Online therapy is an increasingly popular way of connecting with accessible, effective and confidential help. Mental health support is engaged with through the internet or via technology. This includes the growing number of websites and apps geared towards wellbeing, as well as real-time messages, phone calls, or video calls with a therapist.
The Anxiety New Zealand clinic offers online sessions over the phone and video sessions via zoom with a registered psychologist, psychologist or mental health GP (face-to-face using ZOOM or by phone) at times. and in the spaces and places, that work for people around Aotearoa.
So why should people consider online therapy?
There are a number of benefits to online therapy.
First and foremost, is that it is effective. As summarised by an article by inc.com, “Despite the concerns, research consistently shows that online treatment can be very effective for many mental health issues. Here are the results of a few studies:
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that online treatment was just as effective as face-to-face treatment for depression.
A 2014 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that online cognitive behavioural therapy was effective in treating anxiety disorders. Treatment was cost-effective and the positive improvements were sustained at the one-year follow-up.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders found that online cognitive behavioural therapy is "effective, acceptable and practical health care." The study found the online cognitive behavioural therapy was equally as effective as face-to-face treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.”
· It’s convenient and accessible – most people have access to a device that will allow them to connect, whether it’s a phone or a laptop. The flexible nature of these services benefit clients and providers as it makes it easier to find time to incorporate sessions into busy routines, when they can be held wherever technology and privacy is available. Scheduling is therefore more convenient for many people.
· Clients can attend sessions from the comfort of their own home, which make them more at ease during what can be difficult or uncomfortable conversations. Research shows that online treatment can be effective for a range of mental health concerns, particularly anxiety.
· It assists people in rural areas or those with transportation difficulties who would otherwise struggle to attend therapy. Individuals with anxiety, such as social anxiety or agoraphobia, may be more likely to reach out to an online therapist.
· People can engage in support in a physical space that feels safe and helpful. They can learn and practice new skills in the environments that they want to make changes in. People can engage in guided therapy in-situ (in the places and environments that they need help) and share with their clinician in a more personalised environment.
While these benefits are great, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
Those with more complex needs or increased risk of harm need greater support than what online therapy can offer, as it can be difficult for therapists to intervene in the event of a crisis with online clients.
Some clients may struggle with technological issues, such as accessing the means to do online therapy or ensuring a solid connection to the internet. Finding a safe private space from which to see the therapist can also be a challenge to some, for instance if they live in a busy home where family members or flatmates may overhear the session.
Although there are some drawbacks, online therapy has some clear benefits. Addressing barriers to getting help should be a priority. It is clear that online therapy can address some of the barriers people in Aotearoa may face in the search for support.