Online Therapy - are you missing out on anything compared to in-person therapy?

Updated: Nov 11

Online therapy has gained popularity over the past few years and can be beneficial in many ways. This post outlines some research into the topic to date and the benefits to clients, I also briefly cover text-based interventions and telephone therapy as well.


Research is consistently showing that online therapy is as effective as in person therapy (links below) and so I am proud to offer this option as part of Sophie Wild Robin. Research has suggested that clients of online therapy show more stability with treatment outcomes (the benefits to therapy) over time. Studies are being conducted that compare the effectiveness of the different components of therapy which are considered central to its success. Current research has provided confidence that there are no detriments to therapies success and components like working alliance (ability to build rapport, share issues and openly communicate) when receiving therapy online. Various case studies have suggested that video-conferencing counselling can be an effective means of treatment delivery (Simpson, 2009).


I offer psychotherapeutic counselling online via secure video conferencing to your home, office or wherever you feel safe and is private. You only need a good internet connection (streaming video without issue is a good gauge) and a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Using headphones or earbuds increases the feeling of privacy and improves sound quality for us both. So what are the benefits to you:

  • You can have therapy anywhere that is comfortable and convenient for you

  • You are not having to add travel time or costs into the equation

  • You have a greater choice of therapists than if you were restricted by location

  • Having fewer visual distractions often encourages focus and concentration

  • You may find that you are more comfortable online or that it is easier to talk from somewhere you know

  • I am able to provide continuous support even if either of us relocates or you go on holiday or a business trip abroad

  • I can be more flexible with scheduling than I could for my services in-person, meaning that it is easier for me to work around your schedule (just ask if a slot you want isn't available, I might be able to open one for you)

  • Depending on the platform used, I can instantly share handouts and further information with you to support what we are looking at/working on (this is possible in Skype)

  • If there is something you are struggling to verbalise, you have the option to type-out in the 'chat' function, which can be liberating for you (especially if you feel your handwriting is poorly read)

  • All remote therapies have added confidentiality to the client by way of not needing to attend a centre for therapy which some people find limits the confidentiality they have in-case they are seen by someone they know

Text-based online counselling: Research evaluating text-based online counselling generally tends to support the effectiveness of the interventions (Barak and Grohol, 2011; D’Arcy et al., 2015). In their meta-analysis comparing face-to-face and online therapy (based on 14 studies and 9764 clients), Barak et al. (2008) found no significant differences between therapy delivered face-to-face and online. Some evidence based on qualitative research suggests that online counselling might be a more comfortable and less threatening experience than a face-to-face session, which could be especially relevant for clients who experience social anxieties (Suler, 2010; D’Arcy et al., 2015).

In text-based online counselling, clients can benefit from the sole focus on writing/typing about thoughts and feelings, as suggested by the research literature on the therapeutic effects of expressive or reflective writing (Stuckey and Nobel, 2010; Goss, 2013). Research shows that expressive writing has the potential to alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve wellbeing and understanding of oneself, which can be explained by emotion regulation processes (Koole, 2009).

Writing about difficult experiences seems to help clients to reflect on deep thoughts and feelings, and to articulate interior processes (Rimé, 2009), thus facilitating one’s ability to cope with challenging experiences (Gortner et al., 2006). In text-based online counselling, we can utilise these benefits of reflective, focused writing by helping a client to explore and express their feelings (Wright, 2002).

You also have the ability to self-monitor what you have written before you send it which isn't possible with other methods.


Phone-based therapy: Has been shown to be effective (Leach and Christensen, 2006), and client satisfaction and acceptance of telephone psychotherapy has also found to be high (Reese et al., 2006; Bee et al., 2008). Irvine et al.’s (2020) review of research on interactional aspects of phone-based counselling found little evidence of difference between phone/audio-only and face-to-face counselling in terms of therapeutic alliance, disclosure, empathy, attentiveness or participation.


Links to research:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15228830802094429 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23886401?fbclid=IwAR1K1M4quVTjlshFi2c0r8hmIMQ2ty7y8TGRjyXUF3-H_0dxd14psxAr16w

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/109493102753770480

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/costeffectiveness-of-therapistdelivered-online-cognitivebehavioural-therapy-for-depression-randomised-controlled-trial/C3FCF625005582C63890CD4FF7598568

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/16506070802473494

http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2002-18345-011

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10862-013-9363-4

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1064748113000420

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005789411000141

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/153056204773644535

http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2012-14616-001

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/ijch.v63i4.17759

https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1343&context=honorstheses

https://www.idc.ac.il/he/research/arl/documents/publications/the_future_of_online_therapy.pdf


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I follow the BACP and ACTO guidelines for working online and in-person as a therapist.

Hope this has been informative,

Sophie

Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England, UK

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