Online Therapy vs. In-Person Therapy: What’s Right for Me?

Monday, April 22

Considering therapy for anxiety or other mental health concerns? Traditional in-person therapy is a common way to get this kind of help. However, the rise of online therapy (or teletherapy) offers another option to explore. 

Which option is the right solution? There’s no one right answer; what works best for a person will depend on a number of factors. Both can be effective — but they also have advantages and disadvantages to think about. 

Below, we’ll explore online therapy and in-person therapy in detail, outlining the pros and cons of each and providing helpful context when considering your mental health treatment options. 

Is online therapy as effective as in-person therapy?

Some may wonder if meeting with a licensed therapist online works just as well as seeing one in person. The answer is yes — teletherapy or online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

For example, a 2023 Frontiers in Psychiatry study found online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to be just as effective as in-person therapy in treating major depressive disorder. 

But is online therapy right for you? This depends on several factors — and it also helps to weigh the pros and cons of online therapy and in-person therapy before deciding. Additionally, a licensed therapist can help you determine whether online therapy or in-person therapy is best for you based on your unique needs or goals. 

SonderMind makes it easy to find a therapist, whether you’re seeking online or in-person support. Simply tell us a bit about yourself, your needs, and preferences, and we’ll connect you with the right therapist. 

Pros of online therapy

Online therapy services offer significant benefits, including:

Convenience and accessibility 

Online therapy allows you to meet your therapist from anywhere — as long as you have an internet connection. You can attend therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home — or even your car.

This convenience may encourage more people to seek mental health support, since it offers the flexibility to choose when and where it happens. The accessibility that online therapy offers also makes it possible to meet with a therapist if you live in a more remote area or have mobility challenges that make traveling a challenge.   

Wider availability of therapists 

In some cases, a person may prefer a therapist who meets specific criteria (like gender or cultural background), or who specializes in treating certain disorders. Or, maybe they’re seeking someone who offers particular therapeutic modalities. 

Online platforms increase your ability to find the right therapist for your situation. You have the option to choose an online therapist outside of your local area, and this broader availability may make it easier for you to get the help you need. 

Flexibility in scheduling 

Having trouble finding a therapist with availability that fits your schedule? Maybe you need one who can meet with you during evenings or on weekends when you aren’t working. Perhaps mornings or afternoons work better for you.

Online therapy allows you and your therapist to set up sessions at times that work with both of your schedules. This flexibility means you don’t have to delay therapy until a more convenient time comes up. 

Cost and time 

Therapy can be well worth the time you spend in sessions. But going in person can take up more time than you might think. Online therapy saves you from having to travel or drive to and from each appointment. 

Attending therapy in person can also come with added costs, like having to arrange child care or taking time off from work. Online therapy makes it possible to avoid having to do this. 

Increased privacy 

Feeling at ease during therapy is important, so that you’ll be comfortable sharing information with your therapist. Worries about privacy or a desire for anonymity can make it hard to meet with a therapist in person. 

You can do online sessions from your home or another place where you feel more comfortable opening up about trauma or other issues. It’s also a better option if you prefer anonymity. Meeting with an online therapist can also help you avoid any stigma with visiting a therapist’s office in person. 

Cons of online therapy 

While online therapy does have notable benefits, it also has a few potential drawbacks to consider:

Technical and connectivity issues

Do you lose your internet connection often? Or do you have trouble handling technical difficulties when using a computer, laptop, or other devices? Maybe you live in an area that has slow or unreliable internet access. 

These kinds of concerns may make online therapy more challenging. Internet connectivity problems or frequent technical difficulties can disrupt your therapy sessions. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on your overall therapeutic experience. 

Limited non-verbal cues 

During therapy, your therapist isn’t just listening to your words. They also watch your body language and look for other non-verbal cues. These help your therapist understand you better and deepen their empathy. 

Online therapy can make it difficult for therapists to pick up on non-verbal cues. Your facial expressions might not come across clearly during video chat or video call sessions. Or your therapist might not be able to notice gestures you make while talking if they only see your face on camera. 

Securing a private space for sessions 

People can do online therapy from many locations. But that may not be much help if those location options don’t provide a safe, private, and quiet environment. In this case, online therapy can be tough to do. 

You might not have an area in your home to speak to a therapist in private. You may worry about being overheard. Or you might have trouble concentrating due to distractions, like pets, children, or deliveries.  

Pros of in-person therapy 

Now, we’ll take a look at in-person therapy. This traditional option of meeting with a therapist in person provides the following benefits:

Immediate non-verbal cues 

As stated before, non-verbal cues are an important part of therapy. Facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and other cues help enhance your therapist’s understanding and response during sessions. Meeting in person gives them the opportunity to immediately observe these non-verbal cues and interpret them. 

Trust building 

The therapeutic alliance is a key part of a successful therapeutic journey. In-person therapy allows you and your therapist to meet face to face, which can help you build a strong connection filled with trust. 

You can make direct eye contact with each other during therapy sessions. Some people may even find it easier to talk about deeply personal or uncomfortable things with their therapist while being in their physical presence.  

Neutral location 

Online therapy may be convenient to do from home. But that’s also a personal environment that might be filled with unpleasant memories or distractions. In-person therapy allows you to talk to a therapist in a neutral, dedicated space. 

Meeting in your therapist’s office might make it easier for you to open up and be vulnerable. It offers the chance to share information in a space that’s quiet, safe, and private. 

Intensive support 

Online therapy may not offer the kind of support you need. Maybe you’re experiencing a significant crisis or challenge in your life. Or maybe you would benefit more from a therapeutic approach that works better in person, like music or art therapy.

In-person therapy offers this kind of focused and intensive support. Depending on your needs, this option may be a better fit for you.

Cons of in-person therapy 

In-person therapy does have a few disadvantages over online therapy, including:

Geographical limitations 

Going to therapy in person means you have to find a mental health professional in your area. This might not be simple — or even possible — in certain locations, like remote or rural areas, where there may not be many (or any) therapists to choose from. 

Inflexible scheduling 

In-person therapy often involves attending sessions during your therapist’s office hours. Depending on these hours, you might have a hard time fitting therapy appointments into your schedule. 

You might deal with waiting times to book sessions during the most convenient time slots. Or you might have to delay your sessions due to scheduling issues. 

Reduced privacy 

Attending therapy in person might be uncomfortable for you due to societal stigma. You might not want to be seen going to and from your therapist’s office. Or you may worry about privacy during your sessions. 

Your therapist keeps your information confidential. But this still might not be enough to help you feel at ease talking about sensitive or personal information in your therapist’s office. 

Transportation or mobility challenges 

Having in-person sessions requires you to have a way of commuting to your therapist’s office. This can be a significant barrier if you don’t have a car or access to public transportation. It limits you to choosing a therapist within walking distance, if possible. 

Mobility challenges can be another barrier to in-person therapy. Physical disabilities or other mobility issues may prevent you from being able to meet with a therapist in person. 

Confidentiality in online therapy 

Keep in mind that whether you choose virtual therapy or in-person therapy, the privacy of your information is of the utmost importance to your therapist. Confidentiality in online therapy is just as important as it is in an in-person setting. 

Maintaining your privacy is part of your therapist’s professional code of ethics and a condition of their professional license. Your therapist will not divulge what you share except in certain situations, such as those involving abuse to children or plans to self-harm.

Online vs. in-person therapy: Which therapy is right for you?

This really depends on multiple factors. While weighing the pros and cons of both options, consider factors like your comfort level and access to transportation. Also think about why you’re seeking therapy and what you hope to accomplish during your sessions. 

In-person therapy may be right for you if you want intensive support or if you prefer meeting with your therapist face to face. It might also be a good option if you have the ability to get to and from sessions and a flexible schedule.

Online therapy might be right for you if you have mobility or transportation issues, live in a remote location, or have limited therapist options in your area. 

What to consider when making a decision about online vs. in-person therapy 

Try answering these questions as you think about whether you want to have online therapy or in-person sessions:

  • Do you prefer an in-office setting? Or do you prefer to do sessions at home or in another personal space?
  • What is your comfort level with using technology for telehealth counseling?
  • What is your comfort level with traveling to an in-person setting?
  • What is the nature and severity of your mental health concern?
  • Do you have access to transportation to get to your in-person session?
  • Do you need to take time off from work or get child care or other support?
  • What is your therapist’s experience and expertise when it comes to telehealth counseling vs. in-person counseling?
  • What are your personal goals and desired outcomes?  

SonderMind can help you find the right in-person or online therapist for you

Now that you know the pros and cons of online and in-person therapy, you can compare these options and make your decision. What’s right for you depends on your unique situation A SonderMind therapist can also help you determine if online or in-person therapy might be best for you. 

Start with SonderMind today to connect with an online or in-person therapist who fits your needs. 


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