Traditionally, most of us have gone to see offline counselors and therapists to help us talk out our problems and get the mental health support we need.
But during the pandemic, most of us lost access to those offline services. That inconvenience came at a time when more people than ever needed help managing depression, anxiety, stress, and other challenges.
As a result, we have seen major growth in teletherapy services.
Whether you cannot see a therapist offline or are simply looking for an easier, more affordable, and more convenient way to take care of your mental health, you might be wondering how teletherapy online counseling works and whether it is right for you.
In this article, we will explore in-depth about teletherapy and how it works, answering your questions about online counseling. Let’s jump right in.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy is just like regular therapy, but instead of visiting a therapist in an office, you talk to your therapist remotely.
This may be done using:
- Video chat
- Text messages
- A messaging system
The method of contact depends on the service you choose and your preference (some services allow you to pick between a few different contact methods).
How Does It Work?
The exact way that teletherapy works varies from service to service, but in general, it goes like this:
1. You sign up on a teletherapy site.
2. After you open your account, you provide some basic information about yourself and what you need help with.
3. You choose a therapy plan.
4. The site reviews your information and selects a therapist for you based on the problem you need help with and any preferences you choose (i.e. a preferred gender, religious affiliation, etc.).
5. You pay for the subscription you want and your plan begins.
6. You talk to your therapist based on what your plan entails.
7. Some sites offer prescription services. If the professional assigned to you determines that you could benefit from a prescription after you request one, they will write you one. Either you can order it through the site or go pick it up locally at your preferred pharmacy.
8. You pay each month if you want to continue, or you cancel if you want to stop.
So, one example of a teletherapy plan might be:
- Four 1-hour sessions per month via telephone or video chat.
Another example of a teletherapy plan might be:
- Unlimited text messaging with responses up to twice a day from your therapist. Video chat scheduling at your demand.
You’ll want to check out what a number of different services offer so you can find one that offers a plan that is a good fit for your schedule and needs.
What Does Teletherapy Cost?
It is rare to find teletherapy that bills on a per-session basis. Most bill on a monthly cycle, and generally charge per week or per month.
Rates vary as well, but usually you will find that they are roughly in line with what you would pay offline using insurance.
Usually, teletherapy services are most cost-effective if you will be making frequent use of them.
If you just plan to use a session or two per month, you could end up paying more on a teletherapy plan than you would paying per session at your local clinic.
But if you plan to have weekly sessions (or multiple sessions per week) and/or make ample use of text therapy, you may find that you pay significantly less for online therapy than offline therapy.
Can you use your insurance to help pay for teletherapy?
Sometimes you can, sometimes you cannot. It depends on both the teletherapy site you are using and your specific health plan.
Sites that are cash-pay only generally price their services far below what you would pay without insurance offline.
Main Benefits of Online Counseling
Here are some reasons to think about trying online counseling:
- Services may be unavailable offline due to a lockdown.
Whether there is an active lockdown in progress or you simply do not feel safe sitting in a clinic, online counseling allows you to receive therapy at home while protecting your health from coronavirus or any future pandemics.
- You may live in a rural area with limited access to mental healthcare services.
If you live out in a small town far from a major metropolitan region, accessing mental healthcare services may be a challenge locally. Long wait times, few providers, and frequent provider changes are the norm. You can use online counseling to get around all of that.
- You want to save time and avoid travel.
Tired of driving to therapy appointments? If you want to cut back on time spent in the car and save on gasoline, having appointments online is the way to do it. And when you are struggling with stress, burnout, depression, or other issues, getting a little time back in your day can help out a lot.
- You can preserve your privacy.
Don’t want other people to know you are attending therapy? It can be pretty hard to be discreet if you have to drive to appointments in town. But if you are getting therapy online, it may be easier for you to schedule for times when you will be alone, or to rely on text-based messaging. If you use text chat to talk to your therapist, you can get support at any time without anyone around you knowing.
- You can get therapy in an environment where you feel comfortable.
For a lot of people, there is no place as comfortable and safe as home. Sitting in a therapist’s office may make you uneasy, especially if you are someone who experiences anxiety in clinical settings. The last thing you need to be dealing with when you are going through a difficult time is any extra discomfort. Telehealth can spare you from that.
- Broaden access to providers.
How many therapists serve your local area? If you are in the city, the answer may be dozens. But if you are in a small rural community, the answer might be a handful, or even fewer than that.
Often, for any given specialization, there is one person available, sometimes none. Online, there are tens of thousands of therapists to choose from, sometimes even through just one website.
When you add together all the teletherapy sites out there, you have a massive pool to select from. For pretty much any situation, there should be a suitable match.
- Reduce the cost of mental healthcare.
If you have frequent therapy needs, you may be paying more for therapy than you need to by going through a local provider. You can reduce your costs by using telepsychotherapy instead. You will find this is frequently the case even when the site does not accept insurance.
- Get ongoing support on a daily basis.
When you have a question for your regular offline therapist, how long do you need to wait to ask it? A week? Two weeks? A month? Longer?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just get a response delivered right to your computer within a day?
For those who need extra day-to-day support, traditional therapy appointment office visits just don’t cut it. But teletherapy can fill this gap with unlimited daily text-based support.
- Receive urgent help when you need it most.
Speaking of getting help without having to wait for it, sometimes you might find yourself struggling in the moment. You need someone to give you perspective ASAP.
Online therapy can help you get centered again way sooner than offline therapy, which may in turn help you to regulate your emotions, focus on your work, and prevent additional hassles in your day-to-day life.
- Continue getting therapy when you travel.
Your offline therapist is there for you when you are at home, but you cannot pack them in your suitcase when you go on a trip. But you can pretty much do just that with a teletherapy provider!
In fact, you can fit them in your pocket on your mobile device. That means you can bring therapy with you when you go to visit your in-laws across the country or when you go for a business trip on the other side of the globe.
- Open up more easily with more distance.
Have you ever noticed how many peoples’ disclosure rates are higher online than offline? If you find that is the case for you as well, you might find teletherapy more enjoyable and effective than office-based therapy.
While it is easier for some people to connect to someone in-person, for others, defenses come down more easily with distance. You may feel safer and less pressured online, which makes it easier to share.
- You can get a prescription rapidly.
Sometimes, you don’t want to go through a lengthy, drawn-out process to get the help you need. You just want someone to write up a prescription for you stat. You can save a lot of time, expense, and effort by using telehealth for this purpose.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Online Counseling?
Telepsychotherapy offers numerous advantages, but there are some possible drawbacks:
- The bang for your buck isn’t as high for just the occasional session. As we already discussed, because of the way that billing cycles are usually structured for teletherapy, it may not be cost effective if you just need a session now and again.
- Some people have an easier time connecting in a room with someone. It can be difficult to establish a connection with someone on the phone, or even with video chat, especially if you are somebody who likes direct eye contact (which isn’t really possible with video chat because the camera is not situated at the level of the screen).
- If you have challenges with auditory processing, it might involve more effort to listen to the therapist and make sense of what they are saying over phone or video than it would face-to-face.
- Body language and nuances of expression and eye contact are harder to read online. As discussed, direct eye contact cannot really happen through video chat, so it can be more difficult for the therapist to tell when you are attempting to make eye contact versus when you are not. Many subtleties of expression might also be lost, especially over a slow connection or with poor lighting. That means that the therapist might miss some important cues in your behaviour that would be insightful.
- You might not feel comfortable getting therapy at home. While home may be the best environment for therapy for many people, for some, it may be the worst. You may be dealing with issues that you strongly associate with being at home. In that case, consider accessing telehealth on the go on your mobile device.
- Some forms of therapy are not available online. If you need more than talk therapy, you might need a type of therapy that can only be administered in person.
Who Can Get Help Through Online Counseling?
Teletherapy is available to:
Whoever you are, you should be able to find a telehealth service that offers what you need.
What Areas of Mental Health is Teletherapy Available For?
You can find telecounseling services for a broad range of needs, including:
- Relationship problems
- Workplace challenges
- Family issues
- Parenting issues
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Anger management
- Eating disorders
- Compassion fatigue
And that is far from a complete list as new fields continue to emerge!
Find the Mental Health Support You Need Through Teletherapy Now
Ready to get the help you need? To get mental health support quickly and conveniently from the safety and comfort of your home or on your mobile device, check out our recommended providers.