How to Find the Best Online Therapy Services

Are you considering online therapy as a flexible alternative to traditional therapy but unsure about its effectiveness or how to find the right service? Online therapy has emerged as a practical solution for those seeking professional mental health support from anywhere at any time. This guide will illuminate the types of online therapy available, its validated effectiveness, and practical steps to find and adapt to an online therapist that fits your needs, all while maintaining your privacy and convenience.

Key Takeaways

  • Online therapy provides accessible, convenient mental health support with various formats like video calls, phone sessions, and text-based communication to cater to individual needs and preferences.

  • Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (ICBT) has been shown to be effective for treating a range of psychiatric disorders, presenting high satisfaction rates among users and potentially reducing the occurrence of suicidal behaviour.

  • Finding a qualified online therapist involves checking credentials, verifying education and disciplinary history, and assessing their experience in specific mental health areas, with considerations for cost and insurance coverage.

Understanding Online Therapy

A diverse group of people of different ages and backgrounds having an online therapy session

Online therapy, provided by an online counsellor, is a counselling or therapy service via the Internet. It’s designed for anyone aged 14 years or older who is seeking support for mild to moderate mental health conditions, or even for those grappling with everyday stressors, relationship issues, and experiences of sexual abuse.

Essentially, it provides the same advantages as traditional therapy, enhanced with convenience and accessibility.

Types of Online Therapy

Online therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It comes in different formats like video calls, phone sessions, and text-based communication such as chat or email. Video call sessions offer a real-time interaction with therapists, much like traditional face-to-face sessions but without the need for physical presence. Remote therapy, including video call sessions, provides a convenient and accessible option for those seeking therapy.

Phone sessions present a great alternative for individuals uncomfortable with being on camera or lacking high-speed internet access. Text-based therapy, on the other hand, offers flexibility with chat therapy providing real-time interaction and immediate response, while email therapy allows clients to send and receive messages at any time that suits their schedule. Remote sessions, including phone and text-based talking therapies, cater to various client needs and preferences, making talking therapy accessible to all.

Accessibility and Convenience

The appeal of online therapy stems from its accessibility and convenience. It extends services to disabled or housebound individuals and those in rural areas where traditional therapy may not be readily available. Imagine getting therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home, with flexible scheduling and without the need for travel. That’s the convenience online therapy offers.

Moreover, online therapy prioritizes privacy. By using encrypted communication and strict privacy protocols, it provides a secure and confidential space for sessions. The sustained growth and favourability of online therapy post-pandemic is a testament to its effectiveness and the public’s appreciation for its benefits over traditional in-person therapy.

The Effectiveness of Online Therapy

A person feeling relieved and happy after a successful online therapy session

But just how effective is online therapy? Studies indicate that it’s equally effective as in-person counseling or therapy. In fact, the outcome of online therapy, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for depression, is at least equal to the effects of traditional counselling.

CBT has been adapted for online delivery and has proved efficient in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression through video sessions and worksheets. Internet-based CBT (ICBT) has shown promise in treating a range of psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD.

Not only does ICBT improve functionality in patients and decrease symptom severity, but it also reports high user satisfaction, especially in therapist-guided programs. It has even shown promise in decreasing suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and self-harm in modern-day populations.

Moreover, studies show that ICBT can be an effective alternative to face-to-face therapy, suitable for those who prefer not to engage in traditional therapy settings. However, it’s important to note the need for further large-scale randomized control trials to assess the effectiveness of ICBT in day-to-day clinical practice, particularly in rural populations.

Success Stories

As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. So let’s look at some success stories. An 18-year-old female successfully managed her panic disorder using internet therapy, particularly ICBT. Patients suffering from insomnia found relief through online therapy that provided tools like a sleep diary and relaxation exercises.

Breast cancer survivors reported improved body image, sexual function, and overall quality of life after participating in online ICBT. A 2020 review of 17 studies suggested that online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might be more effective than traditional face-to-face therapy for depression. Furthermore, ‘Unlocked: Online Therapy Stories’ includes cases where the home environment of clients provided unique insights and enhanced the effectiveness of online therapy.

Overcoming Barriers

Initiating therapy can often feel intimidating. Finding the appropriate therapy or therapist can be a time-consuming process that may require trying multiple options.

Effective communication is crucial for resolving issues such as misunderstandings, mistrust, and disagreements in therapy, and online therapy provides tools and platforms to help address these concerns.

Finding a Qualified Online Therapist

A person browsing through online therapist profiles and credentials

Once the decision to pursue online therapy has been made, the subsequent step involves finding a competent online therapist. You can check an online therapist’s credentials with the state or national licensing board, or use directories from professional organizations such as the BABCP, BACP or UKCP to confirm credentials.

It’s also important to verify the therapist’s educational background by asking for information from them and verifying their degrees with the institutions they attended. You can also check if they’ve faced any disciplinary actions via state mental health licensing boards or national organizations.

Assessing a therapist’s experience in specific areas of mental health and requesting references from former clients can help determine their suitability for addressing your needs. You can also visit the therapist’s professional website or LinkedIn profile for more information about their practice and expertise. Client reviews on platforms like Psychology Today, Healthgrades, and Yelp can provide valuable feedback.

Cost Considerations

A significant benefit of online therapy is its potential affordability compared to traditional therapy. It reduces costs associated with in-person sessions, including travel expenses, making it particularly suitable for busy professionals. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) also minimizes consultation fees, controlling costs for patients and the healthcare system.

Many health insurance companies now offer coverage for online therapy sessions, greatly reducing or even eliminating costs for the client. Organizations such as SAMHSA and NAMI can help find free or low-cost online therapy resources, and some online therapy platforms offer options for free or reduced-cost therapy sessions that might involve peer counselors.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and counselling centers at local colleges or universities, as well as national institute-affiliated centers, may offer counselling sessions at no cost or for a reduced fee.

Tailoring Therapy to Your Needs

While finding a suitable therapist is crucial, personalising the therapy to cater to your unique needs is equally important. Here are some steps to help you personalise your therapy:

  1. Write down the top three issues you wish to address, such as grief, stress, or anxiety.

  2. Look for therapists who specialize in these areas.

  3. Indicate any preferences you have regarding therapist gender or cultural background to ensure greater comfort and alignment with your needs.

Consider therapy styles like Psychodynamic Therapy, which focuses on the client-therapist relationship to improve authenticity, and determine if they align with your personal goals. Trying one or two sessions can help assess if the chosen therapist’s style and techniques are the right fit for you. If the current treatment doesn’t feel suitable, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your therapist and explore other approaches that may be more beneficial.

Remember, finding the right trained therapist is a process that may require time, so remain patient and persistent.

Adapting to Online Therapy

A person creating a comfortable and private space for online therapy

Having chosen your therapist, the next step involves adjusting to the online therapy setting. To create a comfortable and private space for online therapy, assert your right to privacy and communicate the need for this space to family members or roommates.

Maintaining privacy during online therapy can be achieved by:

  • Using a sound machine or white noise app to mask the conversation

  • Playing background music

  • Asking housemates to use noise-cancelling headphones

  • Using a closet, bathroom, garage, or even sitting in a car to offer privacy for conducting online therapy sessions

Setting boundaries with others and managing expectations within yourself, such as giving time to adapt to the online therapy format, are crucial for achieving care excellence in a successful experience.

Technical Requirements

Prior to your first session, it’s important to ensure you meet the necessary technical requirements. Online therapy requires a stable internet connection and suitable devices such as a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. While advanced technical expertise is not essential, basic computer skills are necessary to facilitate online counselling.

Ensuring the confidentiality of online therapy sessions is vital, so you’ll want to use platforms and therapists that adhere to certifications like HIPAA. Privacy during online therapy can be maintained by setting boundaries and communicating with household members regarding the need for private space during sessions.

Tips for a Successful Experience

For a successful online therapy experience, minimizing distractions during frequent sessions is key. This can be achieved by choosing a quiet space, being alone, and turning off other devices or notifications.

Building a strong therapeutic relationship is also critical. Some clients might feel safer and more comfortable to express themselves in an online setting, which can be fortified through empathy, such as active listening, reflecting, and appropriate self-disclosure by the therapist. Enhanced communication, including gathering feedback, showing empathy, and engaging through non-verbal expressions like eye contact and gestures, promotes openness and effectiveness in online therapy.

Therapists can address deep issues during online therapy by observing verbal cues and non-verbal signals like body language and therapist face expressions to provide empathetic and comprehensive care.

Specialized Online Therapy Services

Illustration of a diverse group participating in an online mental health support group

Online therapy extends beyond general counseling. There are various online therapy services that offer specialized treatments for issues like eating disorders, agoraphobia, and hoarding disorder, employing methods such as CBT and mindfulness. Somatic therapies, including EMDR, and specific interventions tailored for chronic pain are also available online, enhancing safety and comfort for clients.

Couples can benefit from online therapy platforms like ReGain which offer specialized sessions focusing on relationship issues, including premarital counseling. There are also platforms that specifically support first responders and healthcare professionals, as well as busy professionals seeking targeted help for stress and work-life balance.

Innovative online therapy services include:

  • BetterHelp, which offers group sessions and a subscription model

  • Talkspace, which caters to corporate environments

  • Calmerry, which specializes in message-based therapy, providing a flexible option for those who prefer to express themselves in writing

  • Specialized online sex therapy, which addresses sensitive issues such as sexual health concerns, affording clients privacy and comfort.

Support Groups and Communities

Beyond one-on-one therapy, online therapy also facilitates access to support groups and communities for those dealing with mental health issues. Platforms such as BetterHelp offer various online support groups for different mental health concerns. Community support for mental health can be accessed through local Mind centres, offering free services, and through counselling from charities and voluntary organisations that include couples counselling and bereavement support.

The Hub of Hope is a service finder that makes it easier to discover mental health services based on individual requirements, ensuring health and care excellence.

Online Therapy for Different Age Groups

Online therapy caters not just to adults. It’s also available for different age groups, including children and adolescents. Online child therapy employs child-friendly digital communication methods and utilizes engaging tools like toys and games to address issues specific to younger clients such as:

  • anxiety

  • stress

  • trauma

  • family conflicts

Several online platforms cater specifically to children and teenagers, such as:

  • 7 Cups, which is targeted for teenagers

  • Talkiatry, which focuses on broad needs from children’s mental health to LGBTQ+ concerns

  • Teen Counseling, which specializes in addressing common issues faced by adolescents.

Online therapy for young people is effective in managing mental and behavioral health conditions based on cognitive-behavioral principles and can be conveniently integrated into different settings including schools or homes.

Parental Involvement

For online therapy to be effective for children and adolescents, parental involvement is crucial. It fosters a collaborative relationship between parents and the therapist for the child’s welfare and enhances the efficacy and adherence to treatment. The level and type of parental involvement should be adaptive, varying with the child’s developmental stage, and parents play a critical role in sustaining the progress of therapy by practicing the therapist’s recommendations at home and engaging in actions that improve the parent-child relationship.

Operational aspects of parental involvement include:

  • Fulfilling legal consent and initial assessment requirements

  • Participating in separate sessions to discuss the child’s progress

  • Enhancing parenting skills

Summary

We’ve taken a deep dive into the world of online therapy, exploring what it is, its effectiveness, how to find a qualified online therapist, and how to adapt to it. We’ve also looked at specialized online therapy services, support groups, and communities, and how online therapy caters to different age groups, including children and adolescents. With its convenience, accessibility, and effectiveness, online therapy has emerged as a promising solution for mental health care in our increasingly digital world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the NHS provide online therapy?

Yes, the NHS offers a variety of online therapy options to treat common problems, such as low mood and anxiety, and improve mental well-being. These online tools have been found to be as effective as face-to-face therapy for some individuals.

Is there a UK version of BetterHelp?

Yes, there is a UK version of BetterHelp, and it is fully accessible with over 1,000 UK-based therapists available. The cost of therapy in the UK ranges from GBP 51 to 72 weekly.

Is my online therapy free?

No, online therapy sessions and consultations with practitioners are not usually free.

What is online therapy?

Online therapy is a form of counseling conducted over the Internet, suitable for anyone aged 14 years or older seeking support for mild to moderate mental health conditions, everyday stressors, and relationship issues.

Is online therapy effective?

Yes, online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy, with the outcomes of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression being at least equal to traditional therapy. Give it a try and see the positive effects for yourself!