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  • Annie-Eliza Stevens

A Therapist in Your Pocket — Is App Therapy Worth It?

It's already difficult to find a good therapist who meets your needs, but during COVID-19 pandemic, it might be making it near impossible for you to find an in-person therapist while still remaining safe.


Luckily, in the past few years, online therapy has been seeing a huge increase in popularity!

Turn on the television today and you might see a commercial featuring an up-close shot of Michael Phelps, talking about how therapy changed his life.

It becomes clear that the Olympian swimmer is not referring to physical therapy, as the screen cuts to a brief clip advertising Talkspace, one of many mental health therapy apps that have popped up recently.

A few years ago, a celebrity putting their face on anything advertising mental health therapy would have been extremely taboo.

Proof? Let’s not forget how people made fun of Britney Spears and the 2007 head-shaving incident for over a decade.

Thanks to the mental health movement in the past fifty years or so, there are successful efforts being made to position mental health issues as legitimate medical issues, and not something with which to ostracize people.

For the most part, visiting a therapist is something we can now casually mention in our day-to-day as if we were going to get our teeth cleaned.

Combine this with the tech and app boom of the past decade, and you now have hundreds of mental health apps available at your fingertips.

Everything can be done on a smartphone now — including visiting your therapist’s office from the comfort of your own couch.

But is the convenience and accessibility worth giving up traditional in-person therapy sessions?

Here is a quick pros and cons list for app therapy, so you can make the choice for yourself.


Pros

Cost: Online sessions cost less compared to the average in-person session, making it more accessible for people with a tight budget. App therapy like BetterHelp and Talkspace charge around $60–70 per week with unlimited access and no contract!

Frequency: You can access your therapist daily, without waiting for next week’s session.

Location Independent: You have access to thousands of licensed professionals at their fingertips — regardless of whether you live in a rural or urban area

Time-Saver: Especially if you work a 9–5 with restrictions on your schedule, it can be really hard to find an in-person therapist to commute to who also operates outside normal business hours. With app therapy, if your phone is with you, your therapist is with you!

Anonymity: Unfortunately, sharing that you need to go to therapy appointments in certain workspaces can still negatively impact the way people treat you as a professional. If you are not comfortable asking for medical accommodations, app therapy is a solid substitute which provides the ultimate discretion — there is no need to worry about “outing” yourself!

Cons

Severity: Some conditions cannot be adequately treated over an app, and many people are in crisis to the point where online help is not going to intervene successfully. Check with your PCP before going the app route, just to be safe.

Insurance: Most therapy apps won’t directly take your health insurance — you have to call your insurance provider to see what the process is and if reimbursement is possible.

Limits on Type of Therapy: There are many fantastic types of therapy out there — from animal-assisted therapy, art therapy, groups, and psychotherapies which require hypnosis, just to name a few. Many of these you cannot do over an app. Most commonly on an app will be CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which is widely successful in helping people with mental health conditions.

Time and Place: Some people need the face-to-face communication to understand meaning and tone. Also, meeting at a specific time and place separate from daily life can put people into an effective headspace for therapy. Try both to see what works better for you. The New Year — and new decade — can symbolize transformation. With a lot of therapy apps like BetterHelp giving away free trials, committing to personal growth could be easier and more accessible than ever before.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1–800–273–8255



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