Gone are the days when the only way to get mental health support was on a therapist’s couch. Because now with the rise of online therapy, you can speak to a qualified psychologist wherever and whenever suits you. The support you need is quite literally at your fingertips. 

To say that technology has revolutionised our lives would be a bit of an understatement. Our favourite Chinese takeaway can be on our plates with a few clicks of a button and a few swipes could be all it takes for us to find love. And it’s only natural that we want the same convenience and ease when it comes to looking after our mental health. After all, starting therapy takes guts. It’s a big enough step, without having to worry about bus timetables, childcare or social distancing. 

Accessibility, cost, time, privacy… The benefits of online therapy are pretty endless. So it’s unsurpising that more and more of us are turning to the web for support. 

Plus, you don’t even need to be too digitally-savvy to get started…

What is online therapy?

Online therapy is exactly as it sounds. It’s just the same as in-person therapy: the only thing that changes is the setting. 

Whether you want to alleviate your anxieties, face a phobia or simply become a better you, online therapy lets you access all the same coping mechanisms as you would in an in-person session. 

A senior psychologist will guide you along the right track using therapies such as Schema Therapy or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). But they’ll just do so via your phone, tablet or laptop. 

There are lots of advantages to logging in online. For many of us, taking the leap and starting therapy may be a little daunting. You might feel more comfortable having a video call with your therapist whilst your dog is nuzzled up by your feet. Or perhaps there aren’t enough hours in the day to dash to your therapist’s office between work and picking up the little ones from school.

Online therapy fits around your schedule, so you can chat to a therapist whenever and wherever suits you – whether that’s a quick video call squeezed in before your morning commute or a handy live messenger chat just before putting the kids to bed. 

Online therapy isn’t a new concept, it’s been around for a while now. But more and more of us are seeing the merits of it recently, especially due to COVID. When tougher lockdown measures have been put into place, therapy sessions have had to go digital and many patients are finding that virtual support is just as invaluable.

For many of us, the past year has been an emotionally testing time. We might be feeling more anxious, stressed or low – and that’s completely understandable. It’s a scary time. 

Taking care of our minds is more important than ever. So if you’re thinking about taking the plunge, here are just a few reasons why online therapy could be for you…

  • Geography

Unfortunately, there are plenty of physical barriers to getting therapy. Some people may live rurally or can’t drive. If you have a physical disability, trudging across the city might be a bit of a nightmare. Or leaving your bed might just seem near-impossible when you’re feeling low. 

Online therapy helps sweep these hurdles aside. Distance is no longer a barrier because there’s someone ready and waiting to help you at the click of a button.

  • Time

In our hectic lives, ‘me time’ can be hard to come by. You might have a frantic schedule and work irregular hours. Or perhaps you’re a single parent or a carer who’s always racing against the clock. 

It’s important that we make sure our minds are ticking along okay. And by squeezing in a quick therapy session after dinner or just before our night shift, it could really make all the difference.

If it feels like time is always slipping through your fingers, online therapy could be a good solution. That’s because you don’t have to worry about wasting time trekking over to a therapist’s office. You can save those valuable minutes and put them towards the things that really matter. 

  • Privacy

Worried about bumping into a nosey neighbour in the waiting room? Or maybe you’d prefer chatting about how you’re feeling within the confines of your own home? For some, online therapy offers a comforting sense of privacy. Plus, there’s plenty of security measures in place to protect your privacy online, too, from high-grade encryption services to virus and password protection. 

  • Home comforts

Let’s face it: opening up and talking about how we’re really feeling can be tough. Really tough. But, sometimes, it’s the little things that make it easier. 

Some of us may feel more comfortable opening up online than in-person. It may feel less daunting. Or perhaps you’d feel more at ease if you could snuggle up on your sofa with a cosy pair of bedroom slippers.

What’s more, online therapy also gives you the chance to show your therapist your living environment, which may provide useful clues for your therapy and treatment.

  • Cost 

The world would be a happier place if everyone could access therapy, not just a select few. If you’re strapped for cash and in-person therapy seems pricey, online therapy could be a good middle ground. It often provides greater flexibility: for example, you might be able to take advantage of shorter session times or live messenger therapy options that are just as effective but more affordable.

  • Social distancing

It’s understandable that COVID is taking a huge toll on our mental wellbeing. We’ve had to deal with social distancing and isolation, financial worries and stress-inducing news reports. And that’s to say nothing of those who lost loved ones to the disease, sometimes without getting the chance to say goodbye.

But just as prioritising our mental health has become critical, it’s also become trickier to get face-to-face support. There’s now 2m social distancing, face masks, reduced session hours and endless hand sanitation stations to contend with. And that’s all before you even make it to your therapist’s couch. 

Because of this, online therapy could be ideal. You still get the expert support you need. You can still put in the work and look after your mental health. But you can do so from the comfort (and safety) of your own home.

 Is online therapy effective?

Online therapy is so much more than a chat on the phone. In fact, there is growing evidence that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy. 

Let’s take Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), for instance. You might have heard of it before because it’s an effective treatment when it comes to depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, panic, PTSD, bipolar disorder, psychosis and phobias (including agoraphobia and social phobia). 

Essentially, CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our body feels are all interconnected. And a 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders found that online cognitive behavioural therapy (or iCBT) was “equally effective as face-to-face CBT”. 

In many cases, it’s simply about finding the right therapist – someone who you can trust to guide you in the right direction. It can often be a case of trial-and-error. We’re all unique, which all means we’ve all got our own different issues we want to work on. But thankfully many practices allow you to switch therapists free of charge if it doesn’t feel right the first time around. 

Ultimately, when it all boils down to it , real and lasting change starts and ends with you. It doesn’t matter if you start that journey in a therapist’s office or behind a computer screen, by putting in the legwork you’re taking the first step to becoming a healthier, happier you.