Getting help from a mental health professional without leaving your home could be the way forward for tackling the mental health crisis that we are facing.
My name is Joanne and I'm a registered accredited counsellor. I work with individuals, couples and with their emotional well-being. I first accessed counselling myself in my early 20's after experiencing some very difficult and challenging situations in my life and have since had counselling periodically throughout my adult life.
For me, talking to a therapist of whom I could trust and was not emotionally involved in my life and who could remain impartial, objective and not judge me was invaluable, so here are five reasons why online therapy can work.
1. Convenience and accessibility – Not everyone has the time, desire or capacity to travel to see their chosen therapist face-to-face. Online therapy provides easy access to counselling, especially if there are time constraints or physical/mental limitations. Your work may require you to travel frequently, so online therapy is ideal as you can access your sessions anytime, anywhere. Counselling is a process and it needs commitment, and regular sessions to build a trusting therapeutic relationship. Online therapy fully enables this.
2. Extensive choice – Most people will either see a therapist who’s been recommended or they will search the internet for someone in their local area. Pre-pandemic, it was mostly
face-to-face sessions offered, which does narrow your options. Choosing a therapist is a very important decision; you need to connect with a therapist which is right for you and it’s best if the choice is in your control. Sometimes it can take a few initial consultations to decide who you choose to work with. Online therapy gives you a broader choice, whether you’re looking for a counsellor with a similar background to you or cultural similarities, you have the luxury of choosing from a diverse pool of therapists. Furthermore, as humans we possess something called affinity bias which means we’re unconsciously drawn to people who appear to have similar qualities to ourselves. Our brains see those people as familiar and safe, and we sense a connection with them. Recently I’ve been searching online for a new clinical
supervisor. The supervisor I have chosen was initially based on her profile photograph, her experience with Mindfulness and just something which resonated with me. Her face looked open and welcoming - I am “seeing” similar qualities to those that I possess and of which are frequently remarked upon.
3. Confidence to take that first step – Face-to-face counselling in a therapy room requires a certain amount of emotional intimacy in a closed, safe space, with close physical proximity. This can be a barrier for some, especially for clients who have emotional intimacy issues, and experience with trauma or abuse. Online therapy can break down this barrier to a certain extent. It can give clients the confidence to take that leap of faith whilst still keeping them in the safe space of their own home. Sometimes a clinical setting can feel daunting and unnerving, and a therapist’s office within their own home can feel too intimate. Now that I conduct as many online sessions as I do face to face, I’ve been enlightened and humbled by the fact that me and my clients can build a trusting and emotionally comfortable therapeutic relationship online with really positive outcomes. I did initially have reservations about transforming my service to the online platform. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how my own knowledge and confidence has grown and most importantly, how very effective it has been for my clients. I highly recommend it!
4. Evidence – Statistically it’s been documented that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face treatment. “A 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders found that online cognitive behavioral therapy is, "effective, acceptable and practical health care." The study found the online cognitive behavioral therapy was equally as effective as face-to-face treatment for major depression, panic disorder.” These statistics will no doubt change due to the 2020 COVID/ lockdown global crisis. I’ve conducted my own research and statistics in my practice and 80% of my clients changed to on-line from March 2020 due to social distancing restrictions. Outcomes have been just as effective as face-to-face. Online counselling is a different kind of connection, but it is still a healthy and effective connection and it works.
5. Affordability and access – Most of us are aware that the waiting time for therapy in the UK with the NHS is long and even if you get an initial telephone consultation within a few weeks, you’re unlikely to access weekly therapy for maybe a couple of months, unless you’re in crisis. If you’re accessing therapy for mild to moderate anxiety or depression, and you’ve taken the first step to calling the mental health service, by the time you get the therapy your mental health issues could have escalated to a severe level. Early intervention is absolutely essential and can prevent more critical situations and serious psychiatric interventions. Early intervention is more cost effective too. Sadly, mental health difficulties are on the rise and resources are lacking. Online counselling gives you instant access – you make the courageous decision to book your appointment and you won’t have to wait weeks and weeks for your first session. Online therapy can also be more affordable than face-to-face, depending on which therapist you choose to see and there again, the choice and control is in your hands. Furthermore, there are no travel costs. All in all, the benefits of online therapy are numerous and plentiful.