Does Online Therapy Work?
Updated: Jan 9
If you’re like many people, you may be wondering if teletherapy (or “online therapy”) is as effective as traditional, in person face-to-face therapy. In short, for most people the answer is yes. In many ways, teletherapy and in-person therapy are similar. During teletherapy sessions with us, you will receive a link to join the teletherapy session from our Simple Practice system. You turn on your webcam, click on the link to join at the time of your appointment, and you will also be able to see your therapist right away. Teletherapy sessions are 50 minutes long, and they follow a similar format to in-person sessions. You and your therapist will discuss the concerns or issues you are bringing to therapy, and together you will work on these issues.
As you might expect, there are pros and cons to attending therapy in person or via virtual telehealth. Some of the most commonly cited reasons that people enjoy teletherapy is that it is convenient—instead of driving to your therapist’s office, you can just turn on your computer and pull up the link to join the video session! This allows some people to attend therapy more consistently, or to schedule for times when they have a free hour throughout the day rather than attending therapy outside of work hours. Additionally, for those who might be nervous about seeing a therapist for the first time, telehealth can feel like a good way to ease into the process of therapy. Some people may feel more comfortable opening up with their therapist while in their own home than in a therapist’s office. On the other hand, some potential benefits to in-person therapy over virtual therapy include that it provides a private space and routine for a client each week, and some people may feel more comfortable getting to know their therapist through more traditional, in-person interactions.
What does the research say about the effectiveness of telehealth? Although research on video-based therapy services is relatively new, studies over the past ten years or so have provided some initial evidence that these virtual therapy sessions can be as beneficial for clients as in-person services. In one study conducted by David Mohr and colleagues (Mohr et al, 2012), researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy delivered virtually to adult patients diagnosed with depression resulted in similar positive outcomes as those who received the treatment in-person. The researchers also found that those patients who received the virtual therapy were less like to drop out of therapy than those who were attending in person, perhaps due to the convenience of teletherapy sessions. Additionally, current research shows that clients on average tend to report similar levels of therapeutic alliance (relationship) with their therapist, as well as similar overall levels of satisfaction with therapy when compared to in-person therapy treatments (Jenkins-Guarnieri, Pruitt, Luxton, & Johnson, 2015).
Skyline Psychotherapy is currently providing therapy services only through virtual telehealth sessions due to safety concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are a current client and have questions or concerns about teletherapy, please let your therapists know so that you can discuss these issues during your session. If you are a prospective client and are interested in learning more about what teletherapy would look like, please feel free to reach out to us to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.
Mohr, D. C., Ho, J., Duffecy, J., Reifler, D., Sokol, L., Burns, M. N., Jin, L., & Siddique, J.
(2012). Effect of telephone-administered vs face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy on
adherence to therapy and depression outcomes among primary care patients: a
randomized trial. JAMA, 307(21), 2278–2285. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2012.5588
Jenkins-Guarnieri, M.A., Pruitt, LD, Luxton, DD, & Johnson, K. (2015). Patient perceptions of
telementalheatlh: Systematic review of direction comparisons to in-person
psychotherapeutic treatments. Telemedicine and e-Health. 21 (8), 652-660.