Nearly half of all Americans will deal with a mental health issue at some point in their life. Every year, tens of millions of people reach out to someone to help with relationship issues, mental trauma, and some form of addiction. Seeing a therapist is a part of everyday life for a significant portion of the population. This is where online therapy comes in.
Now, technology may be making it easier for people to seek out help at their convenience. New platforms allow access to professional therapists online either through a smartphone app or over Skype. Thousands of users have signed up and the number of online therapy sessions is only set to grow as awareness spreads and the technology improves.
If you’ve considered seeking therapy online, here’s what you need to know:
There’s An App For That
For a generation that’s always online, bringing therapy sessions to an app is the best way to normalize mental health treatment. Talkspace, an iOS app, lets users start with free online sessions and gradually sign up for the premium version that includes unlimited messages and video conferencing. Therapist Finder acts as an online Rolodex of all the best therapists in your area and Couples Counseling lets couples seek help from a counselor online even if they’re not in the same location.
Apps like these have made life easier for millions of people who struggle with mental health issues and emotional trouble. Patients can book an appointment at their convenience, turn up for sessions more regularly, and choose to be anonymous. Meanwhile, therapists can help more people regardless of where they live or which hours they work.
Beyond the pragmatic benefits, online sessions could actually be more effective for certain issues. Experts suggest that agoraphobia, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and treating addiction could be done better online.
However, online therapy isn’t without its own set of drawbacks. Internet connectivity is, perhaps, the biggest issue. Video sessions can crash suddenly and sometimes the sound quality isn’t good enough for an expensive therapy session.
There’s also the risk of unverified therapists gaining access to vulnerable clients online. Most apps and web platforms verify their therapists, but some might still find a way to contact clients directly over skype or social media.
Experts also complain that certain forms of treatment require physical examinations. Sometimes eye contact is necessary for treatment and a therapist can’t smell liquor on an addict’s breath if the session is online.
This wave of new apps and online platforms has made mental health care more accessible. Millions of people can now access online therapy safely, cheaply, and anonymously. However, there are concerns that online treatment may not be as effective for certain issues. Users should verify the therapists they see online and therapists must comply with state and federal laws before offering treatment through this medium.
If regulated appropriately, online treatments could skyrocket, helping millions of people find access to much-needed health care.
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