Online Therapy: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Online therapy is an alternative form of face-to-face therapy that allows a therapist to communicate with you remotely through the Internet.

About Online Therapy

Online Therapy can be extremely useful for improving your mental health and sorting through your personal issues. But, less than half of all adults with mental illness received mental health services in the past year. Reasons for this can range from the cost of treatment to mental health stigmas to access to care. Online therapy is a growing option that has allowed many people to get the help they need. Not sure what goes on in an online therapy session? In many ways, it is very similar to in-person therapy.

Online Therapy: What Is It and How Does It Work?
Online Therapy That Works - Start Getting Happier Now! Image/Shutterstock

Types of Online Therapy

Different organizations give patients access to different kinds of therapy online. One of the most common types of online therapy is talk therapy. Talk therapy helps people identify the issues that cause them mental distress. In some cases, talking will allow the patient to zero in on the roots of complex issues. In others, it gives patients an outlet to discuss stressors from their lives that can include physical illnesses, relationship problems, or the impact of another specific trauma.

Some online therapists specialize in methods such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term program that helps people identify and address unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors.

You will also find practitioners of other types of therapy such as humanistic therapy, which analyzes how your worldview affects your choices and your feelings about them.

The way that these types of therapy are conducted in online therapy is very similar to in-person therapy. You and your therapist will talk together either over the phone or via video chat. You will also often be given tasks to complete between sessions.

Text-based therapy is another common option in online therapy. Instead of verbal exchanges, you and your therapist will type with one another. This can be a convenient option for people who do not have a quiet and private place where they can talk openly during therapy appointments.

Some online therapy sites connect patients with one specific therapist who will see them through the span of their care. Others will connect people to whichever therapists are currently available.

In most cases, patients will make appointments to talk to therapists on a regular basis. However, there are also sites and apps that offer drop-in counseling.

Finally, there are different models for treatment costs. Some go with a per-visit cost, often offering a discount for ongoing appointments. Some use a flat membership model and allow as many visits as the patient desires throughout the month.

How to Get the Most Out of Online Therapy

Success in online therapy has a lot of the same requirements as a successful treatment in in-person therapy.


*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

First, adhering to your treatment plan can help you make progress. This can include seeing your therapist on a regular basis and completing exercises or assignments between sessions.

It can sometimes take sessions with a few different therapists to find the one who is the best fit for you. You and your therapist should be compatible when it comes to issues like relationships, and should also have a strong rapport.

Try out different types of therapy, as well, to see what works best for you. Some people feel that they can talk more openly when they are using text instead of verbally chatting face to face. Other people are more comfortable with video because it makes them feel more connected.

Therapists set up their offices to be warm, relaxing, and inviting. Do what you can to make the area where you will have your therapy sessions soothing, quiet and relaxing. Indoor fountains provide white noise that can give you privacy and also make you feel more relaxed. Comfortable seating can also make it easier to concentrate on the session.

Resources to Augment Online Therapy

In addition to online therapy sessions, you can add other supports that improve therapy’s impact. Online support groups can give you the chance to talk to others who are dealing with similar issues to yours. These groups allow people to exchange coping tips. They are also places where individuals can discuss their issues privately in a community that understands.

Online workbooks and guides to methods like CBT can be used in between therapy sessions to help replace thoughts and behaviors that are distressing.

There is no one right way to do therapy, whether in person or online. By looking at different therapy options, you can identify what is most effective for you.


Lauren Ann, MS

Lauren has dual graduate degrees in Clinical Psychotherapy and Nutrition, espousing an integrative approach to optimizing overall healt

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