Is Online Therapy The New Normal?

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As early as 2017 there has been a growing trend of easily accessible online therapy apps with websites becoming the new mainstream method of  accessing mental health resources. The number of people searching for mental health support online  grows each year. Apps are constantly being developed to create ways for emotional support and work toward therapeutic aids becoming more accessible. While the majority of these apps cannot replace regular human delivered therapy, it is important for therapists to understand the impact of technology and how to adapt to modern demands.

Throughout the pandemic, therapists across the UK (and the world) have had to make changes to the way they run their practices to accommodate to the ever evolving restrictions ordered by the government. 

As limitations on face-to-face meetings were put in place, many practices had to stop seeing clients in person for a long time and find alternative methods to maintain appointments throughout lockdown – many therapists resorted to taking part in online sessions to continue seeing clients.

As the UK comes out of lockdown and therapists return to their usual practices, some people may have found that taking their practice online has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for them, and actually find it preferable to in-person sessions. Some might even be considering incorporating online therapy more into their practice going forward! 

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What Is Online Therapy? 

Online therapy is a means of communicating with clients within a session through electronic and online formats as opposed to in-person therapy, where you would be in the same room as a client. Via Skype, Zoom or any other video-calling software, therapists can sit down with a client from the comfort of their own home or from their office space, ensuring that clients will not have to experience the waiting room jitters or worry about being late to an appointment because of a missed bus or heavy traffic.

Various studies have shown that online therapy works equally as well as in-person therapy, such as a 2018 study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders which found that online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was equally as effective as face-to-face treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and general anxiety. 

Backing this data, in 2014, the Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal found that online CBT treatments was effective in treating anxiety disorders, stating that the treatment was both cost effective and the positive improvements were sustained at the one-year follow-up. 

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What Are The Benefits Of Online Therapy?

There are many reasons why therapists and clients may find online sessions to be preferable to in-person meetings, to name a few: 

  • Flexibility in scheduling – When you make your own schedule, you want to be conscious of how many clients you can realistically see in your practice, how often and what delays you might allow for in your sessions. When you work online you have more flexibility as you don’t have to consider travel times for yourself or your client. This flexibility means being able to see more clients in a day, or working your clients around your schedule at home.
  • A level of anonymity – For clients who are anxious about being seen or running into someone they know in a waiting room, online sessions provide an extra level of privacy. They don’t have to worry about who will see them as they will take these sessions in the privacy of their own home.
  • Uses less resources – If you are working through online means, you are likely to be using less of your own resources such as renting a room to see clients in, electricity, tissues, and other courtesies provided to your clients in person.
  • Lower costs for clients – As you are seeing clients at home rather than in-office, clients may be able to pay a lower fee for a session, and therefore come back frequently or more consistently than they otherwise would be able.
  • Convenience – For you and your client, not having to travel in to a meeting place could cut off a lot of time for your day. Having access to therapy at the click of a button makes for fewer cancellations, according to National Certified Counsellor and Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider, Melissa Stringer.
  • Comfort – Not only are you likely going to be far more comfortable in your own space at home, but a client who is in a familiar environment may feel happier disclosing information in an environment that is familiar to them.
  • Accessibility – Many clients may not be able to afford in-person therapy, or may find it very difficult to make their journey to you every time they have a session. By making yourself accessible you are opening yourself up to more business, more clients and providing help to people that may not be otherwise able to access it under the usual conditions.

While online therapy is not an option for everyone, clients that require a hands-on or physical approach, or require seeing someone in person because of the severity of symptoms or struggles will still need additional support to online therapy, or even those without access to the internet or a device to host a phone-call on, the advances to technology refuses to be ignored and is a resource that therapists should think carefully about implementing into their practice and daily life in order to keep relevant and keep business flowing. 

Join Private Practice Hub today for more updates, articles and webinars on the ever-changing landscape of the therapy world, to make sure that your practice stays up to date and informed. 

Article written by Maisie Violet Wicks, BA Hons, columnist for Private Practice Hub. Please contact newsdesk@privatepracticehub.co.uk

References:

Science Direct. 2014. Behaviour Research and Therapy. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000579671400076X?via%3Dihub> [Accessed 31 June 2021].

Goodtherapy.org. 2021. Confessions of a Virtual Therapist: Pros and Cons of Online Therapy. [online] Available at: <https://www.goodtherapy.org/for-professionals/software-technology/telehealth/article/confessions-of-a-virtual-therapist-pros-and-cons-of-online-therapy> [Accessed 2 July 2021].Science Direct. 2018. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032713005120?via%3Dihub> [Accessed 31 June 2021].