails, and instant messaging services. It is believed that writing during times of distress is particularly useful for clients as it provides an important approach for emotional healing. At the same time, a written record is also useful for the client to have a reference point for future.

Disadvantages of Online Therapy

Some of the disadvantages of online therapy are:

  • Not desirable for people with serious psychiatric illnesses.
  • Most insurance policies do not cover online therapy.
  • Therapist is limited in seeing facial expressions, vocal signals or body language.
  • Ensuring confidentiality is more problematic on the Internet than traditional therapy.
  • There is no mutual room, or therapeutic office away from the client’s home, work, or car.
  • Technical problems such as internet connection can disrupt sessions.
  • Due to lack of physical presence some individuals may experience a reduction of intimacy, trust and commitment.
  • Unlike traditional psychotherapy, online counseling cannot provide formal diagnosis and treatment.

Online therapy is gaining immense popularity. The Internet is not just for chatting with friends and relatives anymore. It is now helpful in gaining information about mental health, including specifics on disorders, medication, and treatment.

Comments (21)

  • Hi Sonal,
    I have never gone for an online therapy because I consider meeting a doctor personally. But you have shared some important points.
    Thanks for the great share.
    Have a good week ahead.

  • Hi Sonal,
    As a psychotherapist I have used many different platforms for counseling. Most of my clients are still face to face, working directly with me in person. But I have worked with people who live in another part of Florida, on a video conference – WebinarJam, skype, Zoom or Facebook live. I have also done some brief counseling with emails.
    However, usually I only use email and texting for scheduling or clarifying or support as needed.
    As a licensed therapist, it is not within the scope of my license to work with anyone living in a state where I am not licensed. However, I also do online coaching and have coached a few clients as far away as Australia and I had several group Google hangouts with people from Pakistan and elsewhere.
    Video conferencing really works well since you do see facial expressions and to some extent, body language. It’s all interesting and helpful to people who are reaching out.
    Dr. Erica

    • Author

      Hi Erica

      Online therapy must be great for you as you can help and provide support to people who cannot meet you face to face. It is easy for them to contact and reach you by any mode – email or video conferencing.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback!

  • you have posted a great article… one of my friend is familiar with online therapy. i don’t think he got the answer that he expected from the online therapy,, i personally think that online therapy is a useless thing to do. meeting a doctor personally is the best way for a therapy. isn’t it?

    • Author

      Well meeting personally with the doctor is certainly better. But at times there are certain constraints due to which a person is not able to go. So at that time online therapy works best for him.

  • I believe that the benefits of meeting with a therapist in whatever manner works best for you (and the legalities) far outweighs any negatives. I love that our world is providing so many options for people to choose from.

  • Hi Sonal,

    I haven’t had online therapy, but I have had telephone coaching – due to problems of distance. It worked well and saved time for me or the coach, depending on where the sessions were meant to be.

    Somehow I feel that therapy should be face to face, but the video / Skype links would probably satisfy that?

    I defer to the experts among your readers.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

  • Hi Sonal,
    I think it depends on what the issue is. It is beautiful to be able to talk through video calls with people. But I think health issues may be different and I know from friends who are doctors, they would never do a diagnosis from far. But like everywhere in life, the right people will find each other and if something does not work out it will be a life lesson.
    Thank you

  • Hi,
    I personally think that online therapy is a useless thing to do. meeting a doctor personally is the best way for a therapy. isn’t it?
    Thank You.

    • Author

      Hi Robert

      It depends from person to person, their choice and convenience. Many people find online therapy quite beneficial. So I guess you can’t call it useless.

  • Hi Sonal
    Article is very awesome and very true too, now i ll think twice before using online therapy 🙂
    Thank You

  • I hate hearing this. I believe that now that so much is online, we are losing out on real connections. Give me face time any day.

  • Hi Sonal,

    Your post is detailed and educative.

    I like the idea of online therapy.
    Generally, people don’t easily buy into the new way of doing things beccause they are already addicted to the old method. But as time goes on, by the time they start seeing the result produced by the new method, they will start embracing it.

    I believe more people will embrace online therapy in the future.

    Thanks for sharing 🙏.
    Taiwo Emayosanlomo recently posted…The Single Thing that Will Make a Difference in Your Life in 2018My Profile

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