Even though some online therapy sites have been around for over 10 years now, this treatment option became popular only recently. With everything we have all been dealing with over the past few years, it makes a lot of sense more and more people go online for mental health assistance and guidance.
Over the last year or so, the largest therapy platforms such as Talkspace.com for example, have shown tremendous growth figures and now boast more than 3 million active subscribers. These companies are also publicly traded and valued at billions of dollars.
With all this money going into the industry, there’s of course also a greater risk of charlatans and frauds trying to prey on people who are desperate for help. In this article we’ll try to answer 2 main questions for you – is online therapy really effective, and if so, how can you find the best place to try it out safely and effectively.
Online Therapy vs. Live Therapy
If you’ve tried in-person therapy before, you need that chemistry and personal rapport with your counselor is immensely important. For some people, creating the same levels of trust and safety is almost impossible online. For that reason alone, we’d have to say that in general, live therapy is usually much more effective.
That said, teletherapy does have its advantages as well. First of all, it is substantially cheaper than meeting with a therapist face to face. It is also better for people who want a more constant and direct interaction with their counselor – most platforms have chat and SMS features in them, and your assigned therapist is expected to reply within a certain number of hours any time you reach out.
Lastly there’s also the most obvious perk of not being required to leave your home. This means therapy becomes much more flexible, and during these turbulent times, safer as well. Also, you get to save a little bit extra this way too, by not needing to spend on commute, parking and the likes.
The bottom line is that online therapy is at the very least worth a try. For most people, it can prove just as effective as live sessions. Studies have shown that even e-sessions might take a bit longer to “fire off” and produce results, over the long run they can be just as helpful.
One important caveat is of course the fact online therapy isn’t suitable for those suffering from extreme issues and a life-threatening situation – in such cases you should seek immediate help by going to the ER or meet a trained physician face to face.
Finding the Right Therapy Site
So, you’ve decided online therapy might be suitable for you, but are now confused as to what to do next. There are so many different sites and apps to choose from, and they all look very similar. The truth of the matter is most of them are quite similar – the difference is mostly nuanced. That said, these small nuances can make a world of difference! Just like with live therapy, small details about your counselor and the environment can really make or break the treatment.
With that in mind, you should adopt a similar approach when it comes to online therapy. You wouldn’t choose a doctor or a therapist without doing proper research first, so why act differently just because it happens online? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get started and find the best fit for your mental health journey.
Read Reviews and Compare Platforms
There are a handful of sites who specialize in reviewing and comparing online therapy sites. They make it easy to get a more detailed picture of the industry and really tell what separates one platform from another. For those of you who want to dive into the small details – this is the best way to go about it.
One thing to keep in mind is that most of these review sites are affiliated with the platforms, so they might not be completely unbiased. Bestonlinetherapy.com is one of the few review sites that feature a very large selection of companies and compares them in a totally honest and transparent manner.
Research the Industry on Mainstream Media
While the first option let’s you go more in-depth, if your main concern is just finding out a safe place to try out therapy for the first time, then major publications can certainly do the trick. While they often ignore smaller companies (which sometimes are actually better, or at least more right for you) they still give you a quick insight as to who are the major players in the industry.
Identifying the few biggest companies who offer online therapy helps you get started straight away and chances are very high you’ll be able to get the help you want with those. After all, they got big for a reason! The New York Times has a great introductory article on the subject, and if you want to dive a little bit deeper than medicalnewstoday.com does a great job at that.
Follow the Guidance of Professional Organizations
If you feel reports in mainstream media might still be too biased or at least too subjective, then perhaps referring to official agencies can do the trick. These fields are heavily researched and monitored, and results are published online on a regular basis.
So, if you are the type of person who feels they need to understand how it works before committing, following the publications on those type of sites can go a long way in building your trust in the service and making you feel safe. And as well all know, feeling that way is the key component for effective treatment!
The best places to get such information and begin your research is over at the APA (American Psychological Association). They even have a dedicated article discussing online therapy. If you are interested in combining online therapy with medication, then the American Psychiatric Association is a good place to get start.