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Does the Future Belong to Online Therapy? 


For a long time, psychology has been a touchy subject for most people because of how society has defined it. According to Hopkinsmedicine.org, it is estimated that 26% of Americans who are 18 and more have a diagnosable mental disorder. Many people are even said to suffer more than one mental disorder at the same time. However, further research shows that only 1/3 of that 26 % of Americans seek professional help. 

Statistics show that up to 52% of Americans believe that therapy is hard to get, and it is regarded as one of the biggest reasons why people don’t seek help. Some of the other reasons given by various people include therapy being too expensive, thinking their problems are not that serious, and thinking it won’t work for them. 

However, in recent times, there has been a significant shift in how many services are being carried out. Many services have moved online, which include some health services that don’t involve any physical treatment like psychological therapy. 

The branch of therapy that is carried out online is called Telepsychology, and it aims to make counseling more accessible to people worldwide. Telepsychology helps to simplify and speed up the process of finding a therapist and removes the tension that people feel when they are physically present. Today, several platforms offer a variety of options like video conferencing, audio, texting, and live chat as forms of psychological therapy sessions to various clients. 

The flexible nature of the services offered by many certified platforms, especially Lifehelp, benefits the clients in many ways, including the therapist. While there are many benefits of online therapy, many experts fear that this form of treatment might come with its own dangers. Some of the concerns raised by various researchers include the vulnerability of the internet to hackers, the ease with which quack psychologists can set up their online shops, and the problem of misdiagnoses and interrupted follow up sessions. 

When did telepsychology start?

Telepsychology or online therapy may have picked up pace because of the versatility and ever-increasing dependence of the world’s population on online services. However, telepsychology has been around in one form or another for more than 20 years. The military has also used it for even longer. 

In the year 1972, the first simulated psychotherapy session occurred between computers at Stanford and UCLA. By 1986, Uncle Ezra became the earliest known organized service to provide mental health advice online and was formed at Cornell University. 

Depression central was formed in 1993, making it the first online depression support group ever assembled. In 1994, The Samaritans, an online-based volunteer crisis center, was founded and now has over 68 branches worldwide. 

By the year 1995, Psychological consultation had become available through shareware services like Help Net and ShrinkLink. 

The year 1995 was also the year that saw the first person-to-person telepsychology work done through a chat service run by the Pink Practice in London. 

What does Telepsychology look like today?

In the year 2020, there are four basic types of online therapy available to the general public.

They include:

  • E-Therapy: Psychologists establish an ongoing therapy period with their patients to help them with their problems. It is very similar to the traditional therapy sessions, except it is completely online. 
  • Mental Health Advice: Here, psychotherapists use the psychological counseling theories and methods to respond to questions asked by their patients in-depth and offer the patients advice. It occurs completely online too. 
  • Adjunct Services: Here, the services include both traditional in-person therapy sessions and additional online therapy sessions.
  • Telepsychiatry: Due to how difficult it is to get psychotherapy in remote regions, psychotherapists and other mental health professionals use video conferencing technologies to interact with their patients in different parts of the world. 

Is Online Therapy effective?

Many experts around the world still think that nothing beats traditional in-patient therapy sessions. However, there is compelling evidence that points at the fact that Online therapy can be just as effective. 

Here are some of the observed advantages of Telepsychology and some not so desirable parts too.

Pros

  • High flexibility in therapy time and costs.
  • Telepsychology is highly accessible to people from all walks of life and therefore has a broader reach than traditional therapy. 
  • Telepsychology helps to eliminate several barriers that prevent people from going for therapy. Patients who are anxious, homebound, dealing with PTSD, and disabilities and those in remote places, can have access to professional therapists. 
  • It is more affordable than traditional therapy. 
  • It eliminates the social stigma that comes with going for therapy. 

Cons

  • It relies heavily on the available technology in the patient’s area, and it can, therefore, be largely hindered by it. 
  • This form of therapy can also be limited by the therapist’s legal obligations to a particular state or country. It can also cause legal issues in terms of data collection and the state of practice. 
  • Online Therapy sessions may not be the best option for high-risk patients.
  • Most health insurance companies don’t cover Telepsychology. 
  • Services can be compromised by hackers. 

Conclusion

It is clear that the world is going to continue shifting towards using online services, and teletherapy is at the forefront of the many services that will benefit from this shift. It is, therefore, essential that mental health treatment evolves along with the generation of patients it serves. 

However, it is also necessary that more resources are directed towards making sure the quality of online therapy services is not compromised in terms of care, ethics, and legal bindings. 

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