Updated: Dec 28, 2020
If you landed on this page you are probably considering starting online therapy for a challenge or struggle present in your life. Those of us at Valiant Couples Therapy want to congratulate your valiant steps toward renewal as you consider online therapy to start your journey! We want to help answer any questions you may have about online therapy with the goal of making your online experience as seamless and beneficial as possible.
Here are 10 questions many ask when they are considering online therapy:
1. What is online therapy?
Online therapy is face-to-face, in real time, therapy conducted over an online conferencing platform designed specifically to protect confidentiality and privacy. Secure, online conferencing platforms designed for therapy work like FaceTime or Skype, but add a protected, HIPAA secure connection. The most effective form of online therapy is face-to-face where body language is observed through video and is combined with audio to produce real time communication that benefits both the client and the therapist. Online methods of therapy that provide an audio only, chat, or instant messenger type experience are far less effective since so much communication is lost when the client and therapist are not able to see each other. When considering online therapy it is wise to prioritize therapists who use face-to-face, in real time, online conferencing platforms. Here at Valiant Couples Therapy we only provide this type of online therapy for our clients in North Carolina and Florida.
2. Does online therapy actually work?
Multiple research studies that compared online therapy to in-person therapy were recently reviewed and summarized into a larger research article*. Evidence-based models of therapy focused on anxiety and depression were reviewed and summarized. This research concluded that both online therapy and in-person therapy promoted an environment where clients experienced positive change towards their goals for therapy. In the group of studies included in the larger research article a couple of those studies concluded that online clients actually experienced a greater reduction in their symptoms than clients receiving therapy in-person when followed up with after they completed therapy.
*Berryhill, B., King, M., Betancourt, A., Ruggles, H. (November/December 2018). Telehealth Research: Videoconferencing in the Treatment of Anxiety and Depression. Family Therapy Magazine, 28-31.
3. What is the difference between telehealth, telemedicine, telemental health, and online therapy?
Generally speaking these terms actually describe very similar approaches to providing healthcare over the internet. Telehealth and telemedicine are considered umbrella terms that cover providing healthcare over an online conferencing platform. Doctors, nurses, and therapists are examples of providers that use telehealth/telemedicine to care for their patients. Telemental health and online therapy are terms that cover providing psychotherapy over an online conferencing platform. Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Mental Health Counselors, and Social Workers are examples of psychotherapists that use telemental health/online therapy to care for their clients.
4. What technology do I need for online therapy?
Perhaps at the top of this list is a good internet connection through your internet service provider at home or good reception with your cell phone. You can test your connection with the service we use to see if your internet connection is fast enough for online therapy. Of course, you will need a device to connect to the internet. Most therapists use online conferencing platforms that are compatible with just about every computer, laptop, and device out there. Lastly, you will need a camera and microphone, which are usually already included in most devices.
5. What happens if the technology fails in the middle of online therapy?
The quickest way to manage a disconnected online therapy session due to a technology failure is to connect via cell phone. Our online therapy platform works through devices that use the internet provided through your internet service provider as well as through the data plan through your cell phone provider.
We are prepared and expect that at some point the gremlins in our devices will win, and cause your online therapy session to disconnect. If this happens we will reconnect through a few options that your therapist will walk you through during your first session.
There are perhaps a myriad of reasons this may occur, but here are a few common ones:
The electricity flickers resetting the modem and router that brings the internet into your home.
The electricity shuts off due to thunderstorms, heavy wind, or some other act of God.
A construction crew accidentally digs up the cable in your neighborhood (this actually happened twice).
6. What can I do to maximize the speed of my internet connection?
Here are our recommendations that can help you maximize the quality of your online appointment:
Position yourself as close to your WiFi router as possible or physically connect your device to your router.
Restart your device (laptop, tablet, computer, phone) prior to the appointment.
Close all other applications on the device.
Close email applications on the device.
Ensure other devices connected to your network are not using significant bandwidth. Video streaming and gaming are big offenders.
Restart your router from time to time.
7. How will we connect online?
The first step is to review and complete all the necessary paperwork and intake documents that will explain everything you need to know about starting online therapy and also allow you to share pertinent information related to your goals. We use a secure, online client portal to facilitate this process. Then, once your paperwork is completed we will schedule your appointment in our system. When your appointment is scheduled you will receive an email with a unique link to your online therapy session. When you click the link you will connect over a secure conferencing platform that looks a lot like FaceTime. At your scheduled appointment time you will meet your therapist face-to-face and begin working towards the goals you have for online therapy.
8. Is online therapy confidential and secure?
It is of utmost importance to us to maintain your confidentiality and the security of your online therapy sessions. We strictly adhere to industry best practices, regulations, and HIPAA secure technologies to do so. We use SimplePractice or Zoom for Healthcare to accomplish this.
Confidentiality for online therapy is not only a responsibility for your therapist, but it is your responsibility as well. It is important to select a comfortable, but private place where you will not be disturbed or overheard during your online therapy session.
9. How do I know if online therapy is right for me?
For most people, it's simply a preference between meeting your therapist in-person or whether you prefer the convenience of meeting in the comfort of a private space of your choosing. You may also prefer online therapy if commutes and busy schedules are challenging. There are some situations where online therapy is not the best option. Online therapy is not the best option for a crisis where actions are required to ensure a client’s physical safety. This is covered in greater detail with your therapist. If online therapy is not the best option for you we will help you find a local, in-person therapist to meet your needs.
10. Why is online therapy needed?
Helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is the first reason that stands out during this crazy pandemic we are all experiencing. Mental health concerns, and the need for couples therapy, are still present and perhaps even magnified by the social, economic, and workplace stresses we are all trying to manage. Access to quality therapy is desperately needed, and online therapy provides that option while helping to keep clients and therapists safe and healthy.
Giving as many people as possible access to quality therapy is also a reason why online therapy is needed. Anyone with an internet connection can receive therapy online without having to physically go to a therapist’s office. Around 67 million people need mental healthcare and 58 million do not receive the care they need. Online therapy helps to reach more people and reduce the number of people going without receiving the therapy they need. Online therapy is especially helpful when trying to locate a therapist that specializes in a specific type of therapy. True specialists are even less accessible and can be even harder to access. Online therapy helps to increase access and decreases the difficulty of locating specialty therapists.
This is one of the main reasons why we provide online therapy. We specialize in couples therapy using Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Online therapy allows anyone in North Carolina and Florida who is seeking an expert in couples therapy access to our services.
Online therapy also helps to simplify our already over-scheduled and hectic lives by eliminating commutes and placing the time spent driving back into the day. This helps to increase the ability to manage the logistics of everyday life without sacrificing valuable time spent in therapy.
Here is a great article on What you need to know before choosing online therapy by the American Psychological Association.