Does Online Therapy Work?
Danna Markson, LCSW
Have you been wondering if online therapy really works?
Guess what? It actually does! It can be just as helpful as an in-person therapy session.
We all have the image in our minds about going to a therapist’s office. There is usually a waiting room with relevant magazines, soothing music, a sound machine, and maybe an essential oil diffuser.
The feeling is one of calm. It prepares you to enter the office, to sit down in a comfortable chair, and to begin the process of opening up, sharing and being vulnerable.
The therapist’s office becomes familiar to you over time as you, little by little, share parts of yourself and open up to feedback and insight. You recognize the art on the walls, the texture of the chair or couch, the smell and the white noise machine probably buzzing right outside the door, ensuring your voices are muffled and you have privacy.
The room, and your therapist in it, becomes comforting in itself before any of the work begins.
We get it. As therapists, this is how we are trained—with our clients in the room with us. We like that feeling too—getting a vibe, reading body language, etc.
Here’s what we’ve learned over the past 4 weeks—this isn’t the only effective way for us to lend support, insight and comfort to you. Online therapy works! Simply spending dedicating time together, being with you face-to-face for 45-50 minutes, and continuing our dialogue can be effective.
True, you may have to adjust to a new feeling while in therapy online. You have to get used to how your therapist looks on the screen, how you feel seeing your therapist online, and where your imagination will lead about your therapist being in his/her home (with their families and pets) while talking to you.
What we love about online therapy:
We get to see you in your home environment; we get to see your room and check out your safe places. We can meet your pets and watch you interact with them.
You might feel more relaxed and ready to talk in your own space. You don’t need to navigate the waiting room and get settled into the office.
We can share wonderful resources with you including videos and slides and worksheets just by sharing our screen.
We have increased access to each other as you don’t need to drive to our office.
If you are considering seeking mental health support right now, challenge any negative assumptions or beliefs that you have about online therapy being “not good enough” or “second best.”
Our practice is proud to have been offering online therapy for the last several years using a secure and HIPAA-compliant online platform. We have offered online therapy for clients with transportation concerns, clients with timing constraints, and for snow or other weather interruptions.
During COVID-19 and social distancing, our individual, family and group therapy sessions are 100% online. We believe that now, more than ever, we all need caring, compassion, support, and strategies and we are here to provide that for you 7 days a week.
Benefits of Online Therapy:
Immediate Access: Your therapist will be able to schedule appointments with you whenever it is convenient for you without concern for work hours, child care or transportation.
Comfort: You can work with your therapist in the comfort of your home, in a safe and confidential space.
Reduced barriers (such as transportation and child care): There is no need to be concerned about getting to the therapist’s office on time and/or who will watch your other children while you are in the appointment.
Flexible scheduling: More appointment times are available as therapists can see you during regularly scheduled office hours or other hours, when available.
Convenience: No need to drive home after the appointment. As tough emotions can sometimes arise during therapy, you are already in a safe space so that you can take care of yourself.
Benefits of Online Therapy During Social Distancing:
Social connection: Our weekly groups offer a convenient, safe and confidential space to stay connected to peers, to share concerns, to give and receive feedback, and to receive support and strategies from the therapist. In our teen groups, participants have shared that they are grateful for the opportunity to continue connecting and growing together and feel life is a little bit “normal” during their group time.
Consistency: The same mental health issues and concerns persist despite this pandemic, so you are able to continue addressing your mental health needs, despite social distancing. This consistency is essential to not allowing your anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns to worsen.
Support: Get the support you need for all your old and new challenges. Uncover strategies for managing feelings of social isolation, lack of autonomy, mood issues and self-destructive behaviors. Online therapy is just as supportive as in-person.
Attention to new concerns: What’s come up for you since COVID-19 emerged on the scene? We are learning about the virus and its impact every day. Your therapist will coach you on having an effective perspective and on managing your negative thinking or behaviors.
Concerns about Online Therapy:
Is it private/confidential? On our end— yes!! We use a HIPAA-compliant and secure online platform and ALL of our therapists have private, dedicated work spaces from where they are working remotely. Also, the therapists wear headphones so that only they can hear what you are saying. For confidentiality on your end, we recommend that you wear headphones so that only you can hear what the therapist is saying, that you sit in a private room with the door closed and, if this doesn’t feel like enough privacy, go outside or sit in your car.
Does it work? Yes! You still have the undivided attention of your therapist for your full session time. Your concerns will still be addressed with empathy and compassion. Your therapist will still actively listen to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and concerns and will work collaboratively with you to uncover alternatives to problem behaviors and solutions. For real, our therapists are skilled at doing online therapy because we’ve been doing it for so long.
How does it work? Prior to the session, your therapist will send you a link to the online therapy platform. You will need to download and install Zoom on your computer or phone before the session starts if you don’t have it already. At your scheduled therapy time, you simply click on the click; then you and your therapist will be able to see each other and hear each other. Online therapy also offers additional services such as the ability of the therapist to share screens with you, show you videos and graphics, and use the whiteboard feature.
Is it worth it? We think so! All of our clients have told us that they are grateful to have the continued support of their therapist when transportation or weather or some other obstacle has prevented an in-person meeting. In light of our current pandemic, clients are sharing deep gratitude for the ability to continue receiving support. New clients are entering therapy during this time to work on new concerns such as feelings of social isolation, boredom, anxiety or depression.
Is it the same as in-person therapy? Pretty much! The main difference is that you and your therapists are seeing close-ups of each other only so you won’t see legs or feet on the screen :) We are trained to hear your thoughts and feelings and to show up with compassion and non-judgment for you regardless of the platform. The people who were convinced it wouldn’t feel the same have shared with us recently that they have been pleasantly surprised and how easy and effective it is.
Though online therapy may be different from what you’re used to, it is still an effective way to receive support and guidance during distressing times.
Online therapy really works. It’s a great opportunity to continue working through issues or to take advantage of the free time you have in order to improve yourself.
Challenge your assumptions about online therapy and give it a try!