Online vs. In-Person Therapy – How to Choose the Right Option for You

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In recent years, the world of online therapy has come a long way. But in-person therapy is still alive and well. Here’s what you need to know about choosing between online and in-person therapy.

In-Person Therapy

In-person therapy, also known as traditional therapy, is what you probably picture when you imagine a therapy session. You sit in a therapist’s office and attend the therapy session outside your home, face to face.

Pros of In-Person Therapy

  • It’s a tried-and-true method, so you know what to expect.

  • If you’ve been to in-person therapy sessions before, the familiarity of the process can be reassuring and comforting.

  • Most therapists do in-person sessions, so you don’t have to look for a specific specialty or comfort level the way you do if you want an online therapist.

  • Meeting someone face-to-face can help develop the provider-client bond.

  • It’s a viable option for people who aren’t comfortable with technology.

  • It can be helpful to conduct therapy in a specific location, then leave those feelings in the therapist’s office. When you leave the office, you leave those hard conversations behind with you. This can make it easier to bounce back into your routine after each therapy session.

Cons of In-Person Therapy

  • If you move or your location changes for whatever reason, you may need to find a new therapist. You can also run into this issue if you’ve chosen your in-person therapist based on it being close to your workplace.

  • If you travel often, that can disrupt your therapy schedule.

  • Having to fit travel time and costs to and from your therapist’s office into your schedule makes therapy more time-consuming and expensive.

  • It can be unnerving or unpleasant to talk about upsetting or traumatic experiences in an unfamiliar environment.

  • Some people are uncomfortable being seen coming and going from a therapist’s office.

  • People with specific health conditions that make it hard for them to leave the house or travel to a therapist’s office may find in-person therapy difficult. This can include:
    • Agoraphobia
    • Social anxiety
    • Severe anxiety or depression
    • Physical disabilities that make leaving home difficult

Online Therapy Internet Counseling Services

Online therapy (also called teletherapy or e-therapy) is similar to in-person therapy. The only key difference is that clients access their mental health, psychotherapy, or counseling services over the internet instead of in a therapist’s office. Instead, they can connect with their provider using any device that has an internet connection.

Pros of Online Therapy

  • It can be just as effective as in-person therapy.

  • It increases care options for people who live in remote or underserved areas, where accessing mental health services in person can be difficult or impossible.

  • It makes therapy more accessible for people with physical limitations or who don’t like to leave their home.

  • Clients can access services from the comfort of their home, rather than in an unfamiliar therapist’s office.

  • In-person therapy requires the client to travel to and from the therapist’s office, which takes time and requires access to reliable transportation. Online therapy cuts down on transportation time and can be more accessible for people who don’t have reliable transportation to and from their therapist’s office.

  • Clients looking for a therapist who shares their specific background or with a rare specialty can often find more options online.

  • Convenience. For example, parents can attend a therapy session without leaving their children home alone or finding a babysitter. 

  • Treatment can feel more approachable and less intimidating.

  • Depending on the specific therapist or service, some clients may be able to contact their therapist via instant message or text for additional support between sessions.

  • By accessing mental health services in the comfort of their own home, clients have more freedom to customize their environment during therapy. Clients can easily attend therapy in casual, comfortable clothes like sweats or pajamas without feeling a social obligation to dress up more. They can also have easier access to comfort objects like blankets, scented candles, stuffed animals, fidget toys, and other resources.

Cons of Online Therapy

  • It’s not always covered by insurance companies. This depends on the state you live in, what service you use, and what insurance you have. As online therapy becomes more mainstream, this problem is starting to fade into being a thing of the past.

  • Some states don’t allow out-of-state providers, limiting your options.

  • Technical issues can get in the way of sessions. If your internet crashes or the sound quality on your phone call is low, you may miss a session or keep getting interrupted. While this sounds minor (and often is), it can be frustrating to have your therapy session derailed by connectivity issues when you’re trying to open up about hard topics.

  • There may be limitations to what types of therapy your provider feels comfortable conducting virtually. For example, some providers don’t provide intensive therapy sessions or specialized care practices (like EMDR) virtually. However, in recent years many therapists have gotten more comfortable conducting these kinds of therapies virtually.

Ultimately, the choice between online and in-person therapy is a matter of personal preference. You can get great benefits from therapy through either method. Take some time to weigh your options and priorities to help you decide.

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