What is Online Psychotherapy?
Online Psychotherapy (Teletherapy) is the use of an online medium to provide psychotherapy – seeing an online psychologist. In essence, it applies the same psychological principles as face-to-face therapy within an online format. Basically, it is psychotherapy from the convenience and safety of your home. I make use of a secure platform, Zoom. I also lock all sessions to ensure that the session is safe and secure.
Advantages of seeing an Online Psychologist
Online psychotherapy offers the following advantages:
- Firstly, the safety of your own space, may feel more comfortable. This could make it easier to share sensitive information vulnerably.
- Online psychotherapy is also accessible from anywhere.
- It further allows added privacy to people concerned about seeing a familiar face in the waiting area.
- Online psychotherapy requires no physical contact. It is consequently the safest option in managing your risk of contracting COVID-19.
- In the current COVID-19 climate, masks are required in public spaces. Online psychotherapy thus allows you to see my whole face and facial expressions. It also allows me to see your facial expressions.
- Finally, it makes therapy more convenient for people who cannot make it to a face-to-face session due to:
- frequent travelling,
- inflexible working hours,
- being based in a more rural area with limited access to psychological resources,
- unable to leave their homes due to disability or underlying health conditions placing them at high risk of COVID-19 related complications and
- difficulties with transportation and cannot travel to the practice.
Limitations of seeing an Online Psychologist
Online psychotherapy, however, presents with the following limitations:
- In normal circumstances, the client and therapist have less non-verbal cues to rely on. They need to place a stronger emphasis on verbal rather than non-verbal communication. With COVID-19 regulations, this, however, does not apply when masks need to be worn in public spaces.
- Technological issues may also interrupt sessions.
- Some people struggle to build a therapeutic relationship in an online platform. They subsequently report feeling disconnected behind the screen.
- If you share a living space with many other people, it might also be difficult to find a quiet and confidential space.
Contra-indications of seeing and Online Psychologist
Online Psychotherapy is, however, not suitable for all cases. Face-to-face therapy may consequently be a better fit if you:
- Are experiencing suicidal thoughts,
- Feel your life or someone else’s life is in danger,
- Are at risk of domestic violence, or
- Feel you lose contact with reality.
Furthermore, the key that determines the success of psychotherapy is the therapeutic relationship. So, if you find it hard to trust or build relationships, face-to-face sessions might be a better option for you. Based on the first session, I will also make a recommendation on the suitability of the medium.
Privacy, Confidentiality and Disruption recommendations
I can only ensure the privacy for my side of the therapeutic relationship. As such, you will need to put in some measures to ensure that your sessions are safe and confidential.
I recommend the following:
- Find a quiet, well-lit space away from any distractions. It is important that you feel safe and comfortable in your space.
- Also, ensure that your session cannot be overheard by other people.
- Headphones may assist you to hear clearly, block out noises. It also maximises privacy by ensuring only one side of the conversation can be heard.
- For increased privacy, you could also consider playing white noise by your door.
- Test your device’s camera and microphone settings.
- Set up your device at eye level to optimise comfort and minimise camera movement.
- Check that you feel comfortable with the software.
- Make sure that you connect to a private and stable network.
- Consider who has access to your computer and electronic information from your location. Can confidentiality from your work or personal computer may be compromised?
- Only use a computer that you know is safe and where you can ensure your confidentiality.
- Finally, turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘Silent’ mode on all your devices to avoid interruptions.
Research findings related to seeing an online psychologist:
The following academic research articles back the validity of Online Psychotherapy:
Effective across many populations
“Telemental health is effective for diagnosis and assessment across many populations (adult, child, geriatric, and ethnic) and for disorders in many settings (emergency, home health) and appears to be comparable to in-person care. … Effectiveness needs to be considered from the perspective of the patient, provider, program, community, and society as a whole.” (Hilty, et al., 2013 Jun)
Similar effectiveness as face-to-face therapy
“A comparison between face-to-face and Internet inter- vention as reported on in 14 of the studies revealed no differences in effectiveness. The findings of this meta-analysis, and review of additional Internet therapy studies not included in the meta-analysis, provide strong support for the adoption of online psychological interventions as a legitimate therapeutic activity and suggest several insights in regard to its application.” (Barak, Hen, Boniel-Nissim, & Shapira, 2008)
Roughly equivalent to traditional therapy
“The outcome evidence indicates that teletherapy patients experience similar results compared with control groups. . .[and] indicated that working alliance was unaffected by the medium of communication. Finally, the survey studies reported that clients were predominantly satisfied with online therapy. Therapists, however, had misgivings about the online therapy environment. These findings appear to suggest that online therapy is clinically efficacious and is roughly equivalent to traditional therapy.” (Baird Thompson, 2016)
Equally beneficial in the treatment of depression
“This study shows that an internet-based intervention for depression is equally beneficial to regular face-to-face therapy.” (Wagner, Horn, & Maercker, 2014)
Frequently asked questions
“Any time your quality of life isn’t what you want it to be, psychotherapy can help.”
Signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
- A sense of overwhelming, prolonged helplessness and sadness.
- None of your efforts or help from your friends seems to improve your problems.
- You find it difficult to concentrate on work or to carry out everyday activities.
- Excessive worry, expecting the worst or constantly feeling on edge.
- Your actions are harming you or others. This could include drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive.
Read more at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx
A session is usually 50 minutes, depending on the needs of the client.
The number of sessions depends on the nature and complexity of the complaint. Each person and difficulty is unique and will require a unique treatment approach.
On average, I recommend four (4) sessions as a start for you to find benefit in psychotherapy. Some clients may benefit sooner and some may benefit from a longer duration of therapy.
We can claim from the medical aid on your behalf at the tariffs prescribed by the medical aids. Elmarie Horn, my Accounts Manager, manages this process. No excess is payable if there are funds available in your medical savings account. If there are no funds available, you remain responsible for the account.
Yes, the medical aid will pay for psychotherapy if there are funds available in your medical aid. No excess will then be payable. If the medical aid, however, does not pay for the sessions, you will remain responsible for the bill.
Elmarie Horn, my Accounts Manager, can submit medical aid claims on your behalf. You may, also, wish to pay for the sessions yourself and then submit the claim to the medical aid.