Studies suggest that it is equally effective as face to face therapy
With the rise of social distancing, the way healthcare providers think about how therapy is performed needs to change to keep up with modern methods of therapy. Online therapy is an emerging method that has seen a boost in popularity in recent months.
Because it’s so new, there are still people asking about how effective online therapy might be. Some of the biggest concerns are that the therapist doesn’t have a real opportunity to observe the patient—people suggest that tone of voice, body language, and overall demeanor can’t be picked up through video chat.
Therapists rely on an interpersonal relationship between themselves and their patients, which means the perceived impersonal nature of digital communication is raising concerns over whether it’s possible to provide the skills and healing power of therapy to individuals who aren’t in the room with them.
Despite these concerns, however, research suggests that online therapy can be very effective.
As early as 2014, a Journal of Affective Disorders study that compared online therapy with face to face sessions indicated that both were equally effective — and that only the online sessions seemed to continue to reduce symptoms after 3 months post-treatment.
In 2018, a multinational team published their findings in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders that online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) treatment for anxiety and depression is “effective, acceptable, and practical healthcare”.
These are only two relevant studies, but these studies have been cited 200 times between them, and the recent studies are just as promising. The number of studies alone doesn’t prove anything, of course, but it does indicate that this is an area of growth and that our understanding of online therapy is only going to improve.
The suggestion that online therapy is something that still reduces symptoms over a longer period of time than face-to-face therapy is particularly interesting because it means that the treatment is likely to last longer in patients who respond well.
There are other studies that have shown how CBT coupled with medication for depression and anxiety has improved effects, and perhaps by combining the flexibility and accessibility of online therapy, our clients will be better placed to deal with their mental health in the long run.