Online Mental Health Services

An estimated two-thirds of people facing mental health issues actually receive professional help. Among the various causes for this lack of access to professionals, the most common factors include accessibility, financial constraints and available time.

Furthermore, many individuals do not want to be seen seeking out mental health services. Thankfully, technology has brought to the market a new way of seeking and obtaining professional mental health services through the internet.

In general, online services for mental health are not well-suited for everyone. However, certain individuals draw significant benefits from these services. For instance, if you are familiar with different technologies, feel uncomfortable opening up to people and are restricted in regards to driving, you may benefit substantially from these professional online tools. Similarly, certain therapeutic methods can be translated to digital environments better than others. Conversely, many forms of talking therapy may not be suitable for online platforms. To learn more about the mental health services that are accessible online and how you can benefit from them, read the sections below.

What are online mental health services?

As a general concept, online mental health services guide participants through an organized program over the internet, using standard and evidence-based methods of psychological treatment. Furthermore, online mental health services are typically based on cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), in which you learn to identify and alter patterns of thought and behaviors that contribute to the symptoms of your mental health issues. Some of the ways you can use these online tools include:

  • Self-guided web-based applications.
  • Platforms connecting you to an actual mental health professional. These interactions can take place either through online chat, messaging or email.
  • Live online chat communication options, such as the National Suicide Prevention national crisis hotline.
  • Video-conferencing tools that facilitate long-distance, live face-to-face conversations with a mental health specialist.
  • Telephone conversations and in-person sessions that are occasionally incorporated.

To use these various conferencing services, you must generally download software provided by the mental health services and install them on your computer at home. Conversely, certain services will be offered to smartphones through mobile applications.

Benefits of Online Mental Health Services

The most significant advantage regarding online mental health services is that more treatment types are available to individuals who want to seek professional help. In addition, these types of services are offered in a wide variety of ways, which is beneficial to those who do not feel comfortable opening up about their personal problems to a stranger face-to-face. That may be the case even if the stranger is a trained and certified mental health professional.

In addition, online mental health services provide anonymity, allowing patients to feel safe enough to explore unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Email communication allows you to express yourself thoughtfully, carefully and clearly. It also allows you to read, review and study a professional’s response as much and as often as you need. Moreover, there is no travel cost associated with online health care services. Furthermore, if you live in a remote area, these online tools may be the only methods through which you can access quality mental health care services.

Online mental health services can also be beneficial as an extension to standard, face-to-face treatments. In these cases, both online and in-person resources can be utilized in conjunction to keep a patient and professional in steady communication. Additionally, patients may use online portals to track and monitor their symptoms or facilitate individual or group discussions.

There are several psychological therapies that are suitable for a wide variety of mental health issues. Many of these types of therapies can be delivered effectively over the internet. Overall, studies have found online therapies to be equally effective in diminishing symptoms in comparison to face-to-face clinical therapy. This effectiveness is particularly true in cases of depression, stress and anxiety. Moreover, both video conferencing and email therapy have resulted in high satisfaction rates among clients regarding the effects of the therapy they received. In addition, these satisfaction rates are comparable to those of patients receiving therapy face-to-face.

Drawbacks of Online Mental Health Services

If you prefer speaking to a professional in person rather than through the internet, or if you lack the confidence to use computers and other technology, online mental health services may not be right for you. Therefore, certain individuals may feel less comfortable using online mental health services and find them ineffective in comparison to traditional treatment methods. Overall, younger generations have been increasingly drawn to using online mental health services and find them more effective than in-person services.

Certain forms of therapy are also not as effective when delivered digitally, no matter what preferences a patient has. For instance, talking therapy methods generally require a constant dialogue between professionals and clients, and thus do not work well via digital correspondence. Furthermore, severe mental health disorders like psychosis may not be as well served online as in person. Additionally, patients with more than one severe mental health issue may be better served in a more traditional setting.

Online mental health services are typically useful for dealing with issues involving thoughts, behaviors and emotions. However, they are not as effective when used to deal with issues that have a physical origin, such as a brain abnormality. When a mental health crisis is immediate, online mental health services may be more convenient than in-person services, but potentially less effective. In general, an online tool works best as a mean to seek professional aid when face-to-face help is not available.

Other downsides to receiving mental health services through online platforms include the inability for your therapist or mental health counselor to notice subtle cues in your body language and tone of voice. Without the proper examination and interpretation of these cues, much of your meaning can be misconstrued. Online mental health services also require a great degree of self-motivation to make it through the assigned self-help program. The security and confidentiality of personal data you enter online may be of concern when using digital mental health services. You may also not be eligible for the same health insurance coverage for online services as you would be able to obtain in person.

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