A Balanced Investigation into Remote Therapy and Online Therapy

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Online therapy, also known as remote therapy or distance therapy, is a significant trend in modern psychology. Online mental health counseling is no longer a futuristic possibility. Instead, it’s a viable reality to see a therapist online and do therapy online. When it comes to the mental health of a troubled young person, is remote and distant enough to guarantee success? If you can access in-person care, are you settling for something less by seeing a therapist online?

Online Therapy is a Valuable Innovation

There is no argument that online therapy is an incredible innovation for mental healthcare. For a vast number of people, remote therapy offers wider access to help. Bringing therapy online expands the boundaries of support for young people and reduces stigma. Indeed, Newport Academy supports the removal of stigma for mental health services.

The simple truth is that not everyone needs in-person help and the face-to-face presence of a therapist. A recent study on depression favorably compares the treatment outcomes of an internet-based intervention with face-to-face interventions. Post-treatment, both online therapy and in-person therapy options led to positive changes.

Some people complain about the digital barrier that keeps a therapist and a client from getting to know each other. However, a psychiatrist with the University of Vermont Medical Center, Dr. Terry Rabinowitz told the Consumer Advocate, “Shy or avoidant patients may actually appreciate the feeling of distance the telemedicine approach gives them versus a face-to-face approach.”

Eight Benefits of Online Therapy

The benefits of online therapy begin with accessibility. Therefore, families have access to the best minds in the field irrespective of the locale in which they practice.

At the very core of our treatment philosophy, Newport Academy honors the principle of access for everyone to quality mental health services. Although online therapy is not a replacement for traditional service offerings, it expands the options available.

The benefits of online therapy include the following:

  1. Access is the number one benefit of remote therapy. The door to mental health services opens for people in remote locations that lack accessible providers.
  2. Online therapy supports people more comfortable with this kind of interaction, lowering the pressure on shy or reserved people seeking help.
  3. Traveling for work, particularly within state, no longer means a disruption of the healing process. Many therapists provide both traditional therapy and online therapy.
  4. Last-minute appointments are more readily available. If an urgent issue happens, it’s more likely a therapist can be accessed quickly.
  5. Shorter overall time spent on therapy sessions could result since an office visit, including a commute, is not needed.
  6. If a client is sick, they don’t necessarily have to cancel. After all, a definite advantage of online therapy is you can’t catch a cold over the phone or online.
  7. Online therapy is more convenient for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
  8. People have access to the most skilled and competent clinicians that may not practice within a distance that is just a car ride away.

Although online therapy includes these positive benefits, there are limitations as well.

Five Limitations of Online Therapy

Examples of the limitations of online therapy include the following:

  1. Online therapy opens the door to unqualified providers offering questionable services. At this early stage of development, legitimate online therapy options are not necessarily the norm. Thus, although more difficult, proper vetting is essential for any form of phone counseling or therapy online.
  2. Remote therapy and distance therapy do not work well for body-based therapy methods. Physical work like somatic therapy is impossible in the context of distance and remote.
  3. The safe space of the therapist’s office is lost in the context of online therapy. The therapist online loses the ability to control the external environment during the session. Also, there are potential interruptions from a client’s environment even if the clinician does his or her best to ensure a tranquil experience.
  4. Confidentiality may be compromised if the client is not in a private space.
  5. The connection quality of therapy online depends on internet speed. A poor internet connection and low video quality increase disruptions in the process.

Given these limitations and challenges, safeguards need to be taken when considering online therapy as an option, particularly for a distressed child or troubled young person.

Tips for Finding Legitimate Online Mental Health Counseling

Without question, precautions must be taken when finding an online therapist. A major way to protect a loved one in any therapeutic situation is to make sure a healthcare provider is compliant with regulations. The key regulations and laws for providers are outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The technology aspect of remote therapy further complicates safety considerations, on behalf of the therapist and the client.

Some of these safeguards include the following:

  • Rely exclusively on HIPAA-compliant providers for secure support.
  • Check a therapist’s credentials and licensing through state databases.
  • Use earbuds or headphones to ensure therapist-client privacy.
  • Only a personal computer with passwords and proper security. Never use a shared computer for therapy.
  • Know where your therapist’s practice is based. Out-of-state therapists are not necessarily licensed within a client’s state.
  • Make sure a therapist makes confidentiality a clear priority, especially with the use of recordings, both audio and video.

Emergent Online Therapy is Here to Stay

In a 2011 review of this emerging field that was reported on in the Journal of Mental Health, the conclusions include the following —“Initial research in the area of mobile mental health suggests that mobile phones maybe well accepted by the public as tools to manage mental health issues… However, it is possible that there may be age-related difference in take-up, with young people more likely to engage.”

For young people, online therapy can be very welcome and may come to them not as a surprise. Having grown up in the Internet age, it feels natural to bring therapy online as well.

Indeed, online therapy makes sense as a piece of a greater puzzle. For example, outpatient services post-treatment are bolstered through legitimate online therapy. As an exclusive option, however, online therapy is a fragile mental health support tool. The regulation of the field is still unsettled, and proper treatment and security practices are still being honed. Remote therapy should be incorporated as an extension of robust in-person therapy practices. Beyond the hype, online therapy is an excellent new tool for helping people get the mental health support they need.