What To Expect From Online Therapy

Written by Alena Hall

Online therapy is growing increasingly popular for myriad reasons. Today, more platforms than ever exist to connect people in search of mental health assistance with qualified professionals who can help them navigate this important step of their wellness journey. Regardless of why you might be seeking help from a therapist or counselor, teletherapy is a care option worth considering. Research suggests it can be just as effective as in-person counseling, depending on your specific situation and needs.

As you explore various online therapy platforms and consider adding teletherapy to your wellness regimen, here are a few things you can expect from an online therapy experience that prioritizes video conference-style sessions specifically.

Easier Access

Once you select your preferred teletherapy platform and schedule a session with a therapist, your access to care is easy. Instead of adding an additional two-way commute to your day, navigating traffic and worrying about parking, simply log on to your computer in a comfortable, private space in your home. As long as you have a stable internet connection, you’re set. Virtual appointments tend to require less wait time, too.  

Less Stigma

“For people whom stigma is a concern, especially if they live in a tight-knit community, parking their car outside a counseling center or therapy office can really violate their privacy,” Lisa Henderson, a licensed professional counselor expert at the American Counseling Association, told Forbes Health. “But online therapy is really discrete and can protect people’s privacy and confidentiality in ways that in-person [therapy] simply cannot.”

Comfort and Intimacy

Because you can engage in online therapy from your own home, many patients find this environmental component helps them feel comfortable with a new therapist in a shorter amount of time. What’s more, a video call that showcases both the therapist’s space and the patient’s space levels the playing field a bit and creates a genuine sense of intimacy. “You might be in my office, but it’s in my home, so it feels like you’re in my home just as I am in your home,” Henderson told Forbes Health. “That really bridges a gap, as opposed to being on my turf when you come into my office.”

Potential Body Language Barriers

Now, video therapy sessions can present some limitations around nonverbal communication. A therapist—especially if your relationship with them is a new one—might have a more challenging time picking up on various components of your body language during sessions due to the fact that only so much of your body is visible on screen. For instance, they might miss your fidgeting hands when discussing a topic that makes you uncomfortable or your restless legs during moments of anxiety. These cues can help a therapist better connect with their client and their needs in the present moment.

On the other hand, video calls typically place a camera lens closer to participants’ faces, allowing therapists to see reactions more clearly than they might in a physical room while sitting across from one another. Henderson told Forbes Health that this virtual proximity can actually make it easier for therapists to interpret facial expressions specifically, which are another critical component of body language.

Technology Glitches

WiFi connections may lapse briefly or video streaming technology may act a bit finicky during online therapy sessions, both of which can lead to connection issues between you and your therapist. For some, these technological difficulties and disruptions are distracting enough to create frustration and ultimately detract from the efficacy of their sessions. People who aren’t naturally tech savvy or otherwise comfortable with using video conferencing technology—including dealing with its potential bugs—might have a hard time adjusting to the online therapy experience.

Insurance Questions

While health insurance providers are continuously improving their coverage for mental health services, online therapy remains a unique category. In some instances, a health insurance plan may cover in-person therapy but not teletherapy. Before you set up your user account on your preferred online therapy platform, reach out to your health insurance provider for clarity regarding your mental health coverage so you know what to expect when it comes time to pay for your therapy sessions.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every therapy experience is unique to the individual seeking care and is largely determined by how you approach it. As you zoom in on a platform that feels intuitive to navigate and is staffed with mental health professionals who specialize in your areas of concern, know that it also helps to approach counseling with both reasonable expectations and an open mind. That way, when you connect with your new therapist, you’re truly ready to get to work and foster meaningful and sustainable change within yourself.

Alena Hall is an editor at Forbes Health.