Online therapy is also known as home-based telemental health, or e-therapy. It’s the delivery of therapy services straight to a person’s home using a wide range of telecommunication tools. E-therapy allows for services such as assessment, questionnaire completion, information sharing, and counselling. Both client and therapist can engage one another through several means – synchronised chat (over chat clients like Facetime or Skype), email, phone conversations, and online forums are examples of these methods.
Anxiety House provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the gold standard for the treatment of anxiety disorders online. The majority percentage of Anxiety House’s online therapy is conducted over Skype, with its implementation of CBT utilising the same treatment as our traditional face-to-face sessions. Those who participate in the online therapy sessions receive the full clinical assessment, which works similarly to the traditional sessions, and are regularly scheduled for online therapy with our clinicians. Clients can also opt to visit our clinic for their sessions at any time during their treatment if they so choose.
Online therapy has been on the rise over the past years, in tandem with the growth of the internet and home-based telecommunication. There is current research that suggests online therapy as an effective means of treatment for anxiety disorders, with clients reporting that telehealth services are just as satisfactory as in-clinic services. As demonstrated in recent research, home-based telemental sessions are as effective in the delivery of treatment as traditional or conventional sessions engaged through clinic or office settings (Pruitt et al., 2014).
While face-to-face appointments may be preferred, online therapy can be more beneficial especially for those suffering with and working on managing their anxiety, for the following reasons:
- issues with clinic accessibility (limited access, mobility, or transport difficulty)
- difficulty or inability to find specialised care within the vicinity of their residential area
- residence or employment involving frequent commute that directly impacts client availability
- inflexible client schedules for existing clients
- pregnant women or new mums experiencing issues with attending regular schedules
- high levels of anxiety leading to reluctance or difficulty in seeking treatment, extending to intense or extreme distress in attending initial sessions
- Online therapy addresses some issues that affect client attendance, as it allows for flexibility in terms of time and access, and eliminates the need to travel.
- It elevates accessibility of quality health care for those who may be affected by physical, transportation, or geographical limitations.
- It allows for the therapist to assess the client in their usual environment, and for the client to engage in strategies from within their home in assisting the therapist with their treatment.
Online therapy, while providing several advantages, has its own limitations as a mode of therapy:
- There may be confidentiality issues with online therapy on top of traditional confidentiality restrictions found in traditional therapy. More information can be provided on the matter, should clients have concerns.
- Given the lack of non-verbal or haptic cues in online therapy, misunderstandings may be present. Real-time lag and clinician availability may be at odds with client expectation with regard to email and SMS message communications. In opting for online therapy, your clinician will discuss preferred communication windows for all forms of electronic communication with you.
- There’s a particular standard for computer and network specifications when availing online therapy, to ensure an efficient flow with therapy sessions. Poor quality of internet service or outdated software can negatively affect a client’s experience with online therapy.
An ‘e-consent form’ is provided for all telephone and online therapy clients that takes into consideration the above limitations, which clients must sign. The form and its contents will be discussed with you by your therapist at the beginning of your initial appointment.
Online therapy is not ideal for those who are actively suicidal, experiencing suicidal ideation, or are practising self-harming behaviours. As well, clients who have a psychotic or manic illness, and/or have been confined in the past month, are not suitable for online therapy.
Author: Alison Marland