10 key factors to choose an effective online therapy

There are already many studies that support the effectiveness of online therapy. In fact, it has been shown that online therapy is at least as effective as therapy performed in person, as long as it is performed under a series of parameters.

Today we have access to many ways to contact a psychologist online (chat, email, phone call, videoconference …) but not all means are equally effective. In this article we will expose the most important factors that must be taken into account for an online therapy to be effective .

Factors that contribute to effective online therapy
Next we are going to differentiate those questions that have to do with the professional, with the policy of the web or psychological office and with the patient.

Important factors about the professional
There are two fundamental factors that have to do exclusively with the professional. The first is the level of experience you have with technology and the second is your attitude to this medium.

1. Experience of the psychologist
For a therapy to be effective, the psychologist must have good management of the videoconferencing program, the patient discharge process, follow-up, payments or the different platforms used to give the patient enough confidence to feel safe in this medium . Security is perceived and contagious.

2. Attitude of the psychologist
Due to the COVID pandemic and the fear of patients to return to the face-to-face, there are many professionals who have been forced to use the online modality. Some of these psychologists see it as something temporary that they do not like and that they perceive as ineffective.

Is the medium ineffective or is it the mistrust of the professionals themselves that causes this? Fortunately, it is a matter of accepting reality and getting used to it, and many of them have changed this negative attitude.

Important factors of the web
The task of choosing between some platforms or others can become an arduous task if you do not have the appropriate keys for it. That is why here we highlight different factors to take into account that have to do with the policy of the professional or the cabinet.

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3. Means of contact with the psychologist
In order to qualify as therapy, the sessions must be conducted by videoconference. Two fundamental keys are included in a videoconference: the simultaneity of communication and non-verbal language .

Today there is no consensus among scientists on the weight of non-verbal language in communication. What we do know is that this type of communication accounts for at least 55% of the weight (Mehrabian A. 1972), although there are some authors who even speak of 90%.

Whether it is 55 or 90%, the important thing is that if the patient’s face is not seen, 55% of the information is lost: everything that is said with gestures or movements.

Efficacy of online therapy

4. Duration of the sessions
This is another very important factor since the most effective sessions are those that last between 50 and 60 minutes . Today there are many platforms that, in order to lower the price, cut minutes and therefore the level of efficiency.

5. Periodicity of the sessions
A weekly periodicity is one that offers the fastest and most effective results . Therefore, this planning is usually used in psychotherapies. Once the patient begins to experience improvement, the sessions are spaced every 15 days (or three weeks in some occasions) and finally the follow-up phase is entered.

6. Autonomy of the professional to choose the periodicity in each case
When choosing an online therapy, it is vital to make sure that the psychologist has the power to decide on this .

There are some platforms that offer monthly, quarterly or even semi-annual subscription programs offering great discounts with the dangers that this entails. Not only the fact that the psychologist cannot space the sessions naturally, but also that the patient hires plans that are superior to what he needs and a dependency on the process is generated.

Important factors about the patient
Finally, for the therapy to be more effective there are factors that depend on the patient and that must be taken into account.

7. Have the right technology and connection
Today, practically everyone meets the requirements to be able to access this modality. On the one hand, it is necessary to have a computer, phone or tablet and a good internet connection (enough to avoid constant outages that impede communication). On the other hand, basic notions of computing , such as handling email, messaging applications and Internet payment.

8. Lighting and framing
Choose a place to connect that is well lit. Place the light points in front or to the side (never behind) to avoid backlighting and so that the face can be seen. The best framing is the medium shot , that is, one that allows the patient to be seen from the head to below the chest. Lighting and framing are important for disposing of non-verbal information.

9. Suitable place
One of the advantages of performing online therapy is that the patient can connect from wherever they want, be it at home, work, a park or the car. But it is vital that these places have something in common: that they are places as quiet as possible, so that they allow concentration in the conversation, feeling comfortable speaking and without interruptions .

10. Positive attitude
The attitude of both the patient and the psychologist can determine the course of therapy. It is normal to feel a little uncomfortable at the beginning of the first session due to the novelty of starting these types of conversations (so deep) in this way. But it must be taken into account that, if there is a predisposition, the human being has an extremely rapid adaptation capacity . After the first sessions, patients comment that sometimes they even forget that it is a video call.