After we have already explained that online therapy can be just as effective as face to face, and discussed its pros and cons and previous posts, now we wish to better explain in what cases a person can benefit from online therapy.
Before taking a look at the benefits though, we first need to assess what the most common mental health conditions are in order to know how applicable online therapy is.
1. Most common mental health conditions
The most common mental health condition in the UK is undoubtedly mixed anxiety and depression, which affects around 8 in every 100 people. In the US, the most common is phobias.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the second most common in the UK, affecting 6 in every 100 people, whilst post-traumatic stress disorder affects 4 in every 100. Depression and phobias come in at 4th and 5th.
In the US, it’s a little different, with anxiety, depression, and phobias having far and away the most with over 15 million sufferers each. However, these five or six conditions are all far and away the most common in most countries.
Clearly, mental health conditions are rife in the UK and US, but they also share similarities. Whilst not all, many of these overlap and can be treated with CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It just so turns out that online therapy is highly effective in delivering CBT.
In the US, there are many more types of treatments available than the UK for mental health conditions. There certainly are ways to gain face to face treatment in the UK, but with fewer options, online therapy stakes its importance in society even more strongly. Generally, many of the top U.S. therapy sites are the ones that dominate the market too, so those looking for help in the UK may be using US treatment.
2. What can online therapy help with?
If we begin with depression, which is something many people will have experienced at one point or another, we can see that online therapy mostly uses either one of two evidence-based therapies: cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is essentially a way of spotting patterns in our thoughts. We identify the way we think in response to certain triggers, helping us spot the negative feedback loop before it happens. It helps us see our thoughts as more guesses than facts.
CBT is a process that demands a lot of time. Extra work can be assigned, but this is why online therapy is useful, because it’s more regular than physical sessions which tend to have long spaces between them.
As you can imagine, this kind of therapy relates to phobias, panic disorders, OCD, and anxiety. All of these can be helped by the way we identify and manage our thoughts.
Online therapy treatments go beyond CBT too. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a talking treatment which focuses on people and relationships in your life, which can often be the cause behind mental health conditions such as depression. The therapist may use techniques like role playing and it’s very goal focused, usually prioritizing the most pressing relational problems.
3. Can online counseling help me?
Both CBT and IPT are diagnoses-targeted and present-focused treatments that help people gain better control over their functioning and mood. You will never know how effective therapy will be for you until you try it, but to give it a chance of working, you must be 100% honest and cooperative. Statistically, around 70%-80% success rates (clients showing signs of improvements) are reported regarding therapy - and scientific studies show online therapy is just as effective.
Most of the major mental health disorders mentioned above are treatable by online therapists, but they won’t often declare their techniques on the website beforehand. Instead, you will likely take a short assessment of questions, type in a budget, and they will assign you a therapy plan. In this sense, you have to afford them your trust in choosing the right path forward.
4. First session
The first session with an online therapist usually involves clarifying the areas in life that you wish to focus on and what your goals are - it will seem like general introductions to you, but for the therapist it’s very valuable information. Of course, prior to this, you will have already established which mode of communication is your preference, be it texting, video calls, or phone calls.
When starting your first session, try and find a private quiet space. It’s common to turn to online therapy because you’re not comfortable with heading to see them in person, so make sure you’re not going to get interrupted by someone in your home. It’s normal to be nervous.
5. When is online therapy not the answer?
Online therapy, of course, has its limitations. Whilst it can replace face to face therapy in some circumstances, it certainly cannot replace all treatments. First and foremost, therapy is often not enough to treat depression. In some instances, medicine should be prescribed, which in the UK is usually done by your GP doctor.
Unfortunately, they’re actually a little too willing to hand out prescriptions before trying therapy, so CBT referrals tend to come after they have tried medicine, not before. Regardless, in many instances, both are required, which is one area of limitation for therapy in general.
However, the specifics of it being online also has a limitation for more severe or obscure issues. For example, experiencing thoughts of being suicidal should not be dealt with text therapy alone. It is a great stepping stone for some people who are suicidal and cannot make the leap of traditional therapy in their first stride, but online therapy is far from the complete treatment for this.
Furthermore, some conditions like schizophrenia cannot be treated as effectively over the phone. Generally, when a psychiatrist is needed instead of a psychologist/therapist, this is when online therapy isn’t going to suffice. A psychiatrist needs to be able to diagnose their patient, read their body language and non-verbal communication, and assign intensive treatment.