Is In-person Therapy Better Than Online? Let’s Find Out!

Is In-person Therapy Better Than Online

When it comes to mental health treatment, seeking online vs. in-person therapy has become the center of debate. With technological advancements booming in every industry, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak, teletherapy has become the modern mode of seeking therapy.

A survey for the Digital Medicine study revealed that less than half (44.5%) of respondents preferred in-person psychotherapy, and the rest (55.5%) favored digital treatments. It highlights the acceptance of these new approaches to therapy and how they can benefit the ones in need.

Infographics - Preference on Psychotherapy

In this article, we will explore is in-person therapy better than online by comparing the two types of treatments. 

Online Therapy Vs. In-Person Therapy: The Definitions

What is Online Therapy?

Online Therapy, or Teletherapy, is getting mental health counseling over the Internet. Several online platforms allow you to schedule sessions with a therapist via text, video calls, or messaging. This type of therapy offers flexibility as people can consult therapists from different regions and attend sessions from any setting. 

During the pandemic, forced lockdowns created a wave of anxiety and depression for many, with limited to no access to mental health services. Hence, several turned to getting counseling over Zoom and other platforms. Thus, online therapy became a prominent way to get mental health treatment faster and more efficiently. 

What is In-Person Therapy?

In-person therapy is the traditional method of getting mental health counseling. It is a face-to-face session between the therapist and the client, often in a professional setting or clinic. 

These sessions allow the therapist to better observe and connect with the client, especially for severe conditions and emergencies. However, it requires more time as you have to book sessions and make a physical appearance at the therapist’s clinic.

Online Therapy Vs. In-Person Therapy: Things to Consider

Your mental health journey is of utmost importance, and you must look for quality therapy to suit your needs and help you get better. 

Whether you are getting therapy for the first time, considering a transition to online therapy, or just wondering “Is in-person therapy better than online?”, consider these essential factors to make an informed decision.

Online Therapy vs In Person Therapy

Benefits of Online Therapy

Online therapy is similar to in-person therapy, except you receive counseling over the Internet. It has several benefits over traditional physical therapy.

1. Better Accessibility and Convenience

Online therapy has made mental health services accessible more than ever. Individuals struggling to find quality counseling in remote, rural, or urban areas benefit from teletherapy platforms, allowing them to connect to an expert therapist from anywhere. It can also aid people with physical disabilities or the ones who don’t have the option to travel to the therapist easily. 

If you also struggle to manage your time and therapist visits, online therapy is for you. You can book sessions at your convenience and time without the hassles of in-person therapy appointments.

2. Anonymity and Privacy

Although the stigmas of getting mental health treatment are diminishing, some might still hesitate to visit a therapist’s office publicly. Teletherapy provides a safer environment so patients can attend sessions from the comfort of their homes or private spaces. This keeps their treatment discreet and makes them open up about their issues without feeling intimidated or concerned about their public image.

3. Lower Costs

The most crucial factor when deciding on a therapy treatment is the cost. Teletherapy is generally cheaper and less costly as compared to traditional in-person sittings. Telehealth services provide increased access to a therapist at a lower rate for weekly or monthly sessions.

Moreover, you can save on the conveyance and traveling expenses of physically visiting a therapist. Several telehealth services also accept health insurance coverage, just like your therapist’s clinic, further reducing the treatment costs.

4. Level of Effectiveness

One of the major considerations when seeking therapy is the effectiveness of the treatment. Many studies have shown that therapy done over the Internet can be just as good as meeting with a therapist in person.

A study by Frontiers in Psychology revealed that both younger and older adults benefit from telehealth services for curing depression, suggesting that there are no barriers to age in online therapy.

Drawbacks of Online Therapy

While online therapy has its benefits, here are some potential concerns to look for:

1. Technical Difficulties

One of the potential drawbacks of online therapy is having an unstable internet connection, poor audio/video quality, or software glitches. Technical difficulties during a therapy session can cause interruptions, leading to misunderstandings and poor conversation with the therapist. It is essential to have a strong internet connection and a quality device to ensure that your sessions are seamlessly conducted without any errors.

2. Restrictions on Out-of-State Providers

While teletherapy services give you access to a wide range of therapists and service providers, there may be legal restrictions based on location. Therapists require licenses for the region they provide services in; thus, out-of-state service providers may not be accessible. 

According to an article for APA’s Monitor on Psychology, certain states permit psychologists to offer their services out of state for a restricted duration, typically 10-30 days a year.

3. Lack of Crisis Management 

Online therapy works well for several mental health situations; however, some of them may lack providing quick and immediate help in case of emergencies. Since therapists offer remote services, they may not be readily available for a physical session during a crisis. However, some teletherapy services offer urgent care management to avoid any inconvenience to their clients.

Online Therapy vs In-Person Therapy

Benefits of In-Person Therapy

Here are some of the benefits of seeking in-person counseling:

1. Deeper Connection and Support

Some mental health issues demand intensive support better treated through a physical presence. For example, severe problems, such as suicidal thoughts or trauma responses, require immediate attention and care. In-person therapy results in real-time physical interaction during moments of high emotional need.

2. Non-Verbal Communication

In-person therapy makes it easier for therapists to identify nonverbal cues followed by verbal communication. It allows them to better understand the patient’s needs and develop their approach or treatment accordingly. Online therapy sessions can also provide sufficient non-verbal information as the therapist can see the client and their environment through the video.

3. Structured Environment

In-person therapy offers a professional setting dedicated to therapy. This can benefit people who want to distance themselves from their daily distractions and seek comfort in a therapeutic place. Most mental health counselors have their offices set up and designed to enhance the therapeutic environment. They also have tools that the client can use for immediate relief

Drawbacks of In-Person Therapy

Here are some of the potential drawbacks of in-person therapy:

1. Social Stigmas 

Many people face social anxiety when seeing an in-person therapist. They are concerned about the social stigmas of getting therapy, which makes them vulnerable to physically going to a public clinic to meet the therapist. It makes it harder for these people to attend regular sessions back and forth and sometimes results in quitting therapy.

2. Inconvenient Scheduling

In-person therapy sessions often have a limited schedule depending upon the therapist’s office hours and availability. Hence, it requires a proper time commitment for a streamlined treatment. This can cause a significant inconvenience for people with busy schedules, making it challenging to fit therapy hours into their schedules.

3. Higher Costs

In-person therapy has overhead expenses, adding up to the overall treatment costs. Costs of office space and management are often passed on to the client and adjusted within their bills. Clients also account for their time, travel, and additional expenses of physically meeting the therapist. Hence, in-person therapy generally turns out to be costly compared to online alternatives.

Which Mode of Therapy is the Best? A Quick Comparison

Individual needs, preferences, and circumstances play a crucial role in determining which mode of therapy to go for. 

Online therapy with its growing accessibility and convenience is becoming the go-to option for many. According to the Americal Medical Association study, 73% of clients will continue to use telehealth services in the future. This highlights the growing significance and demand for online therapy services.

Online therapy services cater to a wide range of mental health needs such as anxiety, depression, stress management, life transitions, etc, with the flexibility of time and location. Moreover, several telehealth providers also cater to emergency needs and urgent services to ensure the same effectiveness as they would from in-person therapy.

In-person therapy still retains its importance in extreme and complex cases. Individuals facing acute mental health crises or requiring physical care may need a face-to-face setting. In such circumstances, the physical presence of the therapist can prove valuable for the client.

Here is a quick comparison of online vs. in-person therapy:

AspectOnline TherapyIn-Person Therapy
AccessibilityHigh (remote access, no commute)Lower (requires physical presence)
ConvenienceHigh (flexible scheduling, from home)Moderate (set appointments, travel time)
PrivacyHigh (private settings, potential anonymity)High (confidential office setting)
Range of ServicesBroad (covers most common mental health issues)Broad (includes more specialized or severe cases)
Personal ConnectionModerate (virtual presence)High (face-to-face interaction)
Non-Verbal CuesLimited (depends on technology)High (direct observation)
Technological ToolsHigh (use of apps and integrated tools)Limited (traditional methods)
Crisis ManagementLimited (less immediate intervention)High (direct and immediate support)
CostTypically lower (less overhead)Typically higher (includes overhead costs)
SuitabilityPreferred for most due to convenience, accessibility, and effectiveness for a wide range of issuesIdeal for severe or complex cases requiring physical presence or intensive intervention

Key Takeaways
  • Online therapy has become a game-changer for people who seek flexible and remote mental health counseling options for a broad range of concerns.Physical therapy is the traditional method of seeking counseling and may be needed in case of severe mental health crises requiring physical interaction.Online therapy often comes at a lower cost when compared to in-person therapy setting, which consists of overheads of traveling, etc.Online therapy is an excellent alternative to physical therapy and is proven to be similar in terms of effectiveness.It’s essential to use a quality internet connection and audio/video device when attending an online therapy session for a seamless experience.