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Mental Health

Is Online Therapy Really Confidential?

— June 17, 2021

Regardless of how you start the journey of finding a therapist, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step and get started today. 

Whether you call it online therapy, remote therapy, telehealth, e-therapy, or something else, remote mental health services have gained popularity recently, and a large body of research is there to back up the efficacy of therapy conducted online. With this in mind, one of the next questions that most people tend to have about online therapy is, “How do I know that it’s truly confidential?” or “How is my privacy protected when I see a therapist online?” 

About Online Therapy 

Online therapy is often conducted over video chat, but some individuals prefer phone sessions or live chat options. Often, when using online therapy platforms, you’ll have the opportunity to message your therapist in between sessions. The efficacy of online therapy has been studied in various contexts, including group therapy, individual therapy, and couple’s therapy. Many different modalities of mental health therapy can be conducted online. Some of the potential benefits of online therapy include:

  • No commute time. You don’t have to drive to sessions or take public transportation when therapy is conducted online, making it a more accessible option for people in remote areas or those who don’t have the time to commute. 
  • A wider range of options. Since you can see anyone who is licensed to practice in your area when you get therapy online, you will be able to choose from a greater variety of therapists with various specialties. This can be a game-changer if you’re seeking help for a specific concern or are looking for a therapist with a specific trait and are having trouble finding it in face-to-face settings. 
  • Convenience. You can connect with your therapist from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.

Online therapy is typically more affordable than traditional in-person therapy or counseling, but this does depend somewhat on the way you choose to access online therapy. If a therapist works in a private practice setting, at a community center, or a local clinic, the price of remote sessions will typically be the same as face-to-face sessions. If you find a therapist through a reputable online therapy company like BetterHelp or another similar website, the rate will typically start at around $90/week, and sometimes, you’ll notice financial aid options or discounts that can help you cover the cost. Websites like BetterHelp also make it faster to get started with a licensed therapist or counselor. Where you might spend months on a waiting list to see someone who offers remote or in-person sessions through a private practice setting, community center, or clinic, it only takes a few days to start seeing a provider using an online therapy platform in many cases.

Image credit Monika Svajdova on Wunderstock (license).
Image credit Monika Svajdova on Wunderstock (license).

Is Online Therapy Really Confidential?

Online therapy is held to the same legal standard as traditional in-person therapy or counseling. Therefore, it should always be just as confidential as traditional in-person therapy or counseling. Every provider is different, but any provider you see must adhere to local laws and regulations. Online therapists must adhere to the HIPAA law just as therapists who practice face-to-face do. Regardless of if someone practices in person or online, there are very real legal repercussions for medical and mental health providers of any kind who do not follow the laws relevant to their profession. When it comes to encryption and other safety measures, every website or platform is going to be a little bit different. When you get started with online therapy, you want to make sure of a couple of things. First, you want to make sure that the providers on the website are licensed. A reputable online therapy website will always ensure that the therapists and counselors on the platform are licensed to practice before they’re able to offer services through the platform. Second, you want to see what measures the platform takes to ensure that the correspondence between you and your therapist is protected. Popular online therapy websites or platforms will typically have all of this information readily available under the FAQ section on their website. In the case that you have any questions about confidentiality or other issues that aren’t covered on the website, a reliable online therapy platform should have staff available to attend to said questions or concerns through email or a contact form on the website. 

Finding the Right Therapist 

Whether you’re searching for someone who provides remote or face-to-face sessions, knowing how to find a therapist is the trickiest part at times. Many online therapy platforms will allow you to get started by taking a questionnaire that’ll help you find the right fit. Whether you’re using a directory, asking your doctor for a referral, or signing up for an online therapy website, you might have something specific that you’re looking for in mind. Maybe, you want someone who specializes in a particular condition or concern, or perhaps, you’re seeking a specific modality of therapy. If that’s true for you, these are all things to keep in mind. If you’re not sure who you want to see yet, that’s also okay. Remember that if you don’t like the first therapist or counselor you see, it’s always okay to switch. One of the added benefits of using an online therapy platform is that it’s typically easier to change therapists if you want to. Regardless of how you start the journey of finding a therapist, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step and get started today. 

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