5 Key Benefits of Online Therapy – Part 2
By Joan Swart, Psy.D.
After dispelling some of the concerns that exist about online therapy in Part 1, it is now time to explore its many advantages or online therapy benefits. I highlighted some of these in my article published in 2015 in the International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy titled “Conceptualizing MDT as a Moodle-Based Program for Adolescents and Adults to Relieve Belief-Oriented Distress.”
Potential Clients have Greater Access and Availability to Online Services
The first is access and availability. While the global burden of mental health disorders continues to grow, low- and middle-income countries have far fewer mental health professionals that they need to deliver only the bare minimum of intervention. The need is becoming even greater with armed conflicts and failing states on the rise, as well as rapid urbanization. Online therapy can help relieve the inequitable distribution of services worldwide in a cost-effective and affordable way.
Online Therapy Supports Self-Reflection and Empowerment
The asynchronous and faceless nature of an email or online forum-based therapeutic interaction stimulates more intense self-reflection and disclosure. Users are able to follow the program at their own pace and have control over the timing of their interactions based on their needs and preferences, which promotes a feeling of empowerment. They can also use more time to think and reflect that soften potentially awkward or emotional exchanges.
Writing is Therapeutic
Research and experience have proven that writing about emotional experiences has a cathartic and freeing result. Writing about emotional issues for a minimum of 15 minutes for at least three times a week, helps a person absorb events rationally and objectively. It also serves as a reference when reviewing thoughts later and determining the strategies that were effective and those that didn’t work. As such, it is a valuable reminder of progress and achievement.
Psychoeducation is Enhanced by Multimedia Applications
Improving knowledge and understanding of a particular mental health issue is a valuable part of therapy. Such education has a normalizing effect, that is, the user feels less alienated and alone in their struggles. They learn of strategies that had worked for others and explanations of the mechanisms that underlie and sustain their difficulties. Thereby they are able to work out their own plan based on the existing knowledge. The Internet environment is perfect for sharing a variety of useful materials, including educational website links, video clips, documents, and assessment tools.
The Therapeutic Relationship is at Least as Strong as in Face-to-Face Therapy
In online therapy where the client and the therapist has a form of interaction such as email, Skype, online forum, researchers have found that their relationship is at least as healthy and trusting as when they meet in person. Despite some arguments to the contrary, effective writing can convey empathy and compassion equally well, sometimes better as transference is less prominent.
Transference in a therapy relationship happens when feelings and attitudes of the client (and the therapist too) are redirected subconsciously to the other person. It can be dependence, contempt, infatuation, aggression, or something else and is often based on repressed experiences. An online interaction gives both parties the time and distance to work through unexpected unhelpful feelings and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. It is especially true if the therapist is skillful in online communication and able to clearly convey their unconditional positive regard and acceptance for the client in that form.