5 Reasons to Try Online Therapy

5 Reasons to Try Online Therapy
Find therapists best matched to your needs. Always free and confidential.
Find therapists best matched to your needs. Always free and confidential.

*This blog post was originally posted on the blog of Beyond the Body Health Psychology Services, LLC (owned by Dr. Jennifer Steiner) on 2/3/22

I know it may sound like a wild idea but once upon a time the idea of online therapy was unheard of for most people.  For many people, the words “therapy” or “psychotherapy” invoked images of lying on a couch or sitting in a small office that had been carefully decorated to look like a comforting living room, all while telling a near-stranger your personal thoughts and feelings.  But weekly visits to a therapist’s office provided challenges for some people, particularly those living in more rural environments, or those parts of the country where therapists are not easy to find.  Over the past 10 years, therapists started trying to find other ways to meet the needs of many of these clients- enter online therapy.  Online therapy is often called “telehealth”, “telemental health”, or “telepsychology”.  Telehealth allowed people who would otherwise have to go to great lengths to get to therapy to be able to reap the benefits without the hassle. 

I was fortunate enough to work for the VA during the time when telehealth was first growing, and because the VA was at the forefront of providing therapy this way, I was able to see some of the incredible benefits of doing therapy via the internet.  However, in many ways I was still one of the few; I did not know of any providers in private practice doing online therapy at that time (I’m sure a few existed but I did not know them).  Part of this may have been due to insurance carriers being slow to receive telehealth, part of it may have been fear of the unknown and changing technology; whatever the reason, telehealth was not commonplace outside of certain healthcare systems.

Then 2020 happened, and almost everything about the world changed, including the “look” of therapy.  Thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, therapists who never would have dreamed of doing online therapy were thrust into a new world, and so were clients.  Now telehealth feels almost normal, and I know many therapists (including myself) who have opted to convert their practices to 100% telehealth/online therapy.

As one of the few mental health providers who have been doing telehealth/online therapy since long before the pandemic, allow me to share with you some of the benefits of this therapy modality and why you might want to consider trying it for yourself.

1. It can be more convenient.

When you have an in-person therapy session, you must factor in the time in takes to get to that therapy appointment.  Depending on where you live, the distance to your therapist’s office and the traffic in your city, this could be a considerable amount of time.  I used to have clients tell me they would use up an extra hour a week on “therapy” due to driving, parking, etc.  Online therapy eliminates all that extra time and stress.  I’ve had clients log onto their sessions from home, work, and even their car (parked of course).

Additionally, for people that live with chronic medical conditions, pain, or certain disabilities, it may be preferable to be able to engage in therapy from home.  I have seen many clients with medical conditions on “bad pain days” while they are resting on the couch.  If they had been required to come in-person, they may not have been able to come to the appointment if their only option was to sit in traffic or drive while feeling ill.

2. You may be able to connect with a therapist that is a better fit for your unique situation

Before online therapy, your search for a therapist may have been limited by your location or how far you were willing to travel on a regular basis.  This might have meant that your options for a therapist became pretty limited.  If you were searching for someone with a very specialized expertise (such as someone who is an expert in working with people with chronic pain and illness), it might have been next to impossible to find a therapist in your area that met those criteria.  However, with telehealth, your options become more plentiful; you may be able to see a provider on the other side of your state or in some cases even in another state (see below for more information on PSYPACT).  Being able to widen your search criteria by eliminating location sets you up for better success in finding a therapist who specializes in your area of concern and that is currently accepting clients.

3. No additional costs or stressors

This goes back to my earlier point about actually getting to and from appointments.  The act of actually getting to and from therapy likely requires money (for gas, rideshares, or public transportation).  Some people may have to work hard to plan for childcare or find a loved one to take them to the appointment.  Online therapy can help reduce some of these inherent stressors.

4. You might be able to travel and still see your therapist

Depending on your therapist, you might be able to continue therapy services when you are traveling for work or pleasure (if you choose to).  Recently, a piece of legislature called PSYPACT was passed, which allows psychologists who have been Authorized to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology to practice in other states that are part of the compact.  That means if you usually see your therapist in GA, but have to travel to DC for business, you could technically still have your weekly therapy session.     Presently, there are 27 States that have enacted PSYPACT (click here for more up-to-date information and to see if your state is participating).  https://psypact.site-ym.com/page/psypactmap

 

5.  It is still effective!

Most of the research on telemental health suggests that its effectiveness is comparable to in-person therapy.  My own experiences have led me to believe that online therapy can actually facilitate therapy progress because it may cut down on canceled appointments, which leads to fewer gaps in between sessions.

Of course, there are also some unique challenges associated with online therapy.  Some things to consider and plan around include:

  • Finding a private and quiet space: Engaging in therapy from home does pose some challenges when it comes to finding a space where you will not be bothered, but the good news it that you can usually plan around it. I always encourage my clients to find a room where they will not be bothered for the time we are in session.  Most of my clients use headphones so that others cannot hear what I am saying, and many use fans or some other device to create white noise during our sessions (If they cannot be alone in the home).  As I said before, I’ve even had clients participate in sessions from parked cars (though of course, this is not normally the case).

  • Technology issues: Yes, technology will always be a possible issue with online therapy/telehealth.  However, thanks in part to the pandemic, there have been huge improvements in HIPAA compliant teleconferencing programs and tech issues are less problematic than they once were.  Most therapists have figured out ways to pivot when technology issues do randomly occur.  If you choose to engage in online therapy, your therapist will probably share with you their policies and tricks for minimizing technology challenges.

Additional Resources:

To learn more about PSYPACT visit: https://psypact.site-ym.com/page/About

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