COVID-19 has exacerbated mental health struggles for many people, but seeking help can be difficult while social distancing. This combination of factors is why we are seeing online therapy tools hit their stride as safe, reliable, and affordable resources for individuals coping with mental health issues during this difficult time.
Telephone crisis lines have been effective for providing immediate help for those in need for decades, but teletherapy, specifically online therapy, has been stigmatized as impersonal or less legitimate than in-person sessions. Despite this stigmatism, research has shown that teletherapy is as effective as traditional in-person therapy both in quality of relationship with one’s therapist and overall help derived from the sessions. A study at the University of South Florida (USF) found that 85 percent of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.
A global pandemic has given these virtual services the push they need to gain both popularity and legitimacy in the eyes of healthcare providers. Online therapy eliminates many barriers that prevent individuals from seeking care such as long drives to appointments and the need for childcare services for parents. Most of all, online therapy is beneficial to those who would otherwise not seek help in times of crisis such as those who feel stigmatized by therapy, are intimidated by sitting down in person with a therapist, or are underinsured.
Once brushed aside by the medical industry, telehealth services are now proving to be essential for supporting those struggling during today’s stressful global conditions. Many therapists are maintaining online visits as an option even after the pandemic and most major insurers have a list of approved and covered online therapy services on their website.
There are some adjustments needed to fully integrate telehealth services into regular practice such as modifying HIPAA regulations to account for this growing health platform. Increased regulation will be critical to ensure the validity of virtual providers.
If you’re someone who has been battling mental health issues during or even before the pandemic, online therapy resources could be a great tool for accessing low-pressure, reliable help. Even if you are uninsured, many local clinics, universities, and online sites like Psychology Today offer free services for anyone in need.