Editor’s Note: We don’t usually link to entire articles, but this one is too good to pass up, and the people at Consumers Advocate gave us permission to do so. Online therapy is increasingly popular and efficacious. Many people live in areas where face-to-face professional grief therapy is unavailable. Others work hours that make it nearly impossible to keep appointments, especially those who travel irregularly for work. I have a close relative whose career keeps her on the road for most weekdays, ofttimes abroad. She benefits greatly from therapy via Facetime or Skype, or through an app, or when the internet is unavailable, by phone. This article is long and incredibly comprehensive. Below are two excerpts from the site followed by a link to the entire piece.
If you have suffered a loss and feel the need for a therapist, it’s worth you while to read this article.
ONLINE THERAPY: A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE
The mental health care industry is constantly evolving to increase access to care. Out of these attempts to make treatment accessible for more people, a new alternative to face-to-face therapy has grown.
Through mobile apps and websites, online therapy connects users and patients to licensed therapists and trained specialists. Treatment can take different forms, from providing various levels of therapeutic care, being a supportive listener who can help through hard times, or simply therapist-designed tools which serve as aids in overcoming difficult situations.
Telemedicine or telehealth, refers to the use of digital data and telecommunications technology to carry out long-distance clinical healthcare, via videoconferencing, the internet, and media streaming. Remote patient monitoring with connected electronic tools, health info through mobile devices, and store-and-forward teleconferencing are also considered telehealth. While sometimes used interchangeably, telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services offered remotely, whereas telehealth covers a much wider spectrum. This distinction is important for regulatory and legal purposes, since some states may have telemedicine laws, but not telehealth ones.
Many telemedicine apps such as Amwell, Doctor on Demand, and MDLive, offer psychiatric and psychological services. Patients can schedule an appointment with the specialist of their choice via the app or website. In a video call, the specialist will diagnose the patient if necessary and can even prescribe medication, in the case of a psychiatrist. The cost of each session scheduled through these apps is comparable to that of a face-to-face appointment, between $75 and $200. Most apps accept insurance, so those who are covered by their health plan will only need to pay their copay. This solution is ideal for those who cannot leave their home to attend an in-person session or who live in areas without specialists.
Online Therapy Apps
When people talk about online therapy, they are often thinking about apps and websites that let you speak to a counselor or therapist via text message, web chat, voice message, or video call. Specialists who provide services through an online app can’t prescribe medication, but they can provide therapy that may include cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness, among other approaches. The cost for these services varies but it ranges between $49 and $79 dollars per week for the four companies we reviewed, usually charged monthly. This comes out to a monthly cost of around $250, which may startle some patients.
However, breaking down the services included in these subscriptions, such as unlimited text messages to your assigned therapist with daily text replies, as well as weekly or biweekly video sessions, puts the price tag in perspective. For patients who only visit a therapist once a month, a subscription to an online therapy app might not be worth it. But for people who want constant communication with a therapist or counselor, but can’t afford to pay for three or four in-person sessions every month, an online therapy subscription might make the most sense.
WHEN ONLINE THERAPY CAN HELP
Online therapy is often less expensive than in-person therapy, especially for people without health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t cover mental health services. When you compare the cost between multiple in-person sessions every month with the cost of online sessions with a therapist, plus the ability to text with a therapist at any time, you may find subscribing to an online therapy site makes more sense for you.
One of the main objections to online therapy is the digital barrier that keeps therapists and patients from getting to know each other in person. For Dr. Rabinowitz, however, the relative anonymity and distance provided by online therapy can be a good thing.
“Shy or avoidant patients may actually appreciate the feeling of distance the telemedicine approach gives them versus a face-to-face approach,” says Dr. Rabinowitz. “And actually, it may help many of these folks avail themselves of psychotherapy that they wouldn’t avail themselves of otherwise.”
In addition to shyness or reluctance to treatment, online therapy can help many people avoid discrimination and judgment in their communities. The ability to restrict all therapeutic conversations to a mobile device or computer enables vulnerable people to keep their mental health status private, since they don’t have to find the time to physically attend appointments where they may be recognized.
In the course of our research, we were also surprised to find that one of the situations when online therapy can be most useful is when it comes to relationships. Couples with busy or conflicting schedules may find it impossible to receive therapy in person. Though commonly known as marital counseling, this type of therapy is not restricted to married couples and can be enjoyed by all kinds of people in romantic relationships. Online therapy provides an opportunity to meet in a neutral, virtual therapy room where they can talk about their relationship. Writing things down may also help people who may be too shy or scared to speak their problems out loud. Online therapy is also a great alternative for people in long-distance relationships.