Virtual Therapy: Benefits and Challenges

A 2021 survey by the CDC shows that almost one in four US adults aged 18 to 44 had received some form of mental health treatment in the last 12 months. It indicates a clear trend that the number of Americans seeking treatment is on the rise. In the past few years, people have turned to remote psychotherapy as a way to manage their mental health issues and improve their well-being. Therefore, the recent increase in the number of Americans seeking therapy could be linked to greater accessibility of virtual services.

Also known as teletherapy, it’s when a mental health practitioner provides therapy over the phone or via a video conferencing call. Despite the recent uptick in the number of people opting for teletherapy, it’s important to ask whether it offers the same advantages as in-person therapy at a facility like URP Behavioral Health. So, let’s evaluate the benefits and challenges it presents.

Benefits of Adopting Virtual Therapy

Some of the benefits of virtual therapy are as follows:

Suitable For People in Remote Areas

For people who live in remote areas, away from bustling metropolitan centers, accessing quality mental health care is no easy task. Usually, rural and remote areas lack appropriate healthcare clinics, let alone therapists. This leaves them with two options: teletherapy or taking time out of their busy schedule and driving long distances to get in-person therapy. When you have a steady internet connection, teletherapy allows easy access to professional treatment.

Accessible for People With Restricted Mobility

For people who are housebound or disabled, commuting to a therapist’s practice for an in-person session can be difficult. In such cases, a lack of mobility can make it challenging to access mental health care. Similarly, therapists who run a smaller practice may be unable to accommodate clients of all abilities. Therefore, virtual therapy is preferable for people who can’t leave their homes due to mobility issues.

Convenient and Affordable

When you’re attending therapy sessions at home, it’s easy to schedule them at your convenience. Moreover, therapists who offer online therapy have fewer expenses like renting an office space, their services tend to be affordable. Similarly, when you don’t have to make the commute to your therapist’s office, you can save time and money.

Offers Effective and Approachable Treatment

Some people may not be ready to speak with a professional about their mental health in person. Not to mention, you may not feel as comfortable talking to a total stranger about your psychological concerns. With online therapy, you overcome this stigma and take the first step toward improving your mental health.

In fact, research indicates that it can be as effective as in-person treatment for a variety of conditions.

Challenges of Adopting Virtual Therapy

While virtual therapy can prove quite helpful for clients in some situations, it poses certain challenges compared to traditional options.

Insurance Coverage Limitations

If you’re trying to get insurance coverage for mental health treatment, keep in mind that it depends on your policy and where you live. Some online therapists don’t accept insurance coverage as a form of payment, while some policies don’t cover online therapy. And if you end up paying for virtual therapy sessions, the costs can add up quickly.

Providing Out-of-State Services

In the US, mental health professionals need to have a license for the state they’re practicing in. Consequently, states don’t allow psychologists to provide services, even virtual therapy if they’re not licensed there. If your therapist is based in another state, they’ll need to have a license for your state to provide mental health services.

Privacy and Confidentiality Concerns

Confidentiality should be as big a priority in virtual therapy as it is in traditional forms of treatment. Unfortunately, operating online makes matters much more complicated due to the risk of data breaches and cybersecurity concerns.

Is Unable to Convey Body Language

When providing therapy, mental health practitioners need to be able to assess your body language and behaviors. Therapists evaluate your vocal signals and facial expressions as well when determining your mental health concerns and offer a proper diagnosis. Even though some virtual therapy mediums can offer high picture quality, they may be unable to offer the same level of intimacy as in-person interactions.

Unable to Respond to Crisis Situations

Because it’s common for virtual therapists to be based far away from their clients, they may be unable to respond effectively during a crisis. When clients have suffered from a personal tragedy or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, getting direct assistance becomes much more difficult.

Inappropriate for Serious Mental Disorders

Although virtual therapy can come in handy for a number of situations, this isn’t the case when clients need to be monitored closely or require in-person interventions. For instance, if you’re struggling with addiction or have severe psychotic symptoms, online therapy isn’t suitable. Because therapists can assess very little through online sessions, it’s not the best option during complex situations.

Confusion Regarding Legal Codes

Virtual therapy makes it difficult to enforce ethical and legal codes since it overcomes all geographical constraints. Mental health practitioners can treat clients based in different parts of the world, but many countries and states have specific treatment guidelines and licensing requirements. Therefore, the burden of checking a therapist’s experience, license, and qualifications falls on the client. It’s recommended that you check these things before starting treatment to avoid any issues down the line.

Is It The Right Choice For Me?

With all the benefits that virtual therapy provides, there are still some challenges that can only be addressed with in-person therapy. While it does offer a convenient and effective way for people to access mental health services, it’s not the best approach for everyone. Whether or not virtual therapy is the right choice for you will depend on your symptoms. So, consider what you need mental health services for and get an expert’s opinion before starting treatment.