What Is Online Psychotherapy? "Pretty Padded Room" and Others Advance this Health Trend


Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can do pretty much anything online, from ordering groceries to dating, and everything in between. Now, you can even receive online psychotherapy — according to NPR, receiving psychotherapy via video chat or other forms of online communication is becoming more and more prevalent, especially among millennials. However, the method is also ruffling some feathers.

For example, mine. I can’t help but question its legitimacy. I’m sure other people out there are asking the same thing: how could something as serious as psychotherapy be put in the same box as Netflix binging? This is why I thought it would be wise to do a bit of comparing and contrasting. After all, the idea of receiving therapy from the comfort of my memory foam doesn’t seem like the worst thing.

First off, I should probably explain how online psychotherapy works. Most online psychotherapy outlets require some sort of registration, followed by choosing a licensed therapist who fits your requirements. From there — for a price, of course — you can video chat with them in place of a typical person-to-person therapy session. Pretty Padded Room, a platform which provides “virtual therapy”, also allows patients to record thoughts in the form of a digital diary, which they share with their therapist for feed back.

Doesn't seem too scary, huh? Let's dive into some pros:

First of all, it’s convenient. You can also communicate with therapists in other states, or even other countries — which is a plus for anyone who wants to move without finding a new therapist. Also, according to Mashable, studies show that, in some cases, online psychotherapy is just as effective as in-person treatment.

Another bonus? The matter of "Shrinkless August", as NY Times points out. In case you haven’t heard the term, it's when all therapists take a vacation during the month of August, thus leaving their patients to fend for themselves. With online psychotherapy, patients can receive help long-distance. The Times also explains that patients with certain conditions, like agoraphobia, or obsessive compulsive disorder, would find the method highly effective. Fictional detective/obsessive compulsive Monk could have seriously benefited from some Skype counseling.

Then there are the cons...

Yeah, there are quite a few of these. Like the fact that licensing differs from state to state. However, according to NPR, guidelines are available for those to choose to practice online, but it's still a grey area. There’s also the issue of legitimacy. How can you really tell if your therapist is legitimate and licensed? It’s extremely easy to lie on the internet, and trustworthiness is one of the cornerstones of therapy.

The matter of privacy can come up as well. Though sites like Pretty Padded Room seem solid on the subject, with today's hackers, you never know who's lurking on the inter-webs.

Another little con? Eye contact. Ever notice how on Skype, you’re not actually looking someone in the eye because their image is on the screen — which is about 2 to 5 inches below the camera. NY Times explains that this poses a huge problem for the therapist, however it’s an easy fix as long as both parties are conscious of it.

From what I know about online psychotherapy, it sounds like an evolving method that can pose as a useful tool to those seeking therapy. As a millennial, the idea of one more thing I can take care of online sounds great — however, when it comes to something as sensitive as therapy, the idea of doing it in the same setting where I’ve binged on Orange Is The New Black feels a little weird. I am excited to see how online psychotherapy evolves and advances with culture and technology. You never know, it could be the way of the future.