It has become ever so apparent that all aspects of our day-to-day lives are quickly becoming digitalized. From social interaction to grocery shopping, we barely have to leave our couch nowadays to live our lives. This phenomenon is especially interesting when we consider the contrast between our lives being something that is personal to us and the digital world being something that is public and accessible. Even something as reserved and private as treatment for mental health issues, aka therapy, has developed into the digital space. People can now go to websites or download apps that offer contact to licensed therapists and counselors. But do these services appose a threat to the traditional way of therapy? Are they advanced enough to consider leaving the house to go to therapy obsolete? Let’s talk about it.
What does traditional therapy imply?
To start off, I want to ask the question of what therapy as we know it today is. I know this may sound as an unnecessary question, but I think it is important to lay the ground on how therapy works in order to assess it against the online counterpart. To be able to go to a therapist one must either reach out to a clinic or be referred to one by a doctor. The first consultation, which usually will require a waiting time, will consist of the therapist asking questions in order to evaluate if you need therapy or not. If you do the therapist will come to a diagnosis or at least decide what type of therapy you need. From there you will be put on a waiting list and when they have room for you, you can start your treatment. Once you start, you will have weekly in-person sessions with a therapist (how many times and other logistics depend on the kind of help you need). This lasts until the therapist deems the treatment to be complete.
What does online therapy consist of?
The online version of therapy serves the same purpose but functions a little bit differently. There are many different services you can choose from but for the purpose of keeping it short I will focus on one particular service: Betterhelp. To start the therapy, you just have to sign up to the service. From there on you will be paired with a therapist in a matter of hours or days. Once you have a therapist you can message them anytime or schedule a phone or video call with them. According to the website the time that you wish to use the service is up to you.
So, which is better?
Well, that’s ultimately up to you to decide but I will put some of the logistics side by side. Considering the price, Betterhelp will cost you about 50-70 euros a week depending on how many sessions you take. While traditional therapy will cost you more, it is often covered by insurance while Betterhelp is not. Another thing to consider is if you have a preference for an in-person interaction which is more intimate. This can be more comfortable when talking about mental health. It is also important to mention that Betterhelp does not claim that it is a substitute for real therapy and advocates for people to seek traditional therapy if they have urgent and difficult problems. Taking these things into consideration, I would say that traditional therapy is still an important service that is needed in-person. But who knows, maybe in the future online therapy will develop and become a good alternative.