Online therapy (also referred to as Internet therapy, distance therapy, cyber therapy or e-therapy) is used to describe the variety of ways a professional counselor or psychotherapist can communicate with you over the Internet or telephone. It may consist of emotional support, mental health advice or the same professional services clients receive in face-to-face therapy. It could be as brief as one question, or an ongoing conversation. It may take the form of e-mail, chat, video or even Internet phone (voice-over-IP). Have a look at as this post explains for more info on this.
Online therapy is not the same as traditional face-to-face psychotherapy. There are some people it will not work as well for. However, there is mounting evidence that it is very effective for some. An Australian researcher, Gavin Andrews, recently published a study in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry that indicates that Internet-based therapies are as successful as traditional approaches in treating depression.
Also significant is the fact that many more people need therapy than those who are already receiving it. For many the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment still gets in the way, or trust issues make it difficult to sit with someone in person while revealing personal information. Online therapy can also feel safer or like a good first step for those who feel overwhelmed at the prospect of seeking help and the trust risks involved. For example, many sexual abuse survivors report that they feel too frightened to see a therapist in person, at least in the initial stages of their healing. It may be much less frightening for them to receive therapy online from the safety and familiarity of their own home.
In considering the possibility of Online Therapy it is important to consider the potential benefits and areas of concern. The following lists are not all inclusive but hopefully give you a starting point.
When might Online Therapy be a good choice for you?
You are struggling with an anxiety disorder, agoraphobia or other issues that make it difficult to attend traditional therapy
You live in a rural area
It is hard to find therapists with the expertise you seek in your area (LGBT affirming therapists or those with expertise in complex trauma might be examples)
You are busy, travel out of town for work, have a schedule that conflicts with typical office hours available: email therapy would let you compose your message at your own pace and send it at any time.
You feel concerned about issues of trust, privacy, disclosure, being seen
You a physical disability or mobility issues which makes getting to traditional therapy too difficult
You have an easier time writing rather than speaking certain issues. This is often the case for trauma survivors
You have never tried therapy and feel this would be an easier way to start
You’d like a written record (with email or chat forms of therapy) to review as needed. This can be especially useful if memory issues are present, for example with dissociative amnesia.