Talk therapy provides support for one’s mental health through face-to-face or in-person communication with a licensed therapist. Sessions typically range from 45 minutes to an hour and on average are done weekly, biweekly, monthly, or as needed.
Telehealth or Telemedicine
Telehealth, telemedicine, online therapy, and virtual therapy are all terms used to describe mental health therapy, which can occur from any location utilizing a variety of forms. Some of these forms include video chatting, phone calls, emails, and instant messaging. Like traditional therapy, this can be done in a range of different time frames, such as weekly, biweekly, monthly, or as needed.
Pros of In-Person Therapy
Seeing as therapy has been done in-person since its conception, there are definitely benefits to choosing this method. While this list does not incorporate all of the positives that come with in-person therapy, it gives three more important reasons to consider in comparison with telehealth therapy.
1. Nonverbal Communication
Our communication is not merely about what we say but also goes back to our body language, as well as other nonverbal cues. While we may say one thing, our body language may tell a different story. This can help the therapist to point out these discrepancies. While there is still room for recognizing nonverbal cues over video chat, it can be less obvious and can impact the whole picture that the therapist is obtaining.
2. Neutral Location
Sessions in an office can provide a separate place for an individual, away from their everyday life. It can allow for one to feel more comfortable sharing private information. In addition, this allows one to get away from those in their life that they may feel a desire to discuss. This privacy prevents the opportunity for a loved one to overhear things being discussed in sessions.
3. Intensive Support
Some therapeutic modalities require direct, in-person work. Art, music, and play therapy are all therapeutic practices that can be extremely effective, but do typically require the client to be seen in person 1.
Cons of In-Person Therapy
There is been pros and cons found throughout the course of the introduction of telehealth for therapy. In more recent years, specifically since the pandemic in 2020, there has been a major influx in practices offering telehealth as an alternative to in-person care. There are a range of reasons to consider one over the other. Here are some of the negatives that have been found when comparing the two modalities.
Typically, telehealth services tend to be on the cheaper end, in comparison to in person services. If you look into any of the online therapy platforms, the services tend to be on the more affordable end, while often still allowing customers to utilize their insurance for services.
Part of what makes therapy difficult is the fact that it is one more thing to schedule into our busy lives. It means accounting for commute time, possibly taking time out of the work day, potentially needing to find transportation to the sessions, and sometimes requiring childcare for those with kids. This can be a nuisance to deal with and sometimes dissuades individuals from going or continuing therapy.
Clinics oftentimes have wait lists for particular therapists, due to their credentials, chosen therapeutic modality, or times they offer. This can delay beginning therapy. It also can be difficult to find a therapist that offers the specific times that you have available to come in2.
Telehealth has given therapist and clients alike so many more options when it comes to services. While not every organization is going to be the same, telehealth does provide some benefits, which we will discuss below.
Each website or organization may differ from one another, but as a whole, telehealth tends to be cheaper overall. Some sites offer weekly or monthly rates and even include far more access to a therapist and other resources than is typical of traditional face-to-face therapy.
Virtual options often include a variety of formats, such as texting, emailing, phone calls, and video calls. This can also be done at anytime and could even be done on the go if need be. With many organizations offering messaging as an option, access to a therapist can be done quickly and without delay.
For those who may have difficulty with transportation, live in more rural areas, or struggle with social anxiety, being able to access therapy from home or even on the go can be a complete game-changer. This means regardless of weather or sickness, one can still access services.
4. Reduced Stigma
Participating in talk therapy is a personal decision. Truly it is no one else’s information but your own. Having the option of telehealth means not needing to worry about running into someone on your way into therapy. While all talk therapy is protected by confidentiality and HIPAA laws, there are certain aspects that cannot be avoided, such as someone seeing your car at a practice, an acquaintance running into you at the office, etc. Telehealth allows you to maintain a higher level of privacy with regards to your treatment3.
Cons of Telehealth or Telemedicine
Just as with in-person traditional therapy, there are negatives to consider with telehealth, which you may want to take into account when deciding which modality is best for you during your therapeutic journey.
1. Technical Difficulties
Technology is an ever expanding and growing tool that we have with mental health and beyond. However, there are still going to be glitches, such as moments where the Internet is being inconsistent with the signal, our technology is not charged, etc. This could mean that you and the therapist lose the connection, potentially in the midst of an important discussion. This may be something to discuss with a therapist so that you are on the same page with regards to handling connection difficulties.
2. Limitations to Care
For individuals who experience more severe mental health conditions and symptoms, therapists may request an individual come in for in-person sessions. While many modalities may be achievable through telehealth, others may require supplies that make telehealth difficult or impossible.
3. Communication Restrictions
While it can be incredibly convenient to be able to communicate with a therapist through instant messaging, text messaging, and email, there are restrictions to this type of therapy. There are limits to understanding through this type of communication, such as not being able to see one another’s nonverbal cues and overall body language. It is also important to note that while some of these forms of treatment allow for you to message a therapist at any time, this does not mean that the therapist is required to respond at any given time4.
Points to Consider When Deciding on Treatment
Therapy truly is a personal choice and experience. What works for your friends or family may not be the modality that works best for you. There are a number of factors that you should consider when deciding between telehealth or face-to-face treatment.
The first thing to consider is any previous experience you may have with therapy. This could include if it was in person or online, as well as the therapy modality. If you did online therapy, did you find it beneficial? If not, was it related to the specific therapist? Was it related to any technical issues? Did you like the style that was used in therapy? Was there anything that could have improved the experience? Taking into account what experiences you may have had in the past could deter you from one therapeutic method or another, as well as the way it is administered.
When looking into therapy, consider the reasons you are doing it. Are you hesitant to attend but do it at the request of a loved one? Are you excited to begin? Do you have ideas of what you want to get out of the experience? Your level of readiness may influence your decisions with choosing in-person versus virtual. For instance, if you are feeling resistant to therapy, you may benefit more from going in person. Missing sessions or even walking out of a session is far more difficult in person than if you are sitting behind a computer. While ideally, neither situation would take place, we all find ourselves feeling defensive at times when our faults or frustrations are pointed out to us. Having to confront these situations in therapy is part of the process and can help one to come around to therapy as a whole.
Consider what type of privacy you have in regard to therapy. Think about if you are wanting to discuss issues or concerns regarding your spouse, children, parents, etc. If you do not have privacy, this could create an uncomfortable situation with online therapy. You may find yourself feeling resistant to discussing these things out of fear of them overhearing. If you are able to find a time when no one will be around then this could help to make telehealth work. However, if you are struggling to make a time and location work for online therapy while still maintaining privacy, you may want to instead stick with face-to-face therapy.
Depending on the diagnosis, this may indicate what type of therapeutic method is used. Depending on the method, it may be more difficult or even impossible to conduct over telehealth. Sometimes it also may be important for the therapist to see the client in person to assess their symptoms. For instance, if an individual has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) then it may be difficult for a therapist to observe their continuation or lack thereof with OCD rituals.
Take into account your schedule, location, and potential therapists, when deciding on therapy. If you find it to be difficult to get to therapy weekly due to commute times, lack of transportation, or distance to a therapist, online therapy may be a better option for you. On the other hand, if you have a poor internet connection or a busy household, face-to-face therapy may be a better option.
What does your schedule look like? Do you work odd hours? Are you only available in the evenings or on weekends? Your schedule will play a role in choosing a therapist and modality. While someone who is flexible may be able to meet with any therapist of their choosing, someone with more specific availability may need to search more. This could make online therapy more desirable, due to more therapists to choose from with more options for appointment times5.
We have a variety of therapists who would love to help you with mental health concerns. Our platform offers a complete online therapy toolbox for individuals and couples! Our site has multiple options, which involve time with a personal therapist who can support you throughout your journey. If this is something you have an interest in, we would love to hear from you.
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