Trying Online Therapy for the First Time? Here’s What to Expect
With social distancing still firmly in place, many people’s options for therapy have significantly narrowed.
The idea of having to travel to a public place and spend an hour face-to-face with your therapist in a confined space may not currently be a very appealing one, leaving us looking for other ways to still get the treatment we need.
This has resulted in an explosion of people turning to online therapy, which offers many of the same benefits as its in-person counterpart without some of the risks.
If you’re thinking of trying online therapy, it’s a good idea to know what to expect before jumping in, which is why you’ll find the answers to 7 of the most common questions people ask about online therapy below.
Who Should Use Online Therapy?
Like in-person therapy, online therapy is ideal for anyone dealing with a mental health issue or condition that thinks they could benefit from talking to a professional therapist.
Examples of issues or conditions that online therapy might help with include (but aren’t limited to):
- Family conflicts
- LGBT matters
Equally important to know is who online therapy isn’t for. You shouldn’t use online therapy if:
- You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others
- You are a minor or you are under the care of a legal guardian
- You are in an urgent crisis or an emergency situation
- You have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, or if you have been advised to be in psychological supervision or psychiatric care
- You were required to undergo therapy or counseling either by a court order or by any other authority
- You do not have a device that can connect to the Internet or you do not have a reliable Internet connection
You also shouldn’t expect online therapy to be able to make any official diagnosis, to fulfill any court order, or prescribe medication.
Who Are The Therapists?
You’ll see many online therapy sites describe having a network of “therapists” and “counselors”, but a more accurate way to think of these networks is as consisting of a much wider array of mental health professionals.
For example, you’ll often find credentialed psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists, all with either masters or doctoral degrees in their respective fields.
How Do You Actually Get Online Therapy?
You can typically do therapy sessions online in four main ways:
- Exchanging text messages with your therapist
- Chatting live with your therapist
- Speaking over the phone with your therapist
- Video conferencing with your therapist
To be able to access these sessions, you usually only need a video- and audio-capable device and a connection to the internet.
Occasionally, you’ll also need to download an app to access a company’s services.
How Do You Get Matched with an Online Therapist?
You’re matched with suitable therapists depending on the information you provide when first signing up. You may be automatically matched with a single therapist, or several therapists, for you to look through and ultimately choose one.
Services consider not just your therapeutic needs (such as the specific issues you need help with) but also your personal preferences (such as your preferred therapist gender).
After being matched with or choosing a therapist, that therapist will remain your therapist for the entire duration of your treatment. If you decide you want a change, however, you can usually switch to another therapist at any time.
Is Online Therapy Safe?
Most reputable online therapy services are as safe to use as in-person therapy. However, it’s still important to look into the specific security and privacy measures employed by any online therapy services you’re considering.
Generally, you want to prioritize services that are HIPAA-compliant.
How Much Does Online Therapy Cost?
You can expect to pay a recurring fee to maintain your membership with most online therapy services.
These fees typically range from $35 to $85 per week, depending on the service and expertise of your therapist.