The Difference between Online Therapy and In-Person Therapy

For decades, in-person counseling was the only psychotherapy approach available. You would have to find a therapist, schedule your sessions and travel to your therapist’s office for every appointment. Thanks to the modern technology, more and more people choose online therapy over the traditional, in-person therapy nowadays. Some of the obvious benefits of online counseling for many people include its convenience, the range of choices, and the cost.  

Why People Choose Online Therapy These Days?

Some studies show that the frequency of the dropouts is higher in traditional, office-based therapy than in online or phone therapy, especially in the first few weeks of the treatment. In one study, 225 adults diagnosed with clinical depression attended 18 weeks long cognitive-behavioral therapy, some of them with the therapist over the phone and others with an in-person counselor. 

The study demonstrated that phone therapy helped reduce dropout from the treatment. Namely, four people out of five who were assigned therapy over the phone were able to complete full 18 weeks of treatment, while only two out of three of those who went through in-person therapy could complete their treatment. 

Online Therapy Advantages and In-Person Therapy Drawbacks

Online counseling is a time-saving and accessible form of therapy, within reach from your computer or phone at any given time.   


With our busy lives and hectic schedules, the option of online therapy is simply convenient. Long working hours, schools schedules, and the challenges of the child-care make it hard for people in need to schedule office-based counseling appointments and stay committed to their treatment. 

Online counseling appears as a suitable therapy option for our demanding everyday lives. There is no need to commute. You don’t have to leave your work early in order to get on time to your counselor’s office. Moreover, online counseling can be as easy as sending a text – so you don’t even have to schedule your appointment. 

Also, online therapy offers a range of choices when it comes to expressing your thoughts and feelings. You can talk or write, send pictures or communicate with your counselor in real time, whatever works for you. 

The Cost

The cost of the office-based, in-person therapy usually goes very high, an average $80-150 per 45-60 minutes session, plus commuting costs. Additionally, in many cases, the health insurance plans do not cover this type of therapy thus making psychotherapy simply unaffordable for a lot of people. 

The price range of online therapy varies. However, the cost of online therapy is generally much lower when compared to in-person therapy. Moreover, many online counseling services such as different crisis phone services, for example, can be obtained for free. With the rising number of people seeking mental health counseling today, this is an obvious advantage of online therapy.

Easy Access and Constant Support    

Frequent communication and continual support from the therapist are some of the major pros of online counseling. Online therapy allows you to text or chat with your therapist many times a day, whenever you need support. This is a huge advantage for people who need frequent care while experiencing the symptoms of severe anxiety or depression, for example. 

Furthermore, your search for the matching therapist online should be short and convenient. Online counseling services use professionals and algorithms to pair you with the counselor who matches your requirements. 

Also, with online counseling, you can usually start your therapy right away, especially if it doesn’t require health insurance. 

Geographical Distance

Online therapy may be very beneficial for people who live in distant or rural areas. For these people, obtaining mental health assistance may be very challenging as a mental health provider may not be available within a close geographical distance. Thus, the online therapy comes up as the perfect solution. 

Confidentiality and Anonymity

While the therapeutic relationship is a highly confidential relationship, some people simply don’t feel comfortable opening up in-person, even in front of a professional mental health provider. For these people, online counseling may be very helpful, since it allows for more anonymity.

The Length

In-person therapy normally requires you to come for scheduled sessions once a week over the course of several weeks, months, or even years. If you are not willing to commit to counseling for that long, you might want to consider available online therapy options. Even if your online therapy lasts for months, it is still much faster, easier, and more convenient than commuting to your therapist’s office.

Traditional Therapy Advantages and Online Therapy Drawbacks

In-Person Interaction

The lack of in-person interaction in online therapy may be an important disadvantage for people who find face-to-face contact with the therapist very important. Thus some individuals benefit more from office-based interaction with the therapist. 

Also, if you tend to rely on a non-verbal communication in your interpersonal relations, you might prefer in-person therapy where your therapist will use their body language and voice tone to communicate with you. 

Nevertheless, some experts believe that online therapy doesn’t cover the most important therapeutic aspect of counseling – the therapeutic relationship. Still, online therapists argue that they are able to establish a trusting, healing relationship with their clients despite the lack of in-person contact.

Finally, some forms of therapy, such as EMDR, drama therapy, or play therapy are very difficult or impossible to provide online.

Severe Mental Health Conditions

Severe mental health conditions require in-person care from mental health professionals and facilities. In this case, online therapy may be a good complementary therapy source but is generally not enough on its own.  

Many studies and real-life experiences show that both online and in-person therapy can foster a deep connection between a client and his/her therapist. It seems to be a matter of preference, after all. Some people prefer in-person interaction while others find online communication with the therapist liberating – online-therapy users sometimes say that online therapy makes it easier to open up and form a stronger connection with their counselor. 

To end with, many people find combining online and in-person therapy approach the best way to combat their mental health issues.

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