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How does online therapy work?

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There are many reasons why someone might be hesitant to go see a therapist in person. One possible solution is online therapy, also called teletherapy. Online therapy can be a great option, especially if:

  • It’s hard for you to find time to go into a therapist’s office physically.
  • You live in a small town, where there aren’t enough therapists or the closest one lives far away.
  • You’re more comfortable using an app than going into an office to talk to a stranger in-person.
  • You need more flexible hours than most therapy offices can provide.

Online therapy is still relatively new. Saying that it isn’t as well-established as traditional, in-person therapy. But research is showing that online therapy can often be just as effective as traditional therapy.

Right now is a great time to start taking advantage of online therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a huge shift in the online therapy world, pushing more therapists to support online options for therapy. Online therapy has become just as natural as in-person therapy, and for many people it feels more comfortable and convenient.

Things to be aware of

Online therapy can be a lot more convenient than traditional therapy, but it’s not perfect. Many of the challenges of traditional therapy still apply:

  • It may take some time to find a therapist who’s a good fit.
  • You’ll still have to open up about some potentially uncomfortable topics.
  • You get what you put into it! You get the most from therapy when you stick with it and attend consistently, not just when it’s most convenient for you or you feel most comfortable.

It also introduces some new challenges:

  • Therapists design their offices to be comfortable, peaceful spaces. They may have soothing fountains, pleasant music playing in the waiting room, or use calming essential oils. If nothing else, they are private. But when you get your therapy online, you’ll need to find your own peaceful space. If you have lots of clutter, or if you have roommates that might be able to overhear what you say, it might be harder to get comfortable and share.
  • Therapy is all about communication. And there’s no perfect substitute for communicating in person. If you’re video chatting, you still get to see some body language and facial expressions. But if you’re doing a voice call without video, you miss out on that. And if you’re texting, you also miss out on each other’s tone of voice.
  • Technology solves a lot of problems, but it also introduces new ones. You’ll need a decent Internet connection and a device that can handle the conversation without lag. Even then, there may be technical difficulties from time to time that are outside of your control.