Many of you reading this are already devout attendees of therapy. You are people who recognize its value and have made it a staple in your self-care regimen. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians experienced a downturn in their mental health, with far fewer people reporting good or excellent mental health in 2020 (55%), as compared to 2019 (68%) (Stats Canada). This trend has continued, with youth and minority groups in particular experiencing increased difficulty with their mental health. Due to these trends, many more people are seeking out psychotherapy, creating more demand for accessibility and convenience.
Jason Carrasco, MSc, RP, RMFT-SQ is a huge fan of online therapy, and says “the effectiveness of therapy HAS been looked at, long before COVID was on anyone’s radar. Therapy is able to be effective when, among other things, you’ve built a good relationship with your therapist! Change hinges, not uniquely, on the therapeutic relationship”
Remote therapy began in the 1960s over the phone, and what we see now is that it’s here to stay. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a nearly wholesale shift to online healthcare, which included online therapy and mental health care. Now that we have come through the pandemic and are administering therapy in person again, the benefits of online therapy are still relevant. This post aims to shed light on some of those benefits and give you food for thought on if online therapy might be a good tool for you!
Offering access to therapy online is a great way for clinics to make themselves more available to a broader audience, thus helping as many people as possible. It removes many barriers to entry such as mobility issues, tight schedules, geographical location, and limited availability to transportation. It also increases access to specialty treatment no matter your location. For example, you may be seeking a sex therapist, but not be able to find one within a reasonable distance. Online therapy allows you to expand your search, for instance, to the whole of Ontario, which increases your options exponentially.
Convenience and Efficiency
Online therapy is convenient because you don’t need to leave your home. You cut down on travel time, wait time, travel costs, and reduce the risk of late cancellation fees due to conflicts or illness. Many therapists are also able to offer more flexibility in their online
offerings, which might allow you to find appointment times that better suit your busy schedule. Kristina Beifuss, MDiv, RP points to flexibility as her number one reason to attend online therapy by saying “its flexibility allows for convenient scheduling, overcoming busy schedules, limited mobility and geographical barriers.”
Confidentiality and Privacy
Practitioners are required to maintain a certain level of confidentiality and privacy, and online therapy is of course also bound to these rules. Your Telehealth provider will use a Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) compliant online health system for secure video calls, and they also often allow for secure online booking and payment. Here at RMTC, we use a platform called Jane, which allows you to book your own appointments, pay for appointments, complete forms, and hosts your therapy sessions. Online therapy also eliminates any stigma around attending a mental health practice in person, as you can complete sessions from the privacy of your home or office.
Continuation of Care
Adding an online component to your mental health care can greatly help facilitate ongoing care, creating consistent engagement with your therapist and their admin team. You might also find that some weeks you wish to attend in person while others you prefer online, and the more exposure you have to these online sessions, the easier this back-and-forth transition becomes. You might also find check-ins between appointments become easier, which can raise the level of accountability and support.
Enhanced Therapeutic Environment
In online therapy, you have the advantage of being in a familiar place, which creates more comfort and can allow you to open up and express yourself mor effectively. For some people, reaching this level of comfort in a therapy office might be a longer process, or may never happen in the same way. You may also feel more trust toward the therapeutic relationship due to this comfort, and you will not feel like you are on someone else’ “turf.” Doing therapy at home can also subconsciously and outwardly incorporate elements of home life into therapy, which could make interventions more relevant and effective for your everyday life.
Effectiveness of Online Therapy
There has been sufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of online therapy as compared to in person therapy, and as it turns out, they are both equally effective! Langarizadeh et al. (2017) studied this phenomenon even before the pandemic, concluding that virtual mental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental health illnesses universally! More recently, Ierardi, Bottini, & Riva Crugnola (2022) found that virtual therapy was equally as effective as in person therapy as an intervention for psychological distress.
Integration of Technology
We have rapidly developing technology around us, and why not use it? Online therapy can increase the emphasis on innovative tools for assessment, monitoring, and treatment. You can incorporate digital resources into your therapy experience, some practitioners even use virtual reality play as a tool. This use of technology can enhance engagement and participation using interactive platforms and multimedia exercises.
Why Virtual Therapy Might not be for You
Not everything works for everybody, and that’s ok! Despite our love for online therapy here at RMTC, we acknowledge that it might just not be right for you. You might be better suited for in person therapy if you have limited access to technology, struggle to find a quiet space for sessions at home, have severe and complex mental health concerns, require hands-on or sensory interventions, or simply have that preference for face-to-face interactions. Trying online therapy to see if it works for you is a great idea, but we acknowledge that it might just not be right for you, and if this is the case, our doors are of course still open to in person sessions!