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The Effectiveness of Online Therapy

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Online therapy, a form of teletherapy, has been around for quite some time, but gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teletherapy is therapy that is delivered via telephone or video. Research has demonstrated that teletherapy can be effective, sometimes equally so when compared to in-person therapy. There are also benefits to having teletherapy as an option, such as greater accessibility and the convenience. However, virtual treatment is not for everyone. It is important to know the pros and cons and then make an informed decision on what type of treatment works best for you.


Does online therapy work?


Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy (Abrams, 2020). There is a large body of research on remote therapy that has been conducted on the veteran population (e.g., Godleski, L, et al, 2012). For example, studies conducted by the Veterans Affairs have demonstrated that both in-person and video treatment for PTSD have equal effectiveness (Turgoose, D. et al., 2018). Researchers have also demonstrated the effectiveness of teletherapy for a variety of other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, substance use, and eating disorders (e.g., Varker et al., 2019; Slone et al., 2012).


In terms of patient satisfaction, studies have reported high satisfaction ratings (e.g., Jenkins-Guarnieri et al., 2015). In fact, in one study researchers discovered that the therapeutic alliance was not affected negatively by telephone versus in person sessions when examining cognitive behavioral therapy delivered via telephone (Stiles-Shields et al., 2014).


Who might benefit of online therapy?


There are many reasons for why online therapy may be a preference for some. For example, in rural areas there is often a lack of access to therapists or certain specialties. Others may have difficulty finding childcare, which can make teletherapy appealing. The busyness of life and long commutes may also make teletherapy more convenient and accessible. Those to have frequent or chronic illness may find virtual helpful when there is a flareup and they are unable to get to the office. Some people prefer the comfort of being in their own space. These are just a few of the advantages for teletherapy.


What are the cons of online therapy?


Despite the potential benefits, online therapy is not for everyone. Teletherapy can be difficult if you do not have a confidential or safe pace to have a session. Feeling safe during the session is of utmost importance. You also need a strong enough internet signal and adequate technology to be able to access virtual services. Another concern can be insurance reimbursement. A lot of plans do cover virtual sessions, although not always phone-only sessions. Furthermore, some plans utilize specific telehealth groups to provide theses services, such as TeleDoc. The pandemic has shifted coverage for many insurance companies, but it is important to verify coverage with your insurance provider. Finally, sometimes being in person just feels more comfortable and preferred You need to find what works for you!


Concluding Thoughts


Research has demonstrated that online therapy or teletherapy can be effective. There are also many benefits, often making therapy more convenient and accessible. However, virtual therapy isn’t for everyone. It is important to consider carefully which option is right for you and your circumstances. You can talk to a therapist about the pros and cons for your specific situation.


References

Abrams, Z, (2020). How well is tele psychology working? Researchers are pinpointing what we know—and what we need to learn—about these treatment options. APA Monitor, 51(5). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/07/cover-telepsychology. Retrieved on 12/3/2022.


Godleski, L., Darkins, A., & Peters, J. (2012). Outcomes of 98,609 U.S. department of veterans affairs patients enrolled in telemental health services, 2006–2010. Psychiatric Services. 63(4), 383-385.

Jenkins-Guarnieri,, M.A., Pruitt, L.D., Luxton D.D., & Johnson, K (2015). Patient perceptions of telemental health: Systematic review of direct comparisons to in-person psychotherapeutic treatments. Telemedicine and e-Health, 21(8), 652-660.


Stiles-Shields, C., Kwasny, M. J., Cai, X., & Mohr, D. C. (2014). Therapeutic alliance in face-to-face and telephone-administered cognitive behavioral therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(2), 349–354.


Slone, N. C., Reese, R. J., & McClellan, M. J. (2012). Telepsychology outcome research with children and adolescents: A review of the literature. Psychological Services, 9(3), 272–292


Turgoose, D., Ashwick, R., & Murphy, D. (2018). Systematic review of lessons learned from delivering tele-therapy to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of telemedicine and telecare, 24(9), 575-585.


Varker, T., Brand, R. M., Ward, J., Terhaag, S., & Phelps, A. (2019). Efficacy of synchronous telepsychology interventions for people with anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder: A rapid evidence assessment. Psychological services, 16(4), 621.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

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