Thinking about starting therapy brings up a number of questions. Will you be able to find someone in your local area or will you have to travel an inconvenient distance? Will your insurance cover some, most or all of the expense or will you need to pay for your care out of pocket?
Once you find a therapist will you be able to effectively handle your therapy, or will you find other issues that keep blocking you from making any positive progress? These are only a few of the issues that you may have to figure out while you are deciding whether or not to do in office or online therapy.
Availability, Location and Convenience
In some areas, there are doctors of virtually every kind in many offices dotted all over the city. In smaller or rural areas, there may be far fewer options. Therapists, especially those who are specialized in certain areas like for children, addiction or others may not be available at all. Appointments may not be available for weeks of months in the future. Available appointments may not jibe with your work schedule and other obligations.
Online therapy allows for more flexibility especially for a working parent who is balancing work and family obligations with their own mental and physical health needs.
It is easier to open an app and start a session than trying to find a babysitter and driving to an office especially in areas where the nearest medical facility is some distance away.
When Human Contact Can be Overwhelming
A person who is agoraphobic, germophobic or paranoid may struggle just getting to a therapist’s office. For these people, online therapy allows for the ability to control the surroundings which can be comforting. Someone who is paranoid, for instance may fear that they are being recorded or videotaped while in the office. They may worry that other people are looking at them or judging them.
Online therapists may work with these people with the end goal of getting them to move on to an in office therapist at some point or another location as part of their therapy. Others may find that they are overly emotional when speaking to someone face to face and may feel embarrassed by these reactions.
Some may feel so painfully shy that they are unable to even voice their problems and concerns. A therapist can address these issues in office by sitting at an angle or even allowing the person to choose their seat but that may not be enough.
When Cost is the Problem
Health insurance can cover some, most or all of the cost of some types of therapy. There are many reasons that people may choose not to use their insurance. Some may not want their employer to know that they are seeking therapy and may fear that using their insurance would give this information away.
Paying for therapy out of pocket can become expensive especially with a complex problem that will need months or even years of treatment. Online therapy is more cost effective and can be the answer to those who do not have insurance or are choosing not to use it.
Before you Commit to Online Therapy
If you determine that online therapy may be the answer for you, that is great. Anything that will help you should be viewed as beneficial. But, before you commit make sure that you are getting the best possible care without putting yourself and your personal information at risk. Do this by:
- Ensuring that the therapist is licensed especially if they are listed as a “specialist”.
- Make sure that the website or therapy app is secure especially in relation to payment options. Security certificates should be listed right on the website itself or by sites who have checked them for you.
You should also have recourse for changing therapists if you start treatment and discover that you are not progressing or connecting with your current provider.
Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly-experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. In addition to her private therapy practice, she currently runs E-counseling.com, a mental health resource with self-help guides on stress, anxiety, depression, and many other areas. During her spare time, Stacey enjoys spending time with her husband and children, being outdoors and doing yoga.