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How effective is online therapy?

Online therapy, also known as e-therapy, involves providing mental health services and support over the internet. This can occur through email, text messaging, video conferencing, online chat, messaging or (internet) phone.

There are different variations of online therapy, ranging from unguided (no communication with therapist) to guided (communication with therapist) and from a-synchronic (for example e-mail contact and online modules with therapist feedback) to synchronic contact (video calling, phone consultation).

Covid

With COVID-19, online therapy has become the ‘new normal’ in mental healthcare. But although online might feel new to you, it is in no way a new phenomenon. People were using phone consultations to provide mental health support as early as the 1960s.

But if you define online therapy as offering mental health advice via the internet, you could claim its history started in 1986 with the creation of Dear Uncle Ezra, a Cornell University question and answer forum where people frequently discussed mental health issues.

Several notable mental health advice columns and forums followed Dear Uncle Ezra. During the 2000s online therapy gradually became more popular and widespread. Businesses and therapy practices began trying to expand so they could treat thousands of clients at once.

One of the great advantages of online therapy is that it can offer mental healthcare to larger groups of people, including those who for various reasons are not able to physically see a therapist. But many people wonder: is online therapy as effective as face-to-face sessions?

Luckily, a lot of research has been done by this topic in the recent years. One of the leading researchers in the Netherlands is Heleen Riper, who hosted a webinar for mental health care professionals transitioning from face-to-face to online contact with clients. In the various research studies she worked on, the overall conclusion is clear: online therapy for depressive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder is equally effective as ‘treatment as usual’ (face-to-face). Moreover, some research shows that online therapy improves adherence to treatment and was preferred over face-to-face sessions by some clients.

H4i member Kühler & Trooster can help you to get the most out of your (online) treatment, or when you  need help with mental health problems.

Source: Heleen Riper ; webinar by Ehealth Specialists

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