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Online therapy



If you or someone you know struggle with mental health problems, there are ways to get help. Online therapy is an option to receive treatment necessary to recover from mental health problems. Here you can read more about online therapy, and how to find options for online therapy available for you.

Photo: by BRUNO EMMANUELLE on Unsplash

Online therapy is similar to traditional therapy or treatment, but is provided by digital means (either phone, video conference, or similar). Digital interventions can include a broader range of options, such as therapist-guided self-help programs online.

The current research literature provide strong support for the adoption of online psychological interventions as a legitimate therapeutic activity [Barak et al., 2008][1] .


About online therapy

Online therapy can be understood in somewhat different ways. A common form of online therapy is when videoconferencing is used for therapeutic purposes [Békés & Aafjes-van Doorn, 2020][2]

Another form of online therapy is through therapist-guided self-help- or therapy programs on the internet [Pihlaja et al., 2018][3] . An important variant of this is internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy programs (iCBT).


Is online therapy effective?

The short answer is: Yes, online therapy might very well be effective.

Despite a range of potential benefits of online psychotherapy, many therapists have been worried about being less able to communicate their empathy, to build therapeutic alliance, and about confidentiality issues [Békés & Aafjes-van Doorn, 2020] .

However, recent literature reviews indicate that these worries are not founded in reality. On the contrary, patients and psychotherapists who use online therapy via videoconferencing generally develop good therapeutic alliance [Simpson & Reid, 2014][4] , and these online sessions do not differ from in-person sessions in effectiveness [Backhaus et al., 2012][5] . Therapeutic alliance in iCBT-programs (i.e., therapist-guided self-help / therapy programs on the internet) is evaluated as high and may even be even stronger than in face to face therapy, according to a systematic review [Pihlaja et al., 2018] .

Not least, online therapy has been found to be as effective as face-to-face-therapy for a range of mental health problems [Andersson et al., 2019][6] .

Online therapy appear to work for both anxiety and depression. Online therapy can be as effective as face-to-face-therapy for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and major depression [Andersson et al., 2019] . In addition, online therapy is effective in the treatment of sleep difficulties such as chronic insomnia [Bowen, 2019][7]



Benefits of seeking online therapy

The benefit of seeking online therapy is by large that same as the benefits of seeking traditional therapy. You will come in contact with a professional therapist that might support you in understanding and defining the problems you need help with, as well as to assist you with how to get better.

An important benefit of online therapy is that you save time. You don’t have to travel long distances to meet a therapist. You can merely schedule the best time for you and your online therapist, and you’re ready to start.

Comfort is another significant benefit. With online therapy you are able to be in the place you want to be while meeting the therapist.  

Especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefit of avoiding travel is important. With online therapy you can easy meet the therapist, despite lockdown and reduced capacity to see a therapist in his or her office.


Other ways of getting help

If you want to check options for traditional therapies and mental health services where you live, please visit this article.

Online therapy can be supplemented with other forms of help. Examples are:


  1. Support / self-help groups




    Support / self-help groups can take a variety of forms, from providing a safe and supportive social environment; more or less structured group meetings; information and guidance relating to how to use available help services; and a lot more.

    While it is difficult to know the effectiveness of such services, due to very different compositions of support and self-help services, the research generally show the self-help groups may have important benefits for the participants [Kurouz et al., 2002][8] .


  2. Helplines and chats




    Different helplines and chats exist. Some helplines are specialized in providing you with information and guidance, while others are more specialized in providing emotional support. Some helplines are highly professional, while others are more based on voluntary workers, that merely wish to be a caring listener.

    It is difficult to evalute how effective such services are, and it probably depends on many factors. For example, while the state of the science regarding the effectiveness of crisis response services remains limited, overall results provide support for such services [Hoffberg et al, 2020][9] .


  3. Online communities and forums




    Online communities and forums are options to get in contact with other individuals that struggle with something similar to you or someone you know. Some communities are moderated by professional health workers, while most of them are not.

    Online communities is traditionally not understood as a support or health service, but rather a social area - that may have the potential of being supportive for the individual that uses it. Importantly, research has shown that "people with serious mental illness report benefits from interacting with peers online from greater social connectedness, feelings of group belonging and by sharing personal stories and strategies for coping with day-to-day challenges of living with a mental illness. Within online communities, individuals with serious mental illness could challenge stigma through personal empowerment and providing hope. By learning from peers online, these individuals may gain insight about important health care decisions, which could promote mental health care seeking behaviours" [Naslund et al., 2016][10] .

    This seems to indicate that online communites should not be underevaluated as a potential resource to recovery, coping and enhanced quality of life for people affected by mental health problems.



Find online therapy for mental health problems

Please choose your location to find options for online therapy that is available where you live:


References & Footnotes
  1. Barak et al., 2008: Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M., & Shapira, N. A. (2008). A comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of internet-based psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Technology in Human services26(2-4), 109-160.
  2. Békés & Aafjes-van Doorn, 2020: Békés, V., & Aafjes-van Doorn, K. (2020). Psychotherapists’ attitudes toward online therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration30(2), 238.
  3. Pihlaja et al., 2018: Pihlaja, S., Stenberg, J. H., Joutsenniemi, K., Mehik, H., Ritola, V., & Joffe, G. (2018). Therapeutic alliance in guided internet therapy programs for depression and anxiety disorders–a systematic review. Internet interventions11, 1-10.
  4. Simpson & Reid, 2014: Simpson, S. G., & Reid, C. L. (2014). Therapeutic alliance in videoconferencing psychotherapy: A review. Australian Journal of Rural Health22(6), 280-299.
  5. Backhaus et al., 2012: Backhaus, A., Agha, Z., Maglione, M. L., Repp, A., Ross, B., Zuest, D., ... & Thorp, S. R. (2012). Videoconferencing psychotherapy: a systematic review. Psychological services9(2), 111.
  6. Andersson et al., 2019: Andersson, G., Carlbring, P., Titov, N., & Lindefors, N. (2019). Internet interventions for adults with anxiety and mood disorders: a narrative umbrella review of recent meta-analyses. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry64(7), 465-470.
  7. Bowen, 2019: Bowen, L. (2019). Assessing the effectiveness of online cognitive behavioral therapy in adults with chronic insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science1(3), 6.
  8. Kurouz et al., 2002: Kyrouz, E. M., Humphreys, K., & Loomis, C. (2002). A review of research on the effectiveness of self-help mutual aid groups. British Journal of Clinical Psychology33, 198-200.
  9. Hoffberg et al, 2020: Hoffberg, A. S., Stearns-Yoder, K. A., & Brenner, L. A. (2020). The effectiveness of crisis line services: A systematic review. Frontiers in public health7, 399.
  10. Naslund et al., 2016: Naslund, J. A., Aschbrenner, K. A., Marsch, L. A., & Bartels, S. J. (2016). The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences25(2), 113-122.