Does Teletherapy Really Work? What Research Says About Online Therapy

Mental Health and Wellness
Does Teletherapy Really Work? What Research Says About Online Therapy

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 virus took hold in the United States, the need for online therapy became immediate. Not did in-person services become suddenly unsafe, but the country also experienced a spike in the need for mental health services. Social isolation, fears about the virus, people getting sick, and the economic downturn all continue to contribute to high rates of mental health issues.

 

Although many people have turned to this teletherapy for help, others remain skeptical. Understandably, you may wonder if online therapy could really work as well as in-office visits. We dug into the latest research on telehealth and mental health to help you make the best decision for your needs.

What is Teletherapy?

In teletherapy, or online therapy, patients and licensed therapists connect via the internet rather than in person. Typically, online therapy takes utilizes online video chats with a licensed therapist. However, some therapists offer therapy through text-only messages or voice-only calls. Because most of the research focuses on how well video-based online therapy works, we have concentrated on that service here. Importantly, video sessions mirror the environment of in-person therapy most closely.

Online Therapy for Specific Conditions in Adults

Researchers have looked into the effects of telehealth on many types of mental health conditions.

 

  • Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Depression: Research in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that eight weeks of CBT is equally effective in treating depression for both online and in-person patients. The study also found that online patients still felt better three months after treatment ended, but participants who received in-person CBT did not.
  • Online CBT for Anxiety Disorders: Researchers published a meta-analysis in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders in which they looked at results from 64 relevant studies. These studies investigated whether online CBT was effective for a variety of anxiety disorders and depression. The researchers concluded that online CBT is as effective as in-person CBT at treating these disorders.
  • Telehealth for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is unlike other anxiety disorders and requires specially tailored treatment plans. In Volume 14 of the Current Opinion in Psychology, six PTSD treatment experts review the efficacy of telehealth for such patients. Based on the available evidence, the experts conclude that various telehealth tools can be part of a more comprehensive care plan for some patients with PTSD, while other patients may benefit from online-only treatment. However, they also note that online PTSD treatment does not yet meet its full potential.
  • Online Screening and Treatment for Perinatal Mental Health: Writers of the textbook Women’s Mental Health compiled research on the efficacy of telehealth in screening perinatal women for mental health conditions and treating those conditions when they are present. They assert that online screening and treatment are as effective as in-person counterparts. Furthermore, online tools help pregnant women manage their own health, which is a strong preference for many.

How Online Therapy Can Work for You

 

Based on these findings and more, it seems clear that telehealth can play an important role in recovery for many people. However, more and better research is still needed to know how patients with less-common disorders fare with online therapy. In general, it’s believed that when given the choice between online therapy and no treatment at all, online therapy is the healthier choice.

 

Of course, what works for one patient may not work for you. Each person we see is unique and deserves a care plan that is tailored to their needs. That’s why we offer both in-person and online appointments. Book your appointment now and get mental health care the way you need it.