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How Effective is Online Therapy? By Jaevy Kace

In order to adapt to today’s global health crisis and serve their patients, healthcare services had to move ever more into the online sphere. While telehealth services existed long before the ongoing pandemic, the threat of the virus –– along with strict social distancing measures –– has prompted healthcare providers to scale up and further improve their telehealth capabilities.

The efforts of healthcare providers have not gone unnoticed. According to a survey by a healthcare communication company, about 42% of adults in the U.S. have now taken advantage of telehealth services, finding the option to be more convenient than in-person consultations. Apart from patient consultation and monitoring, mental health services such as therapy are also becoming very popular on telehealth platforms. But unlike physical illnesses which can have apparent and obvious symptoms, it can be harder for healthcare providers to recognize, diagnose, and treat mental health issues through virtual sessions.

In this post, we'll discuss the question of whether online therapy is truly effective.

According to research

Multiple studies have been conducted to verify how effective online therapy is. A meta-analysis from 2018 sought to identify the difference between in-person and online therapy for depression and anxiety specifically. In this study, researchers honed in on a particular type of therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), wherein professionals guide patients into overcoming their negative emotions by changing how they approach and think about their problems, anxieties, experiences, and personal issues. The study concluded that online CBT and in-person CBT were equally effective in addressing depression and anxiety.

Another study from 2020 focused on a different type of therapy called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. This approach teaches patients to set goals and pay more attention to their present and future circumstances in order to come up with solutions to their problems. Again, researchers found that the online therapy was just as effective as its in-person counterpart when treating anxiety.

Indeed, online therapy is effective at reducing an individual’s anxiety, treating patient depression, and helping victims cope with trauma. While further research is needed to determine if online therapy is also effective in addressing other mental health conditions (such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia), completed studies show that achieving positive patient outcomes is possible with online therapy.

Choosing the right mental health professional is key

In order to maximize the success of your online therapy sessions, it is important that you find a mental health professional you can trust. Psychotherapy can be provided by any of a variety of professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, licensed social workers, and licensed professional counselors.

When choosing a mental health professional, it’s important to have an idea of what you want to achieve out of therapy. If you want to solve a relationship or family conflict and improve your mental wellbeing, you can seek out a family therapist who offers online services. If you want to address mental issues caused by interpersonal challenges and other triggers, you can look for a mental health counselor. These professionals have received the proper psychology training and developed the key competencies needed to assist individuals in overcoming their mental obstacles.

Hopefully, this discussion has boosted your confidence in online therapy and encouraged you to improve your mental health. And if you're ready to prepare for your first online therapy session, be sure to read our post on the dos and don’ts of virtual therapy.

Written exclusively for

Written by Jaevy Kace

Jaevy Kace is a freelance writer and aspiring author. She concentrates primarily on health, wellness, and lifestyle topics, and harbors particular interest in medicine and finance.



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