With the explosion in online therapy’s popularity, accompanied by more and more credible studies backing up its effectiveness, there’s never been a time in history to suffer from a mental illness. As our understanding of mental health grows, so has society’s compassion and treatment methods.
However, online therapy is still not perfect. It can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy, but it’s still an infant industry that’s finding its feet. Whilst it has a great foundation, there are some areas in which it generally lacks and is yet to be fully acknowledged.
Here are five areas that online therapy platforms can improve:
Just because you can speak to a therapist as a client, this doesn’t mean there is much help when it comes to being a customer – and the difference is important to recognize! Regardless of how you perceive yourself or the helpfulness of the therapist, you’re handing over your money to a business in exchange for a service. Therefore, they should have a customer service team that attends to your concerns, whether it’s regarding refunds or trouble logging in, over the phone.
Another problem therapy sites present stems from the fact they still only use live chat – and some don’t even offer that, with email being the only option. This is concerning because issues may not be resolved in a quick and friendly manner like they might over the phone, and are more prone to being outright ignored. The majority of platforms could improve their service by offering an international telephone number to call. Calmerry is one service that does have a toll-free number, and it’s greatly appreciated when viewing Calmerry customer reviews.
Part of the appeal around having a texting therapist is that they’re easier to reach, unlike waiting for a weekly meeting with a therapist in an office. However, most sites will have response times of around a day, and even if the average is faster (i.e. an hour or two), it’s not guaranteed.
Most platforms lack an emergency response line, where the therapist can immediately attend to you during an emotional crisis or a highly urgent situation. It’s understandable that this would require more resources, but the option should be there (whether you have to pay extra for it or not). Or, there is no way to send a message of different importance, thus notifying the therapist in a different way (a notification that signals an emergency).
One company that offers fast guaranteed responses is again, Calmerry, but it’s not necessarily ultra urgent as it can take a couple of hours still.
Another example of therapy sites problems is in regards to promotions, or lack thereof. The lucrative tactic of offering promotions or a freemium service is yet to be widely used by online therapy websites. The great thing about promotional offers is that it incentivizes customers to try out different services, as the sunk costs of using one rather than leaving are greatly reduced. So, it’s not just about the money itself, but that it makes it affordable to try 3, 4, or maybe even 5 different services – which is ultimately the best way to find the best one for you.
Whilst it isn’t a common practice for some platforms, Betterhelp is currently offering a 50% discount for the first month, which is a great way for customers to get a feel for the therapy service without handing over the full amount of money. Plus, a month is a long enough time to get a good first impression. More information can be found at this Betterhep review.
Choosing your therapist
When you go to a real-life therapist, it’s relatively easy to discover whether you like them or not. If you’re going through a company, you can often request to change therapists or simply find a new one by yourself. However, online platforms tend to assign you a therapist based on the answers given upon signing up, and you have no control over this allocated therapist.
Of course, you can change companies as you could in real life if you don’t like the therapist, but in real life, there are thousands upon thousands of individual therapists working for themselves or small practitioners. There aren’t many online platforms to choose from, so you can’t jump ship too many times until you run out of options. Given that most platforms have thousands of therapists within them, it’s somewhat absurd that they do not make it easier for you to choose and change them.
There are a few platforms that are an exception here. Amwell allows users to choose if they want a therapist or psychotherapist, whilst MDLive and Talkspace allow users to choose the therapist that fits their needs the best.
Transparency over the vetting process
Whilst there are various therapy sites issues, a lack of qualifications isn’t really one of them. Most of the large platforms are regulated and only use licensed therapists, making it overall safe and scammy at all (unless you find peripheral smaller companies with a small and unclear history and reputation).
However, this doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be better transparency in regards to the vetting process. As a user joining up, you only have their word that their X amount of therapists is all properly vetted and professional. You don’t know how in-depth they are surrounding the therapist’s past work experiences, referrals, and so on.
Not only do you not know their general vetting policy, but you usually have zero information on the therapist’s background that you’re talking to. You don’t know what college they studied at, where they’ve previously worked, or their qualifications specifically.
Betterhelp is renowned for its vetting process, but the winner in this category has to be Online-Therapy.com. This platform operates in full transparency when it comes to counselors’ credentials, training, and how they are being picked to serve on the platform.