The Usefulness of Online Therapy

Until now, the very topic of online psychotherapy provokes conflicting statements, skepticism and even outright denial, both in academic circles and among practicing psychologists. At the same time, the rapid growth in the practice of psychological assistance on the Internet does not allow one to stay away.

Perhaps the most important question that interests potential clients and a number of psychologists with psychotherapists is how effective is online psychotherapy compared to traditional methods of direct psychological assistance?

Looking ahead, we’ll say that most of the published studies on the usefulness ofthe online psychological assistance speak of comparable success results, as if clients worked in person with their therapists.

To date, several hundred studies have been carried out, in which several tens of thousands of people took part. And there is no reason not to trust the data received. This conclusion is based on many comprehensive reviews of the usefulness of psychotherapy, such as studies of Consumer Reports (see Seligman, 1995), and meta-studies conducted by Smith and Glass (1977), Wampold and colleagues (1997), as well as Luborsky and colleagues (1999).

In this article, we have summarized research data.

  • Issues of the usefulness of the online psychological assistance.

The main questions about online terapi that the research authors have consistently tried to answer:

Can online therapy be effective?

  • Whether the therapy could be carried out effectively (that is, to achieve its therapeutic goals) via the Internet
  • Whether it was as effective as traditional therapy

At what age is online psychotherapy effective?

Among four categories of age groups, the usefulness of the online therapy in the group of middle-aged adults (19-39 years) was higher than with older age or younger clients. But this factor may also be due to a lower level of use of skills related to the Internet. Therefore, there is evidence of successful psychological assistance to children and the elderly.

What is more effective: individual online therapy or group?

On the other hand, the data favor individual online therapy, compared to a similar group form. And although this advantage is insignificant, it is most likely due to the need for a person to focus on several sources of information at the same time (several windows in the monitor), as a result, lower concentration, as well as emotional tension during the session, due to the situation of psychological insecurity.

In any case, online group therapy and support groups can be safely recommended as a way to solve a variety of problems.

What problems is effective online psychotherapy?

In studies, patients were treated for a wide variety of complications and psychological distress (sometimes associated with medical problems such as lower back pain or headaches). They were able to classify and combine into eight specific problems. Since post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and panic disorders had the greatest effect from online therapy, weight loss received the least effective therapy.

Conclusions: online help is better for treating problems that are more psychological in nature, that is, dealing with emotions, thoughts and behavior, and less suitable for problems that are primarily physiological or bodily (although they obviously also have psychological components).