Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/31/2021
During the global pandemic, teletherapy became an incredibly popular way to provide mental health care.
According to a survey from the American Association of Psychology, over 76% of practicing professionals are providing remote options.
But as more in-person therapy options again become available, teletherapy isn’t going anywhere.
Many therapists continue to hold options online, and telehealth platforms have countless teletherapy options, perhaps making you wonder how it all works.
Teletherapy is when a licensed practitioner provides behavioral and/or mental health care from a distance using technology.
These sessions are often used in lieu of in-person traditional therapy or in addition to face-to-face methods.
Teletherapy involves technology like video calls and phone calls for sessions.
Teletherapy sessions are similar to what you can expect in a regular therapy session. The main difference is the technology you use during the session to make it possible.
Teletherapy may be held via:
Webpage portal (often provided by therapist)
Most virtual therapy sessions are around 50 minutes and are led by a licensed therapist. This could include a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other licensed professional.
Similar to face-to-face therapy, online therapy could be just a solo session, with your partner, or even an appointment in a group setting.
Teletherapy typically involves talk therapy, which can include:
Psychoanalysis. This type of therapy centers around a client’s behaviors, thoughts and feelings to discover meaning.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This involves a common combination of both behavioral (learning from behaviors) and cognitive (learning from thoughts) methodologies.
Humanistic Therapy. These sessions typically involve a therapist providing support to the client, to facilitate personal discovery.
Teletherapy costs can vary and depend on a variety of factors, including your therapist's background, specialized skills and how he or she might work.
For example, your therapist could use an online platform, own a private practice or take insurance.
Depending on these factors, you may find rates in different ranges. A therapist (online or in-person) who has a private practice in a large urban city, for example, is likely to be more expensive than a therapist who uses a telehealth platform.
On the other hand, you may want to check with your insurance company to see if you have mental health coverage, as that could potentially lower your costs if you use someone in the network.
Or perhaps you may need to pay out of pocket, in which case teletherapy could be more economical, depending on the platform.
One general benefit of teletherapy is that sometimes online health platforms and teletherapists are less expensive than in-person therapy.
Teletherapy was originally created in the 1960s in order to care for hard-to-reach populations and has been researched ever since then.
Researchers have been testing its effectiveness among populations, and the results have been promising.
In fact, studies have shown that in a range of age groups and conditions, teletherapy can be effective.
Some interesting finds include the following:
Teletherapy has been shown to be especially helpful for those living in rural areas. For example, one researcher tested its effectiveness for PTSD patients in rural areas and found teletherapy to be equally effective as in person therapy.
Multiple studies have found that teletherapy can be an effective mental health intervention for treating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder.
Initial research shows that common mental disorders and challenges found in children may be treated with teletherapy.
Teletherapy continues to be a popular choice for mental health care. Here are tk major benefits.
As mentioned above, before the COVID-19 pandemic, most teletherapy options existed to expand accessibility — whether for those living in areas with fewer mental health professionals, those with conditions making it harder to travel in person, or those that simply have less access to therapy.
For many, the accessibility of teletherapy remains one of its main strengths for clients.
When you ask: What is teletherapy, it often comes down to this: Teletherapy can be accessed from just about anyone, anywhere (although most will require a network or phone connection).
On a similar note, teletherapy can be really convenient. It doesn’t require you to travel, and you can still access therapy even if you are on the go.
Many people decide teletherapy is an ideal fit based on the convenience factor alone. It can also be easier to schedule a session because you don’t have to commute to an office.
Depending on your teletherapist’s rate and your budget for therapy, you may find teletherapy to be more cost effective.
Many online telehealth platforms offer a range of more affordable options than seeing a therapist in person (especially if you are living in an expensive area).
As mentioned above, telehealth therapists offer sessions over the phone, video call conferencing or specific telehealth platforms, which means you can still interact with your therapist as you would in person.
You can communicate in real-time with your therapist, which for many mimics the feeling of being with the person.
At the same time, teletherapy isn’t the perfect fit for everyone and presents some challenges. These could be:
Teletherapy is not quite as regulated as in-person therapy and thus may have some privacy concerns.
Specifically, this could include concerns about who is hearing the conversation and privacy of personal information.
One major disadvantage of teletherapy is that you need access and knowledge of technology.
We’ve all had those moments when our internet goes out and we are trying to access a website, or we’re in the middle of a meeting and the video connection cuts.
So you can imagine how that would be less than ideal for a therapy session.
Some researchers are specifically concerned about populations who aren’t comfortable using technology or who may not have access to a stable internet connection for teletherapy to work.
Although many teletherapy sources have video options, you will have a limited view and may miss out on body language. (This goes for the therapist observing you, too.)
Naturally, given that you aren’t in person, things like verbal cues and body language could be lost.
Not being in person may also impact the therapeutic connection you might feel with your therapist due to the lack of body language.
If you are trying to decide if teletherapy will work for you, the American Psychology Association recommends asking yourself:
Will you feel connected to your psychologist if you’re not in person?
Will using telehealth make you feel more isolated?
How comfortable are you with using technology?
Do you have access to technology?
Will you be comfortable if you have to see another professional in an emergency?
Depending on how you answer these questions, you may better understand if teletherapy is the right fit for you.
Many therapists and clients find teletherapy a convenient alternative to face-to-face therapy — not to mention a more accessible way to get treatment consistently and affordably.
Yet, despite being more prevalent, telehealth platforms and therapists are still sorting out tweaks to ensure privacy.
There is also the need to address therapy options for those without access to mental health or reliable internet.
On the contrary, teletherapy has quickly become a preferred option for online mental health services, and it may just be right for you.