It was widely expected, among mental health providers (therapists, coaches and
counselors) that the necessity for using virtual sessions, introduced by COVID, would
be significantly less effective than in-person sessions. As it has turned out, however,
experience generally contradicted that expectation. Especially when, during COVID
restrictions, in-person sessions required masking of both patient and therapist.
Research generally confirms that experience. Just a few examples: “Although it can feel
like a significant adjustment, online therapy can be a valuable resource, whether you’re
experiencing acute stress or living with a mental health condition;” and “Research
shows that teletherapy provides the same quality of care as traditional therapy.”
(1) “What we’ve seen is that telehealth is essentially just as effective as face-to-face
psychotherapy—and retention rates are higher,” (2) “Teletherapy is just as effective as
in-person sessions for treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including
depression and anxiety disorders.” (3)
Most mental health providers have returned to offering in-person sessions again, as
concerns for safety have decreased. But not all. Virtual sessions offer some
significant secondary advantages, the most important of which is
(1) the opportunity for people to access a larger population of providers (those located
too far for in-person sessions). People can work with any therapist in their state,
regardless of distance and access for coaching is not restricted by state. People can
choose a coach working virtually anywhere in the country.
Another advantage of virtual sessions is their (2) convenience. They can be conducted
from anyplace that has internet and provides the privacy necessary for confidentiality.
People who are handicapped or otherwise restricted, or for whom travel is inconvenient,
or have difficulty arranging childcare, etc., have this opportunity.
(3) Scheduling sessions is generally easier, because travel time and location of the
facility don’t have to be considered, allowing scheduling flexibility unattainable with in person sessions.
(4) Another advantage is that people who find the prospect of therapy intimidating, or are generally shy, feel less anxious at the prospect of meeting the therapist on-line.
(1) In-Person Therapy Vs. Online Therapy: Which Is Right For You? Brad Brenner, Ph.D.
Posted Apr 19, 2022
(2) ) David Mohr, PhD, director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who has spent his career
studying telepsychology and digital mental health.
(3) American Psychological Association, Apr 19, 2022