Virtually everything can be done online these days, and therapy is no exception. More and more people are sitting on the couch with a therapist online. Online therapy, e-therapy, or e-health has been extensively researched in recent years. It sounds very practical, but is talking to a therapist online effective?
Effectiveness of online therapy
Online therapy works just as well as traditional therapy ‘in real life’. This is the conclusion of Claudi Bockting, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam. She should know because she conducted ten years of worldwide research on the effects of internet therapy. The effects of online and offline therapy were similar: half of the patients benefited and in a third of the patients the symptoms were demonstrably reduced.
Patients’ circumstances were also found to have little effect on the effectiveness of online therapy. Whether you earn a lot or a little or are highly or poorly educated, an online therapist can help patients from different backgrounds equally well. However, patients from urban areas did show less progress than patients living outside of cities.
Is online therapy right for me?
The positive results of Bockting’s research apply to almost all mental illnesses. However, opinions are still divided on this. For example, online therapy for depression would initially be very effective, but patients who have had online therapy for this are more likely to relapse. Also, online therapy is less suitable for severely depressed patients, because these patients often shut themselves off during the conversations. At a distance, it is very difficult for a therapist to get in touch with this type of patient.
Benefits of talking to a therapist online
- The threshold to seek help is lower.
- The shame of sitting in the therapist’s waiting room is avoided.
- Online therapy happens in a pleasant, familiar environment of choice.
- The therapist can make interventions directly in the patient’s environment, if necessary.
- Online therapy does not require additional travel time.
- Many therapists are also available outside of office hours.
- A video call is easier to schedule into a full schedule.
- Online therapy is often less expensive.
- Online therapists often have no waiting list.
- The patient is not tied to a therapist in their local area and thus has more choice.
Disadvantages of talking to a therapist online
- Some patients find it more difficult to connect with a therapist online.
- Picking up nonverbal cues is made more difficult.
- A video call is more tiring, so consultations can often last only 30 to 45 minutes.
- Not every patient or mental illness can be treated online.
Terms and conditions of online therapy
To increase the success of online treatment, you must meet the following conditions before you begin online therapy:
- You are not in an acute crisis.
- You have confidence in the online therapist and the treatment.
- You have a stable internet connection and a quiet environment at your disposal.
- You are proficient with a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
- You can express yourself well in writing (if email or chat is part of the treatment).
Do you meet these requirements and have confidence in the possibilities of online therapy? Then online conversations with a therapist can be just as beneficial as traditional, face-to-face conversations. You will also reap the many practical benefits of online therapy.
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