Online anxiety therapy, also known as ‘e-therapy’ or home-based telemental health, is the delivery of therapy services directly to a person’s home via a range of telecommunication technologies. Services that can be provided through e-therapy can include assessment, completion of questionnaires, sharing of information, and counselling. The therapist and client can interact through a variety of means – internet ‘real time’ or synchonised chat (such as Skype or FaceTime), email, over the phone, or through online forums.
At Anxiety House we provide Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which is the gold standard for treating anxiety disorders. Currently, the majority of our online therapy is conducted via Skype. Our online CBT programs for anxiety disorders utilise the same treatment as our traditional face to face sessions. Clients participating in online therapy also receive a full clinical assessment, and meet for regularly scheduled online therapy sessions with our clinicians. Clients can also have the option of coming into our office for treatment if they decide that they would prefer face-to-face therapy at a later time
The use of online therapy has increased over the years with the growth of the internet and home based telecommunication. Current research evidence suggests that it is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, and clients that use telehealth services find it just as satisfying as in-clinic services. Recent research on telehealth services have demonstrated that home based telemental health treatments are as clinically effective as the same treatment delievered in conventional face-to-face office settings (Pruitt et al., 2014).
Although face-to-face appointments may be preferable, online therapy is suitable for almost all clients seeking assistance with managing their anxiety. It can also be particularly desirable in the following instances:
- experiencing difficulties coming into the clinic as a result of limited accessibility (e.g., due to transport or mobility issues);
- unable to find specialised care near their home;
- living in remote areas or whose work involves frequent travel that impacts on their ability to maintain regular attendance at the clinic (such as fly in, fly out);
- existing clients with busy schedules
- pregnant women or new mums experiencing difficulties attending regular appointments
- reluctance or difficulties seeking treatment, as a result of high levels of anxiety making initial attendance at the clinic highly distressing
- Online therapy can address some of the factors that impact on client attendance, as it is flexible in terms of time, accessibility, and eliminates travel time.
- It increases accessibility of quality health care to those that may not otherwise have this (due to physical restrictions, transport issues, and geographical location).
- It provides opportunities for the therapist to observe the client in their ‘real world’ environment and the client to practice strategies in their home with the assistance of the therapist.
While online therapy may provide several advantages, there are also some limitations to this mode of therapy, including:
- Confidentialty: In addition to the regular limits of confidentiality with traditional therapy, there may be other limitations with e-therapy and the level of security of the technology. More information can be provided on this if you have concerns.
- Misunderstandings: Due to the lack of non-verbal cues in online therapy, misunderstandings may arise. Additionally, email and SMS messages may not be received within the time frame expected by the client. Should you choose to engage in online therapy, your clinician will discuss expected timeframes for all forms of electronic communication with you.
- Flow of sessions: In order to ensure a smooth flow of therapy sessions, there is a need for a particular level of computer and network specification. This is because low quality internet access or inadequate software can negatively impact your experience with online therapy.
All telephone and online therapy clients receive and sign an “e-consent form” prior to treatment, which takes into consideration these limitations. This will be discussed with the therapist at the start of your initial appointment.
Online therapy is not suitable for individuals who are actively suicidal or engage in self harming behaviours. Likewise clients that have a psychotic or manic illness and/or having been hospitalised in the last month are not suited for online therapy.
Author: Alison Marland
Who we recommend
Meredith is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked in several organisations, with the last couple of years being the Anxiety Disorders Service in New Zealand. Meredith has experience in treating a range of mood and anxiety disorders, and is our resident e-consult clinician to both Anxiety House and The OCD Clinic.
To make an appointment with Meredith, please call us on 07 3399 9480. Alternatively, complete an online enquiry here