If there’s anything good that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the expansion of online therapy options. Before the pandemic, the number of healthcare providers offering online therapy appointments was slim. Now, it seems like everyone is offering it. The other day, my mom told me she had a virtual doctor’s appointment with her primary care physician. I asked her how it went. She said, “Amazing! I never want to go into the office again!”

I laughed because I could totally relate. While I haven’t had a virtual appointment with my PCP, I have plenty of experience with virtual therapy. Thanks to online therapy, mental health care is more accessible than it has ever been. I’m a huge proponent of online therapy, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. So let’s talk about online therapy–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Online therapy just as effective as in-person therapy

Yep! So far, research is showing that online therapy is as effective. In fact, it is sometimes even more effective, than in-person therapy. Research also shows that retention rates are higher than in traditional in-person therapy. I have a feeling part of that might be because…

Online therapy is convenient!

Yep, no denying it. Telehealth is convenient as heck, and the convenience has made it a lot more accessible. Before online therapy, many people weren’t able to have a therapy session during the day. Most people can’t leave work for 2 hours to drive to an office, have a 50-minute appointment, then drive back. But, many can use their lunch break or take 50 minutes to have a virtual appointment during their workday. Online eliminates the commute, thus shortening the total time commitment.

Online therapy appointments have opened up doors to see specialists that may not have an office in your part of the state. For example, at Emma Schmidt and Associates we offer relationship therapy and sex therapy. This is a specialty that may be able to be harder to find in certain areas. Online therapy allows you to have access to those resources without having to travel, or go without treatment.

Online therapy has also made therapy accessible to people who live in rural areas, lack reliable transportation, struggle with mobility, etc. Clients are no longer limited to care available in their immediate vicinity or care outside of their homes. This can also be very helpful during inclement weather. No more choosing between driving through an ice storm or canceling your appointment. You can now attend your appointment from the safety and warmth of your own home! Wear your sweatpants while you’re at it!!

(And if you’re wondering–yes, there’s a good chance your online therapist is wearing sweatpants too.)

Your location matters

Here is one of the tricky parts of online therapy. At the moment, there is no national license for therapists. So, this means they have to have a license in each state they want to practice in. As a result, it has made these laws harder to navigate. Especially if the client lives near a state border or travels often.

Today, the law states that therapists must hold a license in whichever state the client is located at the time of the appointment. So for example, one of my Kentucky clients may travel to Florida for vacation and want to have a virtual session with me while they were there. If so, I would have to be licensed in Florida to be able to legally hold that session.

(Note: Some states are a bit more lenient with temporary travel. But, the therapist still must check and follow the laws of whichever state the client is in at the time of each appointment.)

So here’s an important tip: if you’re wanting to start seeing an online therapist, make sure that your therapist is licensed in the state you’ll be in at the time of the appointment (often your home state).

Online therapy is here to stay

be further from the truth. I’ve personally encountered several therapists who sold their office spaces to be 100% virtual. While that’s not the case for most, I think it’s a strong indicator that it works and it’s not going anywhere. We’ve found a way to make therapy more convenient and accessible–why limit that?

But…online therapy is not for everyone

It is not always the best option. For example, clients may struggle with severe mental illness or suicidal ideation. Or, they may want a specific type of therapy that cannot be replicated online. If so, they might need to stick with in-person therapy. Also, some people instead prefer in-person therapy, and that’s okay! It’s important to find what works best for you.

I myself believe that online therapy is an amazing option. Online therapy has reduced so many barriers and made therapy accessible to millions. It’s not for everyone and in-person therapy is just as wonderful as it has always been. But, I’m very grateful that clients have options and greater access to mental health care.