As we continue to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking help, practitioners and services are also moving to remove barriers associated with accessing therapy and other mental health support. Over the last decade much more effort has been placed in making buildings and services more accessible to service users. This shift has also extended to mental health services, where financial, physical, and psycho-social constraints sometimes make it difficult for people to get the help they need when they are in distress.
In an effort to meet service users where they are, more and more practitioners have been offering services online and through digital apps. After all, many of us are "located" online and on our phones these days! There are therapeutic apps for anxiety and mindfulness, online peer support groups, or video or messaging access to a therapist. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea some of the services that are out there.
If you are thinking of engaging in therapy, one of the questions you may be confronted with as you search for a suitable service is which mode of therapy is right for you - traditional in-person therapy or online therapy? To answer this question, you will have to think of:
What you are comfortable with (Do you prefer to talk to someone else face-to-face? Are you comfortable with using technology?),
Your therapeutic needs (sometimes the issues you are facing are modulated by the process of therapy itself - i.e. if you have social anxiety, practicing sitting in a session with someone else may be a better route therapeutically).
To help you make a decision, here are some factors to consider for in-person therapy and online therapy:
There is a greater sense of objectivity and structure in a "neutral" space. Because therapy often takes place in the therapist's office, it creates the perception that you are engaging in an emotional conversation in a neutral, non-judgmental space. This often removes the sense of shame that is often associated with sharing sensitive topics.
Both you and your therapist would also benefit from non-verbal cues that could provide insight to your strengths and challenges.
Depending on your therapy goals, the routine and process of meeting with someone and talking about your problems can itself be cathartic.
Depending on the therapeutic modality used, in-person would be most suitable and effective. This is so in the case of play therapy, art therapy, drama therapy, etc.
In some cases, it may be more therapeutically safe to engage in therapy in person. For example, in the case of trauma-focused work, it would be more ethically sound to be in the presence of a therapist who can support you with grounding work if you become distressed during therapy.
You have the benefit and flexibility of accessing therapy in a space and time that may be more convenient to you.
It reduces the barriers associated with scheduling and commuting to your therapy appointments.
The cost of online therapy is usually lower, reducing the financial barriers associated with accessing support.
There are multiple options from which you can choose - messaging, video, online support groups, apps
If you have never done therapy before, it offers a "softer" introduction to the process.
In my practice I offer both in-person and online therapy. You can connect with me for a free initial consult to discuss which one may be right for you.
McGrath, P., Wozney, L., Rathore, S.S., Notarianni, M., Schellenberg, M. (2018). Toolkit for e-Mental Health Implementation. Mental Health Commission of Canada. Ottawa, ON.