According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with anxiety disorders affecting millions of people. In addition, conditions among children, such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and co-occurring mental health problems, are a growing concern.
In turn, untreated depression, anxiety, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead to substance abuse and rising suicide rates. Additionally, the isolation and uncertainty of the recent global pandemic have likely exacerbated these conditions.
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How Are Mental Health Conditions Treated?
Treatment modalities are numerous and usually personalized to address unique individual needs and preferences. Approaches include cognitive behavioral-(CBT), psychodynamic-, occupation-, speech-, interpersonal-(IPT), dialectic behavior-, mindfulness-based-, family-focused-, and group therapy.
Treatment often includes pharmaceuticals in combination with psychotherapy, either helping to treat the core condition or to manage co-occurring disorders and symptoms. Medication can include mood stabilizers, antianxiety drugs, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Psychiatrists and medical healthcare providers can prescribe these drugs, which require a professional diagnosis.
Also helpful and used in conjunction with psychodynamic modalities are alternative therapies. These complementary activities include yoga, art and music therapy, and treatments such as acupuncture.
A therapist traditionally administers one or multiple therapy tools and techniques in-office as a practical approach to help those with concerns identify, understand, and manage their ailments. This in-person, on-premise interaction is ideal for mobile and relatively functional patients where mental health infrastructure is available. At the same time, disabling conditions, the fear of mental health stigma, and a lack of mental healthcare facilities, access, and funding prevent people with ailments from seeking treatment.
BetterHelp offers a one-month free trial of its 100% online platform – even anonymously – to help make therapy more accessible for all in a safe and confidential space. What does this mean for those who are suffering in silence?
What Is Online Therapy?
Virtual mental health counseling means anyone can access the same therapies from home. Access includes those who are housebound, unable to venture out due to crippling anxiety, or who live in areas lacking mental healthcare infrastructure. Counseling is provided via digital audio, video, and app-based communication.
Counseling includes real-time therapy sessions, much like the traditional in-person approach. These appointments are booked at times convenient for you, outside working hours and on weekends.
Video interactions are ideal, providing visual and verbal cues to help professionals assess affect and condition. However, some patients are understandably more comfortable with audio calls – also available for live appointments.
In addition, communication continues beyond formal therapy sessions. Asynchronous support is available in a secure and dedicated “virtual therapy room” via journaling, messaging between the patient and therapist, and access to resource libraries. This ongoing support helps people experiencing mental health concerns cope and adhere to their treatment protocols.
Who Can Online Therapy Help?
Like traditional in-office counseling, virtual therapy provides efficient support across numerous mental health concerns. These online-supported disorders include stress, depression, social and generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, bipolar disorder, and autism.
- Depression: This mood disorder is common in the United States, affecting around 17.3 million (7.1% of adults) annually. At the same time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, over a third of these people don’t receive treatment. Studies such as that published in the Journal of Affective Disorders showed that online counseling is as effective as conventional therapy for treating depression. In addition, symptom reduction continued for longer after treatment cessation.
- Panic disorder: This highly debilitating anxiety disorder reportedly affects 2.7% of American adults. Receiving treatment can be particularly challenging for those with panic disorder, as the condition itself can make leaving home distressing.
As an alternative, research findings published in BMC Psychiatry indicated that internet-based cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) was as effective as traditional group CBT, more cost-effective, and less time-consuming.
- Social and generalized anxiety disorder: Also known as social phobia, this isolating anxiety disorder affects an estimated 7.1% of US adults. The condition significantly and negatively impacts social, academic, and occupational functioning.
However, online therapy is an effective option to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. According to the Journal of Psychological Disorders, studies have concluded that ICBT is equally as effective for social anxiety as conventional CBT.
Moreover, those with the disorder don’t need to leave their home to receive the help they need, potentially boosting therapy initiation and comfort levels. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is another disabling anxiety condition benefiting from ICBT.
- Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings between mania (happy and energetic) and depression. The condition is confusing and distressing, impacting eating and sleeping patterns and disrupting school, work, and relationships. It affects approximately 2.8% of the US population – seven million adults.
An American Psychological Association literature review and various studies have confirmed the efficacy and positive impact of ICBT on the disorder. These findings are good news, as very low or high mood and energy impact the ability of those with bipolar to seek and receive treatment.
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, includes diverse brain developmental conditions, including Asperger’s. The disorder usually presents in infancy and early childhood, with an estimated one in every 36 US children diagnosed as on the spectrum. Online therapy for autism, too, has proven as effective as in-person treatments.
Besides diagnosed disorders, many of us are affected daily by high levels of stress and anxiety. Online-based counseling can be a great help and support during these times. Self-monitoring, CBT-based modules, and convenient message prompts can keep you on track. Those participating in online programs have consistently experienced improved symptoms and reduced distress.
In addition, with improved translation and captioning tools, virtual therapy is becoming more accessible for foreign-language and deaf or hard-of-hearing patients. However, digital options may be less appropriate and effective for profound and severe disorders and psychiatric psychopathologies. They are also not ideal where the patient struggles to articulate thoughts and feelings or is non-verbal, requiring the therapist to rely on visual feedback.
How Can Virtual Counseling Help?
Specific therapies, especially talk-based modalities, are effective for stress, mood, and brain disorders and work as well online as they do face-to-face. Three examples of these are CBT, psychodynamic therapy, and person-centered therapy.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This talk therapy is widely used across various disorders. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and transforming unhealthy thought patterns to help counter and manage depression and anxiety.
- Psychodynamic therapy: A more traditional form of talk therapy, a psychodynamic approach explores how past experiences and unconscious thoughts impact emotions and behavior. This modality is typically intensive and long-term. Here, research suggests that online psychodynamic therapy is beneficial in combination with traditional therapy and on its own. In addition, those receiving ICBT enjoy significantly better long-term recovery and quality of life.
- Person-centered therapy (PCT): This patient-centric approach gives those with mental health disorders a primary role in their treatment, with situational stress and mild to moderate depression and anxiety exceptionally responsive to PCT. For those experiencing day-to-day discomfort, online PCT offers an affordable, accessible, convenient, and confidential counseling opportunity.
Other modalities also lend themselves to digital approaches. These techniques include occupational and speech therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – effective for those with borderline personality disorder, Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and mindfulness-based, group, and family therapy.
At the same time, not all therapy types suit the online model. For example, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which requires physical touch contact, would be impossible to provide using audio or video.
In addition, treating those experiencing psychoses, harmful compulsions, suicidal ideation, or severe addiction requires more conventional consultation and possible in-patient supervision and care. Other disabling conditions, such as PTSD and schizophrenia, should primarily be managed conventionally and can benefit from supplemental online support. Digital therapists are also precluded from making diagnoses and prescribing medications and do not have approval for court-ordered programs.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
Engaging in 100% private and secure online therapy is ideal for those who can’t leave the house for mobility or anxiety reasons and live remotely or in areas without accessible or reliable mental health resources. It may also encourage those requiring more intensive treatment to seek in-person help by raising trust in professionals and reducing bias.
However, while many individual mental health professionals offer digital counseling as part of their practice portfolio, costs are often prohibitive, and appointments are booked far in advance. Instead, why not try online therapy today with one free month of BetterHelp?
What Is BetterHelp and How Does it Work?
BetterHelp is a leading 100% online mental health therapy platform. It aims to make affordable formal counseling accessible to everyone, including seniors.
How Is Using an Online Platform Different From Relying on Community-Based Therapists?
Online counseling networks such as BetterHelp offer members a network of qualified and experienced therapists, matching them with the most appropriate professionals based on their needs and preferences.
So, instead of sourcing the right therapist in your locality through hit-and-miss, a platform uses your input to provide the best match. Moreover, if that match feels wrong, you can request and receive a new one within hours.
How Does BetterHelp Work?
BetterHelp matches you with a licensed therapist within hours or days of sign-up, with counseling available through live appointment-based in-person voice or video calls and in-app messaging. You and your therapist will also share a secure virtual “therapy room” – a dedicated, private space for confidential communication, questions and answers, and journaling.
Correspondence is always available for you to refer to, and you’ll receive email notifications whenever your professional responds to a query or request. So, text-based help is available when you need it, providing additional support.
What Does BetterHelp Cost Per Month?
The Betterhelp price per month ranges from $60 to $90, depending on your needs, location, and therapist availability. Membership is subscription-based – cancellable at any time – with four-week payment intervals. The duration of your therapy and subscription will depend on your progress, you, and your therapist. Health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid don’t cover BetterHelp services. However, its affordable fees compare favorably to most insurance plan co-pays.
Making the Most of Online Therapy Services
When you choose virtual therapy, ensure you understand what you want to achieve, be open with your therapist, and limit distractions when communicating with them. You’ll also benefit from a fast and reliable internet connection.
To access their online therapy services, sign up to become a member of BetterHelp and trial your first month for free.