Transitioning to Online Therapy: What you Need to Know
Online therapy, also known as teletherapy, is the online delivery of professional mental health treatment and online counseling services from licensed therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals. In the face of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, more and more in-person therapists have transitioned to online platforms out of necessity.
Online therapy is associated with numerous benefits, from its ease of use, hassle-free treatment, and affordability to more accessible care for people in remote and rural areas. Whether you prefer text message, video conferencing, or live chat, teletherapy makes it possible to access mental health care from the comfort of your own home—all you need is an Internet connection.
If you’re considering transitioning to online therapy, searching for a new therapist or adjusting to an online therapy platform might feel like a significant adjustment. Here’s everything you need to know about teletherapy to make your transition as stress-free as possible.
What should you know before starting your search?
Before starting your search for a new therapist, it’s essential to do your homework. Everyone has unique mental health needs and understanding your options can help you place your mental health in the right therapist’s hands. Many types of mental health care professionals can help you work toward recovery goals, including:
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who practice psychotherapy and prescribe prescription medications.
- Psychologists are similar to psychiatrists but do not prescribe medication Psychologists usually have a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and are trained to understand how thoughts, feelings, and behavior correspond.
- Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) and licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) have at least a master’s degree in counseling, along with years of training. Many counselors specialize in specific areas, such as teen counseling, counseling for young children, and marriage counseling.
- Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) have a master’s degree in social work. While many social workers work in social service and advocacy, some maintain private practices.
These are only some of the types of professional therapists you’ll see during your search, but it should give you a good starting point to help you find the right therapist for you.
All types of therapists can offer helpful mental health services and mental health care for many types of mental health challenges. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), common types of psychotherapy include:
- Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy aims to identify negative thinking and behavioral patterns rooted in past experiences. This type of treatment often involves exploration and self-reflection, allowing individuals to discuss whatever is on their minds. If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or another mental health condition, psychodynamic therapy might be right for you.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on exploring relationships among individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During psychotherapy, your therapist will work with you to identify counterproductive thought patterns and how they might cause unhealthy behaviors. If you’re experiencing mental health concerns such as substance abuse, schizophrenia, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or challenging life transitions, CBT might be right for you.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on an individual’s relationships with others to improve their interpersonal skills. During IPT, your psychotherapist will help you evaluate social interactions and identify problematic behaviors, such as isolation or aggression. If you’re experiencing relationship problems, an anxiety disorder, or depression, IPT might be right for you.
Along with different forms of therapy, online therapists offer various treatment modalities, including group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy. If you’re interested in a specific type of treatment or there’s something you’d like to avoid, make sure to let your psychotherapist know during your first session.
How do you find the best online therapist?
Finding the best therapist can feel confusing, but there are ways to make the process easier. Some prospective clients ask close friends or family members for recommendations or ask their primary care doctor for a referral to a therapist. Additionally, many insurance companies provide therapist directories to help prospective clients search by location, type of therapy, and specialization.
During your search, keep in mind that therapy works best when you feel comfortable with your therapist. Many people create a shortlist of potential therapists who share their identity or preferences. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), searching for a mental health professional based on a shared identity, such as a therapist who shares your race, or gender identity, or who is part of the LGBTQ community, can help you form a higher quality therapeutic relationship.
Along with your preferences and requirements, it’s also essential to consider how potential therapists’ credentials and specialties align with your specific needs. For example, if you’re struggling with relationship problems, working with an experienced relationship or family therapist can give you more confidence about your counseling sessions.
How can you make the most of your online sessions?
Whether you’re interested in starting teletherapy as a new patient or you’re transitioning from traditional face-to-face therapy, increased access to online therapy services has made meeting with an online therapist easier and more convenient. To ease the transition, here are some ways to make the most out of your teletherapy sessions.
- Create a private space for online therapy sessions. Because of the emotional nature of therapy, it’s essential to engage with the process by minimizing distractions. Do what you can to create a private space—like your therapist’s office—for your therapy sessions. In addition to a comfortable setup, make sure you have a reliable Internet connection, as well as a working microphone and webcam if you’re meeting over live video.
- Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. Whether you have questions about insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs, confidentiality, or medication management, don’t be hesitant to ask about your concerns with your online counselor during your first appointment. A good therapist should offer an open line of communication, address your individual needs, be an active listener, and provide honest answers to any questions you might have.
- Treat online sessions like face-to-face sessions. Like an in-person session, an online counseling session enables you to set specific goals, voice your concerns, and evaluate your progress. Whether you’re searching for a new therapist or trying therapy for the first time, it’s important to discuss your treatment plan and set goals with your online therapist.
- Decide which format is right for you. When most people think of teletherapy, they think of Skype sessions or Facetime—but online therapy can be more than that. Many telehealth services provide mental healthcare through smartphone mobile apps, phone calls, video sessions, live chat, and text therapy. Additionally, some online platforms offer unlimited access to real-time, immediate help, which is a useful option for individuals with more severe mental illnesses.
- Expect some discomfort at first. No matter what online therapy service you choose, teletherapy is going to feel different from traditional therapy. Remind yourself that it’s normal to grieve the loss of in-person visits in the face of COVID-19, and it might be tempting to consider discomfort or awkwardness as signs that your therapist isn’t a good fit. Although you might need to try a few online therapists before finding the best option for you, make sure to give yourself enough time to adjust to the transition.
Online therapy can help you take control of your mental health and regain strength, but getting started is one of the hardest parts. Above all else, taking the time and effort to find the right fit is integral to the success of your mental health treatment.
To start your search for an online therapist, reach out to a licensed therapist through the Therapy Group of NYC. Teletherapy can serve as a valuable support system, whether you’re struggling with a mental health disorder or everyday stresses. With our HIPAA-compliant, confidential online therapy platform, we’re here to listen, provide emotional support, and help you navigate your mental health issues.