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Is Online Therapy Right For Me?

writtenByWritten by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

Read more posts by this author.

December 3, 2020 Read Time - 7 minutes

Not Sure about Online Therapy? Learn the Pros and Cons

Have you been wondering if online therapy is worth it? You’re not alone.

Online therapy was already increasing in popularity before COVID-19 social distancing guidelines were implemented. Now, more people than ever are looking for safe online access to quality mental health care. 

Below, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of online therapy, so you can decide whether it’s the right option for you. 

What is Online Therapy?

Online therapy platforms are a way of providing mental health services and support over the internet. That might include messaging, phone calls, or video chats. 

Some platforms resemble traditional therapy closely, where you’ll have a video or phone appointment once a week. Others let you message a therapist as often as you like during the week, and the therapist will reply to your messages once or twice a day.  

There are many different online therapy models and different platforms typically offer different therapy plans for different prices. It’s important to do your research to find out which approach is best for you. 

At PlushCare, we’re proud to offer comprehensive mental health services including online therapy in the state of California (other states coming soon). Our platform makes mental healthcare simple, convenient, and affordable for you to get the help you want. 



Keep in mind, online therapists are not licensed to prescribe medication. If you believe you need such treatment, please make an appointment with one of our PCPs who are trained to diagnose your condition and prescribe mental health medication.

If you’d like to speak to one our primary care physicians click here

What Can an Online Therapist Treat?

Online therapy has proven to be as effective as in-person therapy for depression and anxiety disorders. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, “iCBT [internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy] for anxiety and depressive disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care.”

Online therapy chats are also a great outlet for forms of therapy, such as talking about stress, and worries of everyday life.


Read: How to Relieve Stress


Online therapy isn’t as appropriate for treating personality disorders and severe mental illnesses where in-person appointments are crucial.

Also, it’s important to note that no therapist, whether online or in-person, can prescribe medications. You must talk to a doctor or psychiatrist in order to receive mental health medication.

Online doctors may prescribe all non controlled antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. However, in-person appointments are required for controlled substances like Xanax. 

Is Online Therapy Right For Me?

If you have a reliable internet connection and are looking to talk to someone about your struggles, online therapy may be right for you.

If your internet service is spotty, or if you have a mental health condition that requires closer monitoring, you may need to stick with in-person appointments or do a combination of online and in-person therapy.

Pros of Online Therapy

Here are some pros of online therapy to help you determine if it’s right for you.

Accessibility 

The biggest pro of online therapy is accessibility. Whether you’re housebound due to physical or emotional limitations, you’re trying to avoid catching COVID-19, you live in a rural area without any therapists nearby, or you don’t have reliable transportation to get to in-person appointments, anybody with an internet connection can access online therapy. 

More Comfortable and Vulnerable

People tend to feel more comfortable during online therapy, which can lead to a vulnerability that speeds up the therapeutic process. 

Affordability 

Since therapists don’t need to pay for an office, online therapy tends to be more affordable than in-person therapy which makes getting help a reality to people who previously couldn’t afford it. 


Read: How Much Does Online Therapy Cost?


Convenience and Schedule Flexibility

Without the need to drive to an office, online therapy is much more convenient, and therapists may feel more comfortable scheduling appointments outside of normal business hours, which makes it easier for many people to get the therapy that they need. 

Anonymity and Reduced Social Stigma

When you’re attending online therapy from the comfort of your home, you don’t need to worry about running into somebody you know on your way in or out of a therapist’s office. With a sense of anonymity and reduced social stigma, more people are willing to attend online therapy. 

Other Ways to Communicate

Not everybody is comfortable talking face to face, and that’s OK. If you express your emotions better through writing or phone calls, online therapy may be more effective than trying to force yourself to speak to somebody in person. 



Cons of Online Therapy

Here are some cons of online therapy to help you get a better idea of whether it’s right for you. 

Might be Limited to In-State Providers

Some states require you to see a therapist who lives in the same state you do. If there aren’t many online therapists in your state, then it may be difficult to find an online therapist. 

Insurance May Not Cover It

Insurance doesn’t always cover therapy anyway, and when it does, the insurance company may require you to see a therapist in person. If you can get therapy for the cost of your insurance copay, it may not make sense to pay extra for online therapy.

Lack of Response to Crisis Situations

Online therapists are less able to respond if you’re in a crisis situation. They may not have your address, making it difficult for them to get emergency services to you when you’re in crisis. 

Privacy, Confidentiality, and Unreliable Technology

Any time technology gets involved, you risk technical difficulties or privacy breaches. You need to make sure that your online therapist has a HIPAA-compliant platform that reduces the risk of your private information getting hacked. Unreliable internet or cell service can also pose a problem. PlushCare’s platform is HIPAA compliant. 

Inappropriate for Serious Psychiatric Illnesses

Online therapy is best for people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression. It isn’t well-suited for people with more serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. 

How to Find an Online Therapist

Ready to start online therapy? PlushCare can help. You can book an online therapy session here and meet weekly with your trusted therapist via video chat. Our therapists are highly trained to treat a wide variety of mental health conditions. Therapy clients often report lower levels of anxiety, increased self-esteem, reduced stress, and general mood improvements soon after beginning therapy. 



Read More About Online Therapy


Article Sources

Science Direct. Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Accessed on July 3, 2020 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032713005120?via%3Dihub

Science Direct. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of individually tailored Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders in a primary care population: A randomized controlled trial. Accessed on July 3, 2020 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000579671400076X?via%3Dihub

Cureus. The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Accessed on November 11, 2020 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5659300/

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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