What is Online Therapy?


If you are reading this, then you probably have many questions about what exactly online therapy is?. There is not just one definition to online therapy because of its multimedia characteristics. We like to break it down into the following categorie:

Online Therapy

Computerized therapy, without a person on the other side

This involves a user interacting with a specialized application for mental and behavioral health online therapy, counseling, assessment, and training. Note, the application can be developed to run on other electronic device platforms besides a computer, such as Apple mobile devices, Android, or Kindle. Some examples of this type of online therapy are the icouchCBT app, or MoodKit.

  • Pros: Online therapy can be accessed at anytime and data can be recorded and archived for later review.
  • Cons: This interface may not be as motivating or conducive to treatment stickiness for patients that desire personal contact, dialog, or empathetic responses.

Video and audio conferencing with a live therapist

Various audio and video conferencing applications are used to facilitate online communication for online therapy and counseling, such as Google Hangouts and Skype (however, both of these solutions are not HIPAA compliant). HIPAA compliant solutions that use video and audio conferencing are eTherapi, Virtual Therapy Connect and Leadem Counseling.

  • Pros: The advantages for online therapy and counseling are many, including: access, less intimacy issues and more comfortable environment, reduced cost associated to travel or leaving work, or for child care. This solution supports disability access for the hearing impaired by  being able to simultaneously use conversion software to audio to text or text to audio. Most importantly, this channel can allow therapists to view a patient’s or patients’ surroundings and mitigating factors that may be inherent in the environment.
  • Cons: You must have the technical requirements for the video and audio conferencing application. This includes: reliable nternet connection, as well as a screen, audio speakers or headset, and up-to-date operating system, software and browser.

Synchronous messaging with a therapist

Chatting and Instant Messaging (IM) systems are examples of synchronous messaging, whereby the patient and therapist can conduct online therapy or counseling sessions via messaging each other, in real-time. Responses are required on-demand or within short time limits in order for the messaging service to continue. Companies that support synchronous messaging are eTherapi, Virtual Therapy Connect, and Talkspace, and Leadem Counseling.

  • Pro: Instant communication in real-time.
  • Con: limitation on the length of the message and time to respond.

Asynchronous messaging with a therapist

The most popular and ubiquitous form of asynchronous messaging is email and mobile text messaging. This is a form of delayed-response communication, where the response is not required immediately for online therapy and counseling. Messages are queued to be retrieved, read and responded to at anytime. Email messages usually can be of any length and contain attachments. Companies that use asynchronous messaging are eTherapi, Virtual Therapy Connect, and Talkspace, and Leadem Counseling.

  • Pro: Archiving and filtering messages.
  • Con: Indeterminate time delays in receiving messages.

Online therapy is here to stay because its growth and potential are ever increasing. Technological advancements are happening for improved communication platforms and applications to provide treatment, assessments, and training. More providers, insurance companies, and state policymakers are recognizing how patients benefit with online therapy and counseling.

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