Online therapy sessions have really taken off in the past few years, and it’s clear that they’re here to stay. As more therapists offer a choice between online and in person therapy, and others become specialists of online options or staunch supporters of in person therapy only, clients have to decide — which path is right for me?
Keep these five factors in mind when determining if in person or online therapy is the best option for you.
There are different privacy pros and cons with online and in person therapy. When you access therapy online at home, nobody needs to know that you are receiving mental health services. If you go to in person sessions, you might worry about bumping into someone you know while walking to the office building, or feel self-conscious sitting in the waiting room.
With online therapy, you might have concerns that your roommates could overhear something you say through your thin walls, or that your dad will “accidentally” come in without knocking at any moment. When you go to therapy in person, your therapist’s office is intentionally designed to be a secure and private space.
One of the key benefits of online therapy is that it expands access for clients in many ways. You don’t need to commute to your session, which saves valuable time for workers with busy schedules, as well as for parents and caregivers. It provides a much-needed option for certain people who otherwise would not be physically able to access therapy due to challenges like chronic physical illness, mobility challenges, or severe depression.
However, the drawback to online therapy that doesn’t get discussed as much is that you need to be - well, online. If your internet connection goes on the fritz every time it rains, you could get cut off from therapy on a day you really need it. Pixelation and lag time caused by slow internet speeds can erode the sense of connection you feel with your therapist. These challenges are simply not part of the equation with in person therapy.
3. Finding a good fit
It’s really important to find a good “fit” with therapy, although what that “fit” is exactly is sometimes hard to quantify or describe.
Online therapy expands the pool of therapists who may be a good fit for you, since you can see any therapist licensed in your state. The right therapist for you might be physically located a hundred miles away in a place you could never commute to week after week, but online, is just one Zoom link away.
On the other hand, some people find that the right “fit” with therapy for them is not only about the therapist, but the location itself. For these individuals, there’s a certain quality about being together in person in a therapy office that resonates more than meeting in virtual space.
Studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in person therapy for many common issues, such as anxiety, depression, and stressful life events. There’s something to be said for availing of the simplicity of online therapy, especially if you’re envisioning going for just a few months to get through a hard time, when the treatment you’ll get is just as good as in person.
That being said, there are some situations where in person therapy may bring you better outcomes. These include:
- Processing a traumatic incident, like an assault or an accident
- Unpacking painful events from childhood or adolescence - especially if as an adult you experience unhealthy eating habits, difficulty with drugs or alcohol, or a pattern of problematic relationships
- Certain psychiatric symptoms, such as mania or psychosis
5. Value for money
Therapy can be costly, especially if you select a therapist who does not accept health insurance. Attending therapy is literally an investment in your mental health — clients should feel confident that the price they pay is in exchange for an equally valuable service.
Some online platforms offer access to licensed therapists at highly discounted rates, which means you can connect to support with a lesser financial burden. However, therapists on these platforms may not be highly experienced, and they are often assigned high caseloads for low pay, which increases the odds that they may be burned out and not able to fully devote the attention and emotional energy you need.
With in person therapy, you are less likely to find these extreme discounts, and must contend with ensuring you can pay for treatment. But with that hefty weekly fee, you’re getting a lot more than just your 45 minute session. Your fee goes toward keeping your therapist’s case load small, so they can devote individualized care to their clients while maintaining a healthy work life balance. It also helps pay for ongoing professional education, and consultations with mentors and experts - all of which improve the quality of the treatment your therapist provides to you.
Ready to get started?
If you’re still not sure if you want to move forward with online or in person therapy, I encourage you to reach out to me and schedule a free phone consultation — click the button below. I’d love to chat about what’s bringing you to consider therapy at this time, and how in person and online options might work for you.