31 Mar Online therapy Is it for you?
In the past year, we along with many other therapists and business providing workshops and face to face support, have had to change the way we worked. We have had to adapt our way of working to provide safe and responsive treatment online.
There are different types of digital therapy – Via an app – Where communication is via written messages on a platform, Via telephone, or Via video conferencing eg Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype.
If you are thinking about accessing support – think about what you would feel comfortable with. Here at BraintrainersUK we prefer to use a video platform so that we can get as close to the experience of face to face as possible. However if someone is unable to access the internet or have the technology, we do provide telephone support.
Many people have found relief by accessing treatment from the comfort of their own homes, others raise concerns about whether online treatment might less effective or reducing the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Kim and I had not worked via a video platform before the pandemic (although I had previous experience using a direct messaging platform for a company providing CBT nationally) and we wondered if people would be happy to continue therapy online with us……
A year later and we are all much more comfortable using online platforms and having our meetings virtually. We have had great success treating people over the internet. Of course, we still miss the direct contact of working alongside people face to face, but moving forward we believe there is room for the online work and will continue with this. We thought it would be interesting to explore what is being said about having therapy online and if you are still considering this as an option we have put together below some pros and cons to help you make a decision that is right for you.
A major component to effective therapy involves the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Online therapy is often seen by people who first approach us as being impersonal. Many people have raised concerns about whether digital communication can provide skills, tools, and healing power to individuals staring at a screen.
Among negative issues, one of the most widely discussed is the absence of non-verbal cues between the therapist and client, especially when using text-based media but also when using telephone or videoconferencing, which may lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication . If a therapist were to miss some important item of clinical information, the whole diagnostic process and psychological assessment could be impaired….
So how do we develop a rapport online – well it is exactly the same as how we would do that face to face – but of course some of the physical cues may not be available so we pay more attention to the facial cues, tone of voice and the way someone expresses themselves. We can also facilitate learning and understanding by sharing information via video and links directly in the session and that ability to be reactive and responsive to current issues can be helpful also in building a rapport.
Despite the concerns, research consistently shows that online treatment can be very effective for many mental health issues. Here are the results of a few studies:
- A 2014 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that online treatment was just as effective as face-to-face treatment for depression.
- A 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders found that online cognitive behavioral therapy is, “effective, acceptable and practical health care.” The study found the online cognitive behavioral therapy was equally as effective as face-to-face treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
- A 2014 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was effective in treating anxiety disorders. Treatment was cost-effective and the positive improvements were sustained at the one-year follow-up.
Pros and cons?
The Potential Benefits of Online Treatment
Online therapy offers has some benefits over traditional face-to-face treatment:
- People in rural areas or those with transportation difficulties may have easier access.
- People with physical health conditions or accessibility difficulties can find access easier online.
- You have the potential to access specialist therapy or services that might not be available in your geographical area eg EMDR (for trauma) or IPT (for interpersonal difficulties).
- Many online therapy sites allow users to sign up with “nicknames” which can entice people who are embarrassed about getting services under their real names.
- Most online therapy services cost less than face-to-face treatment.
- Scheduling is more convenient for many people.
- Setting up appointments can happen more quickly and be more responsive to the needs of a client.
- Clients don’t have to worry about seeing people they know in the waiting room.
- It can be easier for some people to reveal private information when they’re sharing it online.
- Individuals with anxiety, especially social anxiety, are more likely to reach out to an online therapist.
- Information can be shared more efficiently online, with information shared during the session and emailed directly afterwards.
The Potential Drawbacks
Online therapy isn’t for everyone. Here are some potential risks and drawbacks:
- Online therapy isn’t meant for people with certain problems or conditions (such as suicidal intent or psychosis).
- It is not always possible to know if the session is being conducted in a safe and confidential environment. Confidentiality might be compromised in the quest for convenience.
- Without being able to interact face-to-face, therapists miss out on body language and other cues that can help them arrive at an appropriate diagnosis.
- Technological issues can become a barrier. Dropped calls, frozen videos, and trouble accessing chats aren’t conducive to treatment.
- Some people who advertise themselves as online therapists might not be licensed mental health treatment providers.
- Sites that aren’t reputable may not keep client information safe.
- It can be difficult to form a therapeutic alliance with someone when meetings aren’t face-to-face.
- It can be difficult for therapists to intervene in the event of a crisis.
We would love to hear from you if you are thinking about accessing therapy online – Remember to look for a therapist that is accredited to practice CBT to make sure that you entrust your recovery with someone who has the skills and practices within a proven ethical code. See our blog on Accreditation for more information on this area.
Contact BraintrainersUK for confidential advice and support:
Choosing to use BraintrainersUK for your individual needs or for your workforce benefits you as there is no waiting time for a free consultation. We are not a generic service we are experts in our field. BraintrainersUK have a passion for delivering first class mental health therapy and training. Our services are embedded with evidence-based CBT that has proven excellent recovery rates.
Kim and Carrie
+44 (0) 7510 223561 – +44(0) 07549 857216
Covering London & the South East in Person and UK & Europe via Online Services
We cover businesses and organisations across London & the South East. Individual therapy online or face to face all while still providing support for our front-line services working as NHS Mental Health Professionals & the chosen provider for South East Coast Ambulance Service ( SECAMB )
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