When I had a nervous breakdown back in 2010, the idea of online therapy didn’t even come up. I was referred to my local community mental health team, who had a long waiting list for one-to-one therapy. By the time I reached the top of the list, a combination of medication, my friends and something I dragged up from deep inside of myself meant that I was well on the road to recovery and the help I received was largely pointless. If I’d received therapy sooner, I may have recovered sooner. I may never have had to leave my job if the help had been available.
I am intrigued then, by the idea of online therapy. I think the idea of “therapy” has come a long way, from the idea that it’s only something neurotic American housewives, or people with really serious mental health issues would use. I think that stigma is slowly being lifted, and more and more people are seeing the benefit of having therapy. Having therapy available online makes it even more accessible – but which is the better option?
Benefits of Online Therapy vs In-Person Therapy
- You don’t have to leave the house! This sounds silly, but for anyone who’s been in the depths of depression, sometimes getting yourself dressed and out of the house to a therapy appointment can just seem like an insurmountable task. As well as the logistics of getting dressed and to the appointment, there is the added worry that you might bump into someone and have to make small talk. If you’re accessing your therapy online, none of that has to be a worry; you don’t even need to change out of your PJs, if you don’t want to!
- It’s more convenient. Most in-person therapy appointments are only available in office hours – and that can often mean we end up having to book time out of work, which can meanan awkward conversation with your boss, and hoping your co-workers don’t hate you too much for never being available on a Tuesday afternoon. With an online therapist you can communicate in a number of different ways, including text an email. That means you don’t need to be at a therapist’s office at a certain time of day; you can read and send messages at your convenience.
- It’s less expensive. When I was sick, the idea of getting help private was not an option because it’s so expensive – you’re paying for an hour of that person’s time, and it can be very costly. With online therapy, you don’t need to pay for a whole hour of the person’s time. The therapist can email back and forth with several clients over the couse of an hour, so the rate is reduced. It does mean you don’t often get a response in real time, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it allows you to really think about and digest the messages you receive.
- There’s more choice. When you’re looking for an in-person therapist, you’ll be limited by geography. The therapist best suited to you might be too far away for you to get to them, or their office hours are not convenient for your schedule. There are no such limits online; you can choose from a much wider range of professionals because as long as both of you are somewhere with an internet connection, it doesn’t matter where that is!
- Easier to keep private. Where I live, everyone knows where the community mental health team are based – and it’s right next door to my GP surgery, which is massive and seems to be the one everyone goes to. Every week as I walked out of town for my appointment, I felt like everyone knew exactly where I was going. All of the people in the cars along the busy A-road I walked along must know what I was doing. It was a terrible feeling and half the time I felt like I needed a disguise just to get to my appointment. If you access your therapy online, none of this is an issue. Unless you tell people, nobody need ever know!