ONLINE VS OFFLINE THERAPY: THE RAGING DEBATE OF TODAY

The COVID-19 global pandemic has undeniably brought about massive devastation but has also been a learning experience (read: wake-up call) for humanity. Some concepts brought to the fore are the lack of preparation for a wide-scale pandemic, how humans are actively causing harm to the environment, and most importantly, how we have been constantly sweeping the imperative topic of mental health under the rug.


Ever since the pandemic, things are changing in the world of mental health in terms of awareness, acceptance, and sensitivity. All this change has also ushered in the emergence of online therapy platforms: 7 cups, Wysa, BetterHelp, to name a few. Licensed therapists have also had to shift their base online. This shift has given rise to the raging debate of virtual vs in-person therapy.

 

Let’s consider some of the advantages of online therapy:


1. Accessibility: Online therapy is a much more accessible alternative for people who cannot take out a lot of time for sessions, people with physical disabilities/chronic illness, or simply people who are still not comfortable with the idea of visiting a mental health professional due to the social stigma around it.


2. Affordability: Overhead expenses such as travel are eliminated in the case of virtual sessions and thus, may be a better option for some individuals.


3. Variety of forms to approach therapy: Online platforms are offering several ways through which one can reach out for help. These methods include texting, telephoning, video chat, and support groups. This may be beneficial for those new to the concept of therapy as they are given the liberty to try various methods and find out what’s best for them.


4. Best suited in times of community crisis: Harsh times like the current pandemic ask for smart alternatives to various things, therapy being one of them. Online therapy platforms have helped a lot of people the past year. Furthermore, better preparation in the field of online mental health services is essential in tackling situations like these in the future.

Some downsides in terms of effectiveness:


1. Body language: The body language of the patient aids therapists in providing more accurate solutions and therefore, it may be argued that in-person sessions are superior.


2. A feeling of disconnect: Online therapy may feel like a passive experience to some as offline therapy does have a more personal feel. This holds for the therapist too, as they may be able to help better if they could interact with the patient.


3. Unsuitability for severe illness: Online therapy may not be the optimum solution in severe cases as the limitations are far more than offline therapy.


4. Misunderstandings: Texts may not be the best way to convey and understand the true feeling of an individual and thus, may be more harmful than helpful.


6. Inability to express freely: Taking therapy from home does come with limitations as people may not be able to express genuinely with their family around.


5. Chatting in support groups may help to a certain extent, but it is always better to seek professional help.

 

To conclude, it is safe to say that virtual therapy does come with its advantages and disadvantages, but it is the need of the hour. Different people would prefer different ways to reach out for help and that is perfectly okay!


Therefore, instead of pitting online against offline therapy in debates, we must find a perfect balance for both to coexist. The ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible!

By

Simran Aneja


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