If therapy at the privacy of your home at any time you choose sounds appealing, then online therapy can be just what the doctor ordered for treating mental health issues.
Most online therapy platforms can be downloaded easily on a mobile app, while some are only available on desktop . Once you are matched with a therapist, sessions can take place via video conference, text message, email or chat.
But if you are new to the idea of virtual health or just curious about how the online counseling process works, you will first need to research the different types of therapy available online.
Keeping this in mind and the fact that the treatment in this field is constantly changing, the numerous styles of therapy and therapeutic interventions which one can access online,to adjust behavior and improve feelings are outlined below.
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a type of evidence based psychotherapy, which offers an effective approach to treat a range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
CBT aims to identify and alter unhealthy ways of thinking, behaving and feeling by using simple self-help techniques designed to rapidly bring positive changes to the quality of life.
Since CBT has been around for many years it can be beneficial for anyone having unhelpful thoughts that are making living a good and healthy life a challenge.
Pros of CBT
- Compared to other therapy options, CBT is a short-term form of treatment
- CBT can be implemented both individually or in a group
- CBT can be as effective as medication in treating mental health disorders
- CBT is very structured,comes in various tried and tested methods
- CBT equips patients with tools for the future
Cons of CBT
- CBT may not be an ideal form of treatment for those any type of brain injury or brain disease that impairs rational thinking
- CBT relies heavily on the willpower of the person
- CBT can make you feel worse before you feel better
- While some CBT techniques are beneficial, cognitive restructuring and relaxation strategies may not be as effective
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is another type of online therapy that helps the user to focus on how to regulate emotions. DBT is ideal for those with depression and emotional disorders and educates one to cope with emotions in a healthy way.
DBT is typically conducted over weekly sessions which last for about 50 minutes. Thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns are shared online with a therapist,who then gives assignments like relaxation techniques, journaling etc to teach skills to overcome your mental health issues.
Pros of DBT
- Increases the user’s self-respect and self-worth
- Reduces hospital stay and the severity of borderline personality disorder symptoms
- Improves emotion regulation
- Reduces assertive anger
- Being an evidence based therapy, DBT extends well beyond treating mental illness by enhancing the individuals quality of life
Cons of DBT
- DBT is rooted in Zen Buddhist teachings which certain clients like Jews, Muslims, Christians etc may find the facets of DBT objectionable
- Not suited for those with trauma related problems
- Many find the homework assignments of DBT burdensome and either quit halfway or are unwilling to try DBT altogether
- DBT requires a lot of time and commitment which may not appeal to some
Online support groups
While online support groups operate differently from teletherapy and other smartphone applications,they succeed by creating a space for like-minded people to share their experiences, whether similar or unique, with others of similar backgrounds.
Individuals,who are a part of this online support group can usually communicate with each other at any time of the day or night.
Pros of online support groups
- For people who are unable to seek support in person,an online community group can offer strong emotional support.
- Offers support 24×7
- Service is usually free
- Can help in treating other forms of therapy by providing an additional avenue to express oneself
Cons of online support groups
- Structure of each support group varies significantly
- Conveying meaning accurately online may be challenging for some people which may result in miscommunication
- Cyberbullying is a major headache with online support groups as chat rooms are easily accessible
- Online support groups efficacy as a form of digital mental health service has not found favor with some organizations and licensing boards due to the associated ethical concerns.
Eye movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is useful in stimulating the neural network of the brain in order to process trauma.Work involves directed eye movements,a kind of bi-lateral stimulation required to help the brain in reducing strong negative feelings which are associated with a trauma event.
Those who may require EMDR may have issues with trauma and PTSD,body dysmorphic disorder or chronic pain.
Pros of EMDR therapy
- Decrease in emotional distress with relation to memory
- Long-lasting behavior changes
- Helps in treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder linked to substance abuse
- Mimics sleeping patterns to induce healing
Cons of EMDR therapy
- Has not been in use long enough to draw conclusions about its long-term effectiveness
- Researchers are not 100% certain as to why it works
The aim of psychodynamic therapy is to address the deep fears,intense mechanisms and inner conflicts.Psychodynamic therapy is a kind of talk therapy,where conversation takes place between the patient and the therapist to help the patient understand themselves better.
This kind of therapy may be of great help for mood disorders,such as bipolar disorder and depression. Psychodynamic therapy also treats anxiety,poor relationships, eating disorder and substance use disorders
Pros of Psychodynamic therapy
- Excellent short-term therapy option
- The overall body benefit is largely positive
- Can treat multiple conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and Somatic disorders
- Gives quick results
Cons of Psychodynamic therapy
- Not helpful for people in deep trauma due to its short-term nature
- Discussing past experiences can induce distress
- Not always effective and could be a waste of time for some
Self-help smartphone applications
For those who do not wish to participate in traditional therapy, mental health self-help applications are a useful alternative.These apps teach what strategies are best for the user in order to implement the various techniques.
The resources can then be easily incorporated in the day to day routine along with other activities that support mental health like meditation or journaling.
Pros of smartphone applications
- High rate of user engagement
- Cost effective and easily accessible
- Provide an excellent introduction to mental health care
- Allows you to remain anonymous
Cons of smartphone applications
- Efficacy of mental health applications has not yet been established due to little research
- Can increase risk of incorrect or misinformed diagnosis compared to other types of health care
- Unlike teletherapy and traditional therapy these apps focus on a single condition which makes them less holistic form of treatment
Online therapy-how well it stacks up with treatment delivered in person?
A systematic analysis of 17 studies by Leo et al(2020) conducted for psychologytoday.com showed that internet delivered CBT was more effective than face-to-face CBT treatment in reducing the severity of depression symptoms. Online CBT was also viewed as being more cost-effective than in-person CBT.
Another study by Anderson et al(2018) found that eCBT led to a 50% improvement in panic disorder rate, obsessive compulsive disorder and chronic fatigue within a period of eight to fifteen weeks.
There is not much difference in rates between in-person and virtual therapy, therefore the cost advantage to either format is negligible. Traditional in-person therapy on an average costs $100 per visit while online therapists may offer good rates if you book multiple sessions with them,but the company they work for may jack up the price at any time.