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  • Shannon Jones

On-Screen Therapy: The Pros and Cons

The uncertainties and isolating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in an increased number of individuals experiencing mental health difficulties. With the government and local authorities putting restrictions in place for interacting with others face-to-face, the demand online for remote therapy is the highest it has ever been.

Despite this increase in popularity, remotely delivered therapy is not a new concept. It was during the 1980s when therapists first began offering this type of service by providing therapeutic support through the medium of phone calls. Over the past forty years, technology has evolved, as has the number of ways therapists can now work remotely. Today, many therapists can deliver their sessions online through video calls and email correspondences.

A study was conducted by Barak et al in 2008, comparing the effectiveness of different types of therapies. There are currently seven types of talk therapies identified by the NHS: Cognitive Behavioural therapy, behavioural activation, Interpersonal therapy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive behavioural therapy, and counselling services. The 2008 meta-analysis study summarised that the most effective form of online therapy was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, more commonly known as CBT.

Although less traditional than in-person therapy, there are several elements of online therapy that have been suggested to be more practical. The most obvious benefit (which has proved necessary throughout the pandemic) is the increased accessibility. By opening therapeutic services to online platforms, those living in rural areas or with other commitments – such as work or family – can access the support they require with ease.

Similarly, online therapy is typically more affordable. Clients can save money they would usually need to spend on covering childcare or transport. The affordability of therapy has been highlighted as a big barrier between certain demographics being able to access treatment, particularly among young people and parents.

However, some professionals question the effectiveness of online therapy. For example, the physical distance between therapist and their client can present issues impacting the quality of the session. In 2007, a study by Abott et al, linked this barrier to client’s lacking in motivation regarding their treatment and their self-belief in improving their wellbeing. But as the use of online therapy continues to become more popular, these issues can be minimised by using countering techniques. This includes online therapists vocalising reassurance more often to clients, offering extended sessions or more regular sessions, and when needed, communicating with the client in-between sessions.

Alternatively, online therapy doesn’t always have to be an independent treatment option. Some therapists can provide online therapy alongside engaging with in-person therapy. This type of support is known as asynchronous therapy. This is usually delivered through email correspondences between therapists and their clients. Studies have found that most clients benefit from this extra communication as it allows them to share issues as they occur, and it can be easier to explore their feelings through writing rather than talking.

Overall, online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy, but there are additional factors that need to be considered by both the client and therapist involved. Whether online therapy is an effective option for an individual needs to be considered on a day-by-day basis, but when in doubt, there are several options to consider regarding the format of your therapy.

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