Is Online Counseling Effective?

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Is Online Counseling Effective?

As online counseling and telemental health becomes more and more popular, there is a growing body of clinical research that supports the effectiveness of these mediums in comparison to traditional face-to-face counseling.  Research is showing that this medium can be effective with a variety of mental health conditions, across differing populations, and in some cases has proven to be more effective than in-person counseling.

An early review of the effectiveness of online counseling was published in the Telemedicine Journal in 2013.  In this review of the published literature at that time, researchers found that online counseling was “effective for diagnosis and treatment across many populations”. This was including with children, adults, the elderly and different ethnic groups.  Telemental health also proved to be “comparable to in-person care”. The review of research also noted that online counseling mediums provided increased access to care.

In a 2015 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal:

The researchers measured the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) conducted via online counseling mediums.  Participants in the study took part in online CBT for 8 weeks to 2 years. Researchers found that online CBT was able to decrease overall symptoms of depression as well as other mental health concerns.  Also interesting, is the finding that the online CBT was more effective than in-person therapy for many of the participants. This study, however, did not examine the long term effectiveness of internet-based CBT.

In 2017, Dr. Charles Koransky:

Presented the findings of his meta analysis from 14 published and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of adults with depression who participated in CBT via online counseling.  He noted that this form of CBT delivery gave patients a “medium effect” at the conclusion of the session and also a “large sustained effect” during post-study follow-up.

Also in 2017, a systematic review was done of over 25 studies of telemental health care. This was published in the Journal of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In this review, researchers found that “telemental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental illnesses universally”. Online counseling is also beneficial because it’s inexpensive and able to reach clients in rural areas.

Research involving online counseling shows considerable promise for the treatment of many common mental health concerns with both short term and long term gains.  Telemental health treatment strategies are showing positive impacts across many age groups and populations. In addition, some patients experienced better results than those taking part in in-person or traditional counseling sessions.  Telemental health is also advantageous because it is often an inexpensive treatment option to reach clients in rural areas.

Wendy Galyen, LCSW and BC-TMH, is the founder of Thrive for Life Online Counseling, a solely private pay and entirely online private practice in Indiana. She has degrees from the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University where has also served as an adjunct faculty member. Wendy has over 16 years of experience working with individuals, couples, families, and children.  She also has extensive social work research experience. And has published and presented this research in textbooks, journals, online periodicals, magazines and at national conferences.  In addition to her work with clients via online counseling mediums, Wendy also provides consultation services to other counselors who are looking to add online counseling as a component of their practices.