Teletherapy, also known as online therapy, virtual therapy, and phone therapy, can offer increased access to top-quality, life-changing mental health services.
It’s nearly two years into the pandemic and many of us have experienced shifts in our mental wellbeing. Research suggests that the rate of depressive disorder is approximately four times higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Similarly, the rate of anxiety symptoms has increased threefold, alongside increases in substance abuse and thoughts of self-harm .
It’s no wonder that more people are looking into starting or continuing their therapy — this time, from the comfort and convenience of their home.
How Does Teletherapy Work?
While teletherapy goes by many names — online therapy, phone therapy, virtual therapy — it all refers to mental health services provided over the internet and technology instead of in person. It can be delivered over video, phone, and even texts. It follows a similar structure to in-person therapy, is just as confidential, and offers an accessible alternative to in-person therapy.
Why More People Are Choosing Teletherapy
First, it’s important to note that people are exploring therapeutic services and attending to their mental wellbeing at unprecedented rates, whether in-person or virtually. Increased stress alongside ongoing high-profile conversations like those started by Michael Phelps, Demi Lovato, Prince Harry and Simon Biles have helped decrease the stigma around mental health. This shift in understanding and compassion has given more people the freedom to explore their needs and get in touch with care professionals as needed.
That being said, the reality is that in-person therapy isn’t an option for everyone. Whether due to schedules or distance, many find they don’t have the time or ability to fit in their in-person therapy.
Teletherapy allows people to skip the traffic and time spent juggling schedules. Instead, you’re able to receive support when you need it, without worrying too much about the logistics.
Myth #1 Teletherapy isn’t as Effective as In-Person Therapy
Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that teletherapy is just as effective as in-person therapy in treating certain conditions.
One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was more effective in treating depression than in-person therapy. Not only that, but participants in the online CBT group continued to experience fewer symptoms over the following three months .
Additionally, those attending therapy may find that what feels easy and makes sense in their therapist’s office can become much harder to put into practice back at home or work, where their stressors live. Virtual therapy lessens the distinction between where you learn new tools or gain fresh perspectives, and where those habits pop up the most. All that said, keep in mind that everyone is different. The best type of therapy is the one that keeps you on the treatment path and frequency that you have discussed with your therapist.
Myth #2 Only Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Be Delivered through Teletherapy
While CBT is widely practiced and delivered through teletherapy, it’s not the only therapy available online. Everything from CBT and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to mindfulness and emotion-focused therapy (EFT) can be practiced with teletherapy. Even eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can be done online!
Note that teletherapy is distinct from telepsychiatry, which features services like medication evaluation, diagnosis, prescription, and management.
Myth #3 Online Therapists Aren’t as Qualified as In-Person Ones
This is a myth we are happy to dispel. Care providers who provide teletherapy are just as qualified as those who provide in-person — in fact, many therapists offer both methods. Teletherapy is always conducted by a licensed and certified psychologist or therapist and can involve a wide range of experts. For instance, at Bhatia Psychology Group, our virtual therapy team includes Clinical Psychologists, Psychotherapists, and Social Workers to provide you with full-scale support.
Myth #4 Teletherapy isn’t Safe and Secure
There’s a reason you can’t use Skype or any old online platform for teletherapy services. All mental health care providers must use video conferencing platforms that meet the regulatory requirements of the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). PHIPA informs the standard practices of confidentiality regarding patient information. Regarding online therapy, PHIPA mandates a high level of encryption and standardized procedures for technological services in healthcare.
Additionally, your sessions are never recorded or filed anywhere, ensuring that your discussions and health information remain private.
Myth #5 You Need Special Equipment for Teletherapy
As long as you have a telephone or computer and a quiet place to speak, you are ready for your first teletherapy session! That being said, it’s best to use your own WIFI connection or a private WIFI network. Or, you can consider using an application that offers an SSL connection, which helps provide a secure channel between your device and your care provider.
Myth #6 You Can’t Build a Relationship with a Therapist over Teletherapy
Although most of us are no strangers to screen fatigue by now, the research suggests that therapists are just as able to help clients improve their mental health conditions via online therapy as they are in person.
One reason for this is the shift in therapy location. Teletherapy allows individuals to explore often stressful issues from within the comfort of their own homes. Instead of arriving at therapy feeling stressed, clients can relax at home or in a more comfortable place. Often, this can give care providers greater insight and understanding into their clients’ lives and how they are in their own space.
Therapists who offer teletherapy are no less invested in their client’s well-being than in-person therapists. They have the same dedication to giving you the support you need and helping you to feel your best.