The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented mental health challenges, intensified by the reduced access to in-office therapy sessions. As most people spent more time at home, in self-isolation, therapeutic services had to reinvent themselves and adapt to the new reality. This is how online psychotherapy was popularised and what had previously been just a niche became an essential service during the pandemic. Even when social distancing measures were lifted, people continued to talk with their therapists remotely, causing a growing wave that is being analysed in the news. What’s more, researchers are investigating the benefits of online psychotherapy, revealing its long-term potential.
A recent study called Videotherapy and Therapeutic Alliance in the age of COVID‐19 was published in October 2020, exploring the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis on conventional therapy and the positive impact of online therapy. The research revealed four major findings:
- The COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges in the delivery of in-person counselling sessions. Social distancing guidelines, combined with the fact that therapist offices had to close down, prevented patients from continuing therapy as usual.
- Existing research has shown that online psychotherapy experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. What’s more, both therapists and clients were satisfied with the sessions and their outcomes.
- Online psychotherapy can sometimes be even more effective than in-person therapy because it allows for more opportunities for self-expression. Patients who find it hard to express their feelings and symptoms in a therapist’s office may feel more comfortable communicating via a video call, from a space they find more comfortable.
- Therapists are advised to ask their patients for feedback on online sessions and consider the best practices of online sessions.
Initially, remote therapy sessions were used as a solution when offering treatments to patients in remote areas, who wouldn’t have normally had access to professional therapy. But now, in the context of “the new normal”, people everywhere are starting to discover their benefits: you no longer have to drive to the other side of town, or even another town, to meet with your therapist, and you can find more time for sessions. As people are working from home, and balancing work with family life, it’s definitely more comfortable to have therapy from home.
Online therapy has made more people seek professional help.
Although therapy and mental health, in general, are less of a tabu compared to several years ago, many people still hesitated to seek professional help. And that happened for many reasons: because they didn’t think their symptoms were serious enough, they didn’t know what a session entails, they were afraid of being judged by their peers, or they didn’t know any good therapists with offices close to them. But online therapy is incredibly convenient, and the fact that it takes place in a familiar format and you don’t have to leave your home, made sceptics want to try it. Not surprisingly, they were satisfied with the experience and most people who attended online therapy sessions said that they would agree to in-person sessions too.