We can all feel anxious at some point in our lives. Before a job interview, during the presentation of an important project or while we wait for the results of a medical test. Even positive changes, like marriage or the arrival of a child, can cause some anxiety.
However, sometimes that anxiety does not leave us and becomes an obstacle to face our day to day, taking away our serenity. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental problem: it is estimated that one in six people will develop one at some point in their life.
Unfortunately, one of the most common symptoms of anxiety is paralysis. Anxiety will make you believe that the world is a hostile and dangerous place. It will torment you with absurd worries and catastrophic scenarios so that you don’t dare to do anything. As a result, many people gradually reduce their scope of action until they end up cloistered at home.
When problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, or panic attacks are deep-seated, you may be afraid to leave the house, use public transportation, or face crowds. That limits your chances of seeking help. The prospect of leaving home to attend therapeutic sessions may seem like an impossible mission.
In those cases, online therapy can be the lifeline you need, especially during the early stages before exposure to stressful or anxiogenic situations. In fact, online therapy is a great option because it helps people with anxiety from the safety of their home.
Not only does it provide them with psychological treatment in their usual environment, but it also helps alleviate feelings of shame or fear of being stigmatized, thus encouraging people with anxiety to seek help. Many people also feel safer and more confident talking through a screen, so it’s easier for them to open up emotionally and therapy can progress faster.
Is online therapy for anxiety effective?
Online therapy is a relatively new modality, so it is understandable that many people have doubts about its effectiveness. However, research to date has concluded that online therapy is just as effective for treating anxiety and other mental health issues as traditional therapy.
A study carried out in Canada with 62 people who had been following an online psychological treatment for a month revealed that 96% were satisfied with the sessions, 85% felt comfortable talking to their therapist online and 93% thought they could share the same information than in person. This means that the dynamic is quite similar to that which occurs in face-to-face sessions.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis conducted at the California Institute of Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology of online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression confirmed that this modality helped people better understand their behavior problems of mental health. The researchers further noted that online therapy was particularly beneficial for people with anxiety who would not have been able to seek help from a therapist in person.
Of course, for online therapy for anxiety to work it is important that you feel comfortable sharing information through screens and that you are committed to the treatment. Even if you don’t have to attend a consultation in person, the therapist will encourage you to go out so that you can face your fears, but first he will give you the psychological tools you need to avoid retraumatization.
How does an online therapy session take place?
Online therapy for anxiety is developed practically in the same way as face-to-face therapy, the main difference is the means of communication. The therapist will offer you the same degree of support and understanding as in face-to-face therapy, only there is no physical proximity, so it is often a more directive therapy in which are enphasized verbal communication and stabilization of the person from the first sessions and the practical tools.
A study conducted at the University of Twente found that online anxiety programs address the same issues as face-to-face therapy, such as developing social skills, assertiveness, breathing exercises, cognitive restructuring techniques, and interoceptive and in vivo exposure to phobic stimuli.
The development of different applications also allows the use of the same techniques as in face-to-face therapy. Beyond applications with virtual or augmented reality to treat specific phobias, there are others that allow the application of EMDR, a very effective technique for overcoming traumatic events through desensitization and reprocessing through eye movements or bilateral stimulation, using the finger for visual eye movements or guiding the client to tap.
Therefore, today’s technology is blurring the barriers between the physical and virtual worlds, so that online therapy sessions are no longer very different from a face-to-face one
The choice of the therapist is key
Good results in therapy do not depend so much on the means of communication as on the relationship between the patient and the psychologist. That was the main conclusion reached by the American Psychological Association after analyzing the different factors that influence the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
Their report even stated that “The therapeutic relationship is as powerful, if not more so, than the particular treatment method the therapist uses.” Undoubtedly, a good therapeutic relationship makes the person establish an emotional bond, improves adherence to treatment and allows the maximum use of the benefits of the therapy.
There are many factors that can influence the quality of that relationship, so when choosing a psychologist it is not enough to check if he is licensed or has experience in treating anxiety. To facilitate this connection and the success of the therapeutic path, online psychology platforms has devised a matching system that selects professionals with the most appropriate specialty and skills according to each person’s profile.
By answering a series of questions about your preferences, emotional state and goals, the platforms proposes the psychologist that best suits your needs. This way you will not have to search among thousands of professionals and different types of therapies.
Pages 303-315. Norcross, J. & Lambert, M. J. (2018) Psychotherapy relationships that work III.Psychotherapy; 55(4): 303-315.
Kumar, V. et. Al. (2017) The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Cureus; 9(8): e1626.
Urness, D. et. Al. (2006) Client acceptability and quality of life – telepsychiatry compared to in-person consultation. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare; 12(5): 251-254.
Prüssner, J. (s/f) Internet therapy for anxiety disorders: A critical review of its effectiveness. Tesis de Grado: Universiteit Twente.
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