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Online Therapy vs. Traditional Therapy: Understanding the Key Differences

Online Therapy

Of late, particularly after the pandemic, the popularity of online therapy has spiked. Many prefer discussing their woes and worries virtually rather than meeting in person for a one-on-one session. This growing popularity of the virtual mode has often led people to debate which is better, online or traditional therapy.

We have some data for you for a better understanding. APA (American Psychiatric Association) poll found that most Americans preferred telehealth services mainly after the pandemic struck.  69% opted for video consultation, while around 28% preferred teleconsultation.

Another interesting finding is that teleservices for mental health were more preferred by younger adults than older adults. 66% of those availing the services were under 18-29. Contrastingly, only 36% were above 65.

Each has boons and banes, which I, Becky Lindquiste, will help you understand. Before we start, let me introduce myself. I am Becky, a clinical psychologist by profession. I have also been writing on mental health for quite some time to promote mental wellness.

Here we go with our discussion on the difference between online and traditional therapy.

What is Traditional Therapy? 

Traditional therapy is the form of counseling that was the only available option until the advancement of technology. It’s the face-to-face counseling method where one goes to the therapist’s office for a one-to-one session. Through personal interaction, your therapist gets to know you better and starts getting to the root of your problem.

Boons of Traditional Therapy

In traditional therapy, you get to see the therapist from close, while the therapist can see your body language. It benefits both ways. Let’s look at the boons of traditional therapy:

The most significant advantage is that it gives you the scope for personal interaction with the therapist. This helps in trust-building and better understanding. What’s more beneficial is that the counselor hears and sees you. This way, he could get a better idea of your body language, which may help him to read your mind better.

Sometimes, therapeutic support is needed in the form of music, play therapy, or art, better achieved through traditional therapy than the virtual mode.

The sessions mostly happen in the counselor’s office. It’s a neutral location. When you are away from your known space, you will be more comfortable about sharing what’s going on in your mind.

In cases of severe mental health issues, face-to-face therapy is needed. For instance, if one has suicidal thoughts or intentions of self-harm, personal counseling is mandatory.

Banes of Traditional Therapy 

Alongside the boons, we cannot ignore the banes that come with traditional therapy, which is why online therapy has been a preferred choice by many of late. Let’s take a look.

With online therapy, people have found it convenient to access it from their home or workplace comforts. This is where traditional therapy is losing it. When you’ve got too much work for the day, going to the therapist’s office for counseling could be hectic.

There are time constraints as well. The appointment timings might not match your schedule, so you either reschedule your work or miss the appointment.

If you aren’t yet comfortable with therapy for discussing your botherations, a face-to-face interaction might not be your cup of tea. A virtual interaction will suffice as a starter.

You may not be comfortable with others knowing that you have opted for therapy. In the traditional method, it is difficult to keep under wraps.

Boons of Online Therapy 

Online therapy has recently gained popularity, and after the pandemic, its importance has been enhanced to another level. People opting for online therapies have found umpteen benefits. Let’s look at a few of them:

It’s the convenience factor that comes above all. You don’t have to commute. Instead, you can sit in the comforts of your home and talk out your mind. This saves you waiting time, too.

There’s the flexibility factor, too. With online therapy, you can choose time slots that would suit you the best. Many online therapists have come up with weekend slots to benefit their clients.

Not many are open to discussing their mental health with family and friends. If you do not want your kith or kin to know you are taking therapy, you can do it better in the virtual mode. No one will see you heading for somewhere, and you could maintain greater privacy. Moreover, not everyone is comfortable in a face-to-face conversation to discuss their problems. For such people, online therapy is a better option. I knew someone who needed therapy but was apprehensive about direct communication due to the facial paralysis he had after brain surgery. Teletherapy helped him a great deal.

Banes of Online Therapy 

Though online therapy is feasible and convenient in some aspects, face-to-face therapy still outweighs the virtual mode. Here are some of the disadvantages of online therapy.

The personal touch that’s there in a face-to-face interaction is missing when you connect virtually. There’ll be verbal communication. But, sometimes, non-verbal cues are needed to understand what’s going on in your mind. The online therapist can hear you but not read your body language and gestures.

You have to rely on the phone or internet connection. If there’s a problem, the therapy session gets hampered. Also, in the case of a technical glitch or a power cut amidst a serious conversation, the flow gets affected.

Some mental health issues cannot be rectified online. It needs a personal touch, requiring one-to-one therapy. These include increased addictions, a tendency to self-injury or self-harm, etc.

You’ll not get all the resources available in the online therapy mode. For instance, sometimes increased anxiety could require music therapy to be treated. However, nowadays, it is done online as well. But the effectiveness with which it happens during face-to-face communication isn’t possible online.


  1. Is online therapy as safe as traditional therapy?

It’s safe when the one seeking the therapy follows and adheres to the guidelines. It’s always essential to opt for a licensed counselor, not just for security but also for a better service. You must even use safe and updated applications to protect your privacy.

Use your gut feeling about sharing private information with the therapist. The best option is to use authentic online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, Brightside, ZocDoc, etc.

  1. Which is the best platform for online therapy? 

Many are on the list, and BetterHelp is one of them, serving more than 2.5 million individuals. If you’ve used BetterHelp and are looking for compensation, follow this guide to get a BetterHelp refund.

  1. Is online therapy covered by insurance?

Well, not all of them accept insurance, but some do. So, before opting for online therapy, discussing with the therapist whether your insurance plan will cover the session is essential. If you decide on an online platform, choose one with insurance coverage facilities.


We’ve discussed the good and the flip sides of both modes of therapy. If you feel that a face-to-face conversation will help sort out your mental problems better, the traditional method will be apt. However, if your busy schedule makes it easier to connect virtually, the online mode will serve you better. But, in the case of severe issues or prescription medicines, you will have to resort to the offline mode.



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