Health

Are you considering online therapy?

Accessible and less expensive But not a magic cure-all capsule

Accessible and less expensive But not a magic cure-all capsule  

If you are, there are a few things you should know about tele-mental health

When you ask Reena Nath if tele-mental health works, she laughs. “My own therapist is in America,” she says. Nath, a psychotherapist herself, and editor of the book Healing Room: The Need for Psychotherapy, trains and supervises psychologists and counsellors who offer their services, through Skype sessions, websites and apps.

These tech resources make mental health accessible and less expensive than visiting a facility with a specialist. There, sitting outside a psychiatrist’s ward, the stigma sticks, the costs rise and the person may not have access to the best care, considering therapy is a specialised field with sub-specialities that laypeople may not completely comprehend. The advantage is that online therapy can come from anywhere in the world, at a time suited to the person who needs to talk.

But like anything new, it does have its good and bad, and it’s best for people not to expect it to be a magic cure-all capsule. Here are a few things you need to know before you press ‘Chat’.

A combination of online and face-to-face exists

“A number of people prefer meeting with a professional face to face once or twice, and once they establish trust, choose to go online,” says Nath. It also helps when you have been seeing a therapist and have to move cities. “The continuity of the relationship is secure, and you don’t have to say goodbye.”

You will need to do your research

The good thing about going online is that you have choices. Each website has several therapists, and their qualifications and specialisations are listed out. “It’s not like going to a hospital, where you may have just a few therapists on board,” says Nayamat Bawa, who heads the psychology team at IWill, an app that is powered by ePsyclinic.com.

Most sites give you the option of picking a therapist, but if you’re unsure, there is usually a chat option and you will be guided in the direction of the therapist best suited for your needs. To test out whether you are comfortable with the online option in the first place, websites also offer a free 15-minute chat session.

Therapy is usually for

non-crisis problems

Most services have on board psychologists, who do not prescribe medication. “Post-partum depression, anxiety, stress, relationship problems — these are typically what we help people with. If we find that it’s more serious than expected, we advise them to seek help, face-to-face,” says Bawa. The good part: you can call even if you don’t have a problem that may be medically classified as a disorder. “We give people a positive environment where we help them work out solutions. Sometimes people are so burdened by daily struggles — therapy helps them talk, cleanse themselves and help identify the possibilities.” A number of websites also provide free self-assessment tools.

There are limitations

For children, it’s best to see them in a clinical setting, says Dr Pragya Sharma, who worked with a therapy website and is now clinical psychologist and lecturer, department of clinical psychology, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Delhi. Anonymity in a chat or phone session can be good, but it may sometimes create a barrier. “Both therapist and client can miss important non-verbal cues like facial expression and body language, both of which are heavily relied upon in traditional therapy. However, this same problem is not faced with video therapy,” says Dr Shefali Batra, who co-founded Theinnerhour.com.

Security must be checked

You can ask what ways the website has to keep your information secure, your profile and conversation confidential. Remember, the same ethical standards apply to online therapy, as they do in a face-to-face meeting, as per American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines.

Also, make sure the payment gateways are secure.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:08:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/are-you-considering-online-therapy/article18721995.ece

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