The coronavirus pandemic has led to many people getting mental health treatment entirely online, but there are both advantages and drawbacks to this approach.
Remember the weekly Zoom ‘pub’ quiz and daily Joe Wicks exercise class? COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions meant we moved many traditionally face-to-face activities online in 2020.
As the world tries to move on from the pandemic, mental health practitioners and patients are now grappling with whether online counselling and therapy should continue to replace physical appointments, or whether it is best to move back.
Some are convinced that digital-only help is the answer to long waiting lists and busy patients, while others are concerned that vital cues will be missed and the vulnerable left behind.
Whatever view the experts take, it’s critically important that everyone is able to access the mental health support that they need, whether remotely or in person.
Reaping the benefits
Somia Zaman, a psychotherapist who has worked in the NHS as a practitioner of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is now in private practice, is a fan of online mental health offerings, whether live appointments or self-help apps.
“Online therapy has been shown to be as effective and impactful as in-person, face-to-face therapy,” she says. “In this respect you aren’t losing anything at all if you seek mental health help online.”
Ms Zaman now does most of her work remotely. Although therapists may have missed some subtle body language cues in the initial move online, this has not affected the outcome of sessions and therapists have learned to mitigate this, she believes.
“As therapists have become more adept at working online, accelerated by the pandemic, most have learnt to adapt very well,” she says.