Firstly, does it work? The short answer is yes. Much like face-to-face therapy, the value of online therapy depends on:
1. The skill of the therapist.
2. Having the ‘right fit’ between the therapist and client.
When the above two elements are present, therapy can be effective, whether it is online or offline. If you remove the personal relationship altogether, such as online terapi with online therapy courses, there can still be some improvement. However these programs generally have poorer results than when a real person is involved to provide guidance and support.
Secondly, how does it compare to face-to-face therapy?
Let’s start with the practical advantages, which include the following:
1. It’s generally cheaper than other types of therapy.
2. You avoid waiting rooms, public transport, bad weather, traffic and all the other irritations that come with attending appointments in person.
3. You can remain in the comfort of your own home, accessing therapy from your armchair or curled up in bed with your laptop.
Now let’s consider the emotional and psychological benefits of online therapy.
Have you noticed you sometimes reveal more of yourself or present yourself differently when communicating online? Maybe you have emailed your boss to say you can’t come in to work at the weekend. Or perhaps you finally gathered the courage to message the friend you fell out with.
If so, you are among the significant number of computer users who find they can say things more openly, honestly and directly online. Using a computer might make it easier for you to express yourself differently and to reveal hidden emotions, fears and needs.
So what encourages you to let your guard down when you are online? What is this urge to share secrets, feelings and emotions that you might feel uncomfortable about revealing in a face-to-face situation?
Researchers call it the ‘disinhibition effect’, and it is largely due to the anonymity and invisibility of being online. Behind the safety of a computer screen you may feel less vulnerable and more able to share your feelings with others. You loosen up, shed your inhibitions and express your inner feelings more openly.
It probably also helps when you are in a familiar environment. You are more likely to open up about your emotions and past experiences from the security and comfort of your own living room than in a strange and unfamiliar office.
On top of this, you gain a significant level of control when online. You can to choose where, when and how you respond to people. You can take as long as you like to reply to messages, or you can ignore them altogether.
This amount of control can be important if you are doing something that is challenging, such as digging deeply into your past and exploring difficult emotions. It helps to create a feeling of empowerment – and that’s even before you’ve begun to experience the benefits of the therapy!
YOU are in charge – you can reveal as much or as little as you like and you can stop and start as you wish. True, you can do the same in face-to-face therapy to a certain extent, but it is much easier to move away from a computer than walk out of a session when things get too much.
Summing up, online therapy is not only a convenient and cost-effective way of accessing support, but it can also lead to powerful self-exploration, discovery and empowerment. It gives you that little bit of extra confidence to explore new parts of your personality and past experiences.
Of course, this openness or ‘disinhibition’ can have a downside. Revealing your deepest and most painful or emotional secrets when no one is physically present can leave you feeling vulnerable. Online therapists need to be aware of this and ensure they provide an appropriate level of support and advice.
So finally, is it worth giving online therapy a go?
Well, it is certainly clear that computers can have profound implications for therapeutic support.
If you try it, you may feel that you are entering into a unique and safe ‘place’ or ‘space’ and are empowered to discover and reveal things about yourself that may otherwise remain hidden.