In the aftermath of the pandemic, a record number of persons have resorted to seeking advice on health-related issues online, with a majority of them having never discussed their well-being with a third person in their entire life before.
Online therapy may not have been accepted with much fanfare at first, but it has certainly transformed the way for helping people suffering from psychological distress. Talkspace, for instance, a leading US mobile therapy service, reported a jump of 65% in demand for its teletherapy services since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Even though there are some limitations to this type of therapy, it has proved to be just as effective as traditional, face to face therapy.
Advantages of online therapy
According to experts, there are many advantages to opting for mobile care:
- Convenience: treatment can be taken from anywhere and is ideal for anyone who cannot take in-person appointments.
- Privacy: clients can look for treatment options without involving others, and some sites allow you to remain completely anonymous.
- Low cost: some apps cost less than traditional care fees, while some are absolutely free.
- Wide range: technology can help therapists reach people in remote areas or at times of natural calamities.
- Availability: one of the biggest advantages of technology is the overcoming of the time barrier. These new apps can be accessed 24×7 without any restrictions from any part of the world.
- Support to traditional therapy: introduction of online therapy does not mean that traditional therapy is gone. In fact, it lends more skills to traditional therapy, and more and more therapists incorporate text messaging in their usual treatment regime.
Effectiveness of online therapy
A stable internet connection, a camera and a good speaker is all you need to reap the innumerable benefits of this latest form of therapy. Remember, that this is not intended to be a replacement to traditional therapy but rather a tool which affords additional options for treatment.
Current studies have shown that while speaking with an in-person professional has been used as a traditional form of treatment for treating many emotional issues through medicine, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be just as effective when done online.
There are many apps which use CBT methods to help overcome anxiety, stress and depression. What’s Up has developed a habit tracker which breaks the person away from negative habits and helps develop new ones, while an app like Twenty-Four Hours a Day has helped millions of people to recover from addiction and focus more on sobriety no matter where they are.
Headspace is a highly rated meditation app designed to help you live your life mindfully. The app is suitable for experienced users and beginners alike and offers a wide range of meditations. Benefits of following these courses include coping with cravings, distractions and providing better sleep.
A special app designed to provide relief from anxiety and adjust thinking and behaviour using CBT tools is MinfShift CBT. Users have claimed that the app works well to help tackle issues like panic, worry, phobias and social anxiety. Some of the features of this app include short meditations, writing journals and other activities that help the user face fears and develop healthy habits.
The cons of mental health care apps
Thanks to the advancement in technology, any person can seek mental health assistance directly from a phone at the comfort of their home. The advantages, as highlighted above, are pretty clear and fully backed by sound scientific research.
Having said that, there can be situations when tele-therapy may not help and in-person assistance is required. People, for example, who are suffering from a severe type of mental illness or feeling suicidal, would need a real life therapist to help them, rather than a remote session. In such a crisis, it becomes difficult for an online therapist to intervene.
Another major concern with the use of technology is obtaining sufficient evidence on their efficiency, especially in comparison to more traditional methods. Users need to use their judgement and decide if mobile technology or an app can be effective for them or not. Subsequently, some apps promise more than they can actually deliver, which has made many consumers turn their backs and seek other, more effective therapy outlets.
To summarize, some key drawbacks one should be aware of are:
- An online therapist cannot respond to a crisis situation.
- Online therapy is unsuitable for those with serious psychiatric illness.
- Insurance companies may not cover e-therapy.
- Online therapists can’t always observe body language or voice signals, making therapy less effective overall.
Lack of time, accessibility and resources are the main reasons why people turn to online therapy. While you do not physically work with a mental health professional, at the very least these apps will provide some support and guidance to ease your problems, which is clearly much better than nothing.
So, for the time being, mental health apps promise to remove the stigmas surrounding some critical issues. Whether or not these mental care apps should be used as a supplement for face-to-face therapy or as standalone solution is up to each individual user. One thing is certain – online therapy is effective, does no harm, and can provide a great substitute to in-person sessions in most cases.
However, since these therapists can operate from any part of the world, laws relating to their qualifications and training credentials may be difficult to enforce. As such, some states have barred entry of out of state providers, making the