These days, there are plentiful options for pursuing online therapy, rather than seeing someone for your mental health needs in person. The option is immediately compelling for people with busy schedules, or those who simply hate going to a physical office for their appointments. But is it better to see a therapist online or attend those in-person sessions?
The Benefits of Online Therapy
Online therapy offers several unique benefits, including:
- The comfort of home. You can access online therapy sessions from anywhere, provided you have a device that can access the internet. That means you don’t have to go into a physical office; instead, you can attend your therapy sessions from the comfort of home. If you feel anxious about going new places, or if you’re just very comfortable in your home environment, this is a huge advantage.
- Flexible scheduling. Because you can schedule remote conversations, you’ll have much more flexibility in scheduling. You don’t have to conform to office hours; you can simply find a therapist with hours that match your needs.
- Easy accessibility. You don’t have to worry about accessibility when it comes to online therapy. You don’t have to look for a rare parking spot. You won’t have to navigate to a specific building. You won’t get lost in winding hallways. You also don’t have to deal with any of the usual accessibility barriers you might encounter in a conventional office. As long as you have an internet connection, you can get access to the therapy services you need.
- Less time spent. Generally, people spend less time on an online therapy session than they do on in person session, even if they’re meeting with a therapist for the same amount of time. Because you don’t have to drive to a specific location, check in, wait in a lobby, or fill out paperwork, your 1-hour therapy session is truly only an hour, instead of 2 or 3 hours. This time savings can add up over time.
- Communication options. There are a few different communication options you’ll have for working with your online therapist. If you don’t like the idea of being on camera, or if you just want some extra privacy, you can talk to your therapist over the phone. If you prefer to see their body language and facial expressions as they talk to you, or if you simply want a more engaging experience, you can arrange for a video chat. Online therapy can provide you almost any experience you want. Also, if a specific therapist doesn’t communicate with you in the way that you prefer, you can always seek another therapist.
- Less stigma. Unfortunately, there’s still a social stigma associated with mental illness. If you feel uncomfortable with talking about your mental health problems, or if you’re afraid of this social stigma, you might feel anxious or intimidated to walk into a physical therapist’s office. This stigma is practically nonexistent if you attend your therapy sessions online; you don’t have to expose yourself in public, nor do you have to reveal to anyone (even strangers) what you’re doing. You can keep this encounter as private as you want.
- Flexibility and autonomy. You always have flexibility and autonomy as a therapy patient, but you may feel increased flexibility and autonomy when you seek therapy online. If you’re not happy with your therapist, you can change them easily. If you’re not satisfied with the service overall, you can shop for another provider. Conversely, if you’re seeing a therapist in person, you may feel obligated to keep going to the same office, especially if it’s geographically close to you.
- Reduced costs. Online therapists and in-person therapists charge similar rates, so don’t expect massive savings by going to an online professional. However, because online therapists typically have less overhead, they can get away with charging less, which means you could save some money in the long run.
Are You Missing Out?
Are you missing out on any benefits by using online therapy instead of in-person therapy?
There are still some advantages to seeing a therapist in person.
- Body language. Using a video call, you can tap into the power of nonverbal communication, witnessing the body language of your therapist and watching their facial expressions carefully. But there’s something different about communicating with someone in person; if you strongly prefer engaging with people one-on-one in a physical environment, there’s simply no realistic substitute for it.
- Engaging therapies. Certain forms of therapy can only be done in person, with limited practical utility in online sessions. Art therapy and music therapy, for example, are immersive creative experiences that are hard to facilitate across the internet.
- A neutral location. A therapist’s office is designed to be a neutral space. It’s meant to feel comfortable, yet distinct from the rest of your life. If you go to therapy to get a break from your normal life, or if you don’t feel safe or comfortable at home, going to an in-person session may be preferable.
As you can see, there are some unique advantages of both online therapy and in-person therapy. But for the most part, online therapy is, at minimum, just as good as in-person therapy. Whatever mental or emotional affliction you’re hoping to resolve, online therapy could be a powerful tool to aid your recovery.