In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless people have tried online therapy for the first time in the past several months, whether they have continued their pre-pandemic sessions with their therapist online or met with a new therapist for the first time on screen. Although online therapy may feel like a new concept to many, it has actually existed in various forms since the inception of the internet. As online therapy became more widely available, it provided access to mental healthcare to those living in rural areas, with mobility issues, with transportation or childcare limitations, and more.
Of late, the world has been made aware of one major benefit to online therapy that most of us likely didn’t anticipate: in the case of a global pandemic, when we are ordered to stay at home and keep our distance from others as much as we can, we still have access to therapy. In response to the need for online therapy because of the pandemic, many insurance companies have recently expanded coverage or even waived payment altogether for online services.
Even before “social distancing” entered our vernacular, the availability and popularity of online therapy has been proliferating especially in the past 5 years as app-based online therapy companies have entered the market. For some time, the tide has been shifting toward a new norm, one where people everywhere are choosing to swap out the commute and waiting room for seeing their therapist online from the comfort and convenience of wherever they choose.
So we know that it’s easier now more than ever to get access to online therapy, but many people may still be wondering if it’s right for them. And does it work? The quick answer is yes – a growing body of research has evidenced that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for many populations. For example, research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a treatment modality that focuses on alleviating symptoms by changing negative thinking patterns and problematic behaviors, can be equally or sometimes even more effective than in-person CBT for reducing symptoms of a wide variety of mental health issues including depression, post-traumatic stress, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, eating disorders, and more.
This is not to say that online therapy is preferable for all. Online therapy may not be a good fit for those with severe mental health issues or suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Further, some people might not have a private area at home where they would feel comfortable speaking freely with their therapist, which would likely impede progress. Others still might find that they enjoy the ritual and cadence of traveling to their therapist’s office and would prefer to be in the same room with them.
As the popularity of online therapy continues to grow, some may be wondering, “post-pandemic, will I still be able to find in-person counseling near me?” The freedom to choose whether to meet with your therapist online or in-person sets Great Lakes Psychology Group apart from nationwide app-based therapy companies that only offer online services (click here to learn more about how GLPG is different from subscription therapy services.) If you’d prefer to start online therapy in the wake of the pandemic but anticipate that you’d prefer to switch to in-office therapy at some point, you have the option of choosing a GLPG therapist located in your community.