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Online therapy is psychotherapy or counselling that is conducted through an Internet-based platform.
Online therapy involves interaction between a therapist and client that:
With over 88% of the population using the Internet regularly, and 83% owning smartphones, it’s not surprising that online counselling and therapy is increasingly popular.
Research confirms that online counselling can be an effective alternative or supplement to more traditional face to-face and in-person therapeutic methods, or telephone counselling).
Research conducted with users of internet-based counselling and psychotherapy has also confirmed its advantages for people engaging in therapy.
These include accessibility; flexibility; increased choice; and anonymity.
From smartphones to tablets, PCs to iPads, online counselling can be accessed easily with the technological tools many individuals use daily. The nature of online therapy means it can be incorporated in a wide range of formats, ranging from video-based technology such as Skype or Zoom.
Online technology enables point-in-time contact between a therapist and a client, which can help people overcome barriers like distance and transport to gain access to a practitioner. This makes online counselling a convenient, accessible option for people who live in remote and regional parts of the UK or who lack private transportation options.
Everyone who seeks therapy should have the opportunity to participate on an equitable basis. Online counselling is a convenient, cost-effective option that can facilitate a meaningful one-on-one therapeutic relationship without the need for ongoing face-to-face meetings between practitioner and client.
This means that online therapy offers much-needed flexibility for people who may find it challenging to physically travel to consultations ‐ for example, people with disability or people experiencing severe anxiety; as well as shift workers unable to attend traditional 9am ‐ 5pm appointments.
The immediacy of 24-hour web-based therapy makes it a valid option for people looking for immediate access to a psychotherapist, particularly if an issue has suddenly arisen in their life.
Individuals living in rural and regional areas may lack access to the range and type of therapeutic options available to people in metropolitan locations. For those facing the barriers of distance or limited local service delivery, online therapy can be a gift.
Online therapy also gives people additional options that can complement any face-to-face therapy they are currently engaging in. Practitioners may draw on digital technology as part of their therapeutic practice with a client, for example through using Skype sessions or emails in between face-to-face sessions. Clients unable to attend an appointment with their regular therapist may value the alternative of participating in a web- or Messenger-based consultation offered by another practitioner recommended by their provider.
The anonymity of cyberspace can open the doors to therapy for some. The decision to engage with psychotherapy is a highly individual one that people make on their own terms, and in their own timeframes. For some people, an anonymous webchat may be a powerful medium for them to “break the ice” in their journey towards healing and self-empowerment.
For younger generations including millennials who have grown up with the Internet and smartphones as part of the fabric of their daily lives, accessing therapy through an online service may feel entirely natural. Regardless of age or digital literacy, there will be many people who are attracted to the privacy and anonymity afforded by the online medium, particularly in their initial exploration of therapy.