Most of the time, when we think of therapy, it’s sitting with a therapist in their office for 45 minutes to an hour.
Perhaps the image of lying on a couch, talking, while the therapist takes notes even comes to mind.
However, new tools are now available that can help you access therapy from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to the internet, patients have more options to choose from when selecting a form of treatment.
Yet, which is better, online or in-office therapy? Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but both can be effective if they are the right fit for your needs.
Let’s consider some of the pros and cons.
The Advantage of Accessibility
Perhaps the single biggest advantage of online therapy is accessibility. Previously, in order to see a therapist, you had to book an appointment weeks or perhaps months in advance, depending on their schedule. Plus, you had to get to the office. This might not be any small feat if you don’t have reliable transportation or must rely on taking multiple forms of transportation to get to their office.
With online therapy, you don’t have to leave your home. All you need is an internet connection and a device to engage with the therapist. Additionally, if you are struggling with certain fears, such as leaving your home, online therapy might be a good place to start and get the ball rolling with treatment.
Your Comfort Level with Technology
How comfortable you are with technology can also be a determining factor when weighing the pros and cons of online vs. offline therapy. Younger generations are often more comfortable interfacing with technical devices. This doesn’t just mean video chat, but also texting, messaging, and other tools.
Hence, chatting with a therapist online could be less stressful for young people when engaging with the therapeutic process. Whereas older generations may generally be more comfortable talking with a therapist face-to-face rather than online.
Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide
A pro for technology is that it can help bridge the rural-urban divide when it comes to mental health. People who live in small towns or very rural areas may not have a therapist where they live. Or the nearest professional might be several hours away.
With online therapy, these people have the opportunity to access treatment that they might not otherwise receive. This also translates into saving both the time and money that they would have otherwise spent getting to a therapist.
The Value of Personal Connection
Make no mistake about it, a pro for in-office therapy is the opportunity to interact with another person in real-time. Oftentimes, when you visit a therapist it’s not just to process your emotions. Although that is a big part of the therapeutic experience, it’s also about learning new communication skills.
Those skills are best learned and practiced in a face-to-face setting with another person. Although some of these skills can be learned through video conferencing, it can’t replace the experience of talking to someone who’s in the same room as you. It’s that personal connection that’s so often key to the success of therapy.
Summary of Pros and Cons
- Pros: accessibility; comfort with technology
- Cons: harder to practice and refine social skills
- Pros: opportunity to meet in-person; comfort level
- Cons: can be harder to get to for some; may struggle being with other people
A happy medium could be combining both forms of therapy into an overall treatment plan. For example, perhaps you and your therapist start out meeting in-office for the first few sessions. Then, once rapport has been established, you begin meeting online. And if you or your therapist think it’s appropriate, you come in for another face-to-face meeting occasionally.
Whether you think online or in-office therapy is right for you, make sure to do your research. This will help you to make the best decision that is appropriate for your mental health needs. If you would like more information about our approach to online therapy, please feel free to contact us.