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It’s been widely discussed that over the past three years, our collective mental health has gotten worse. And this is not only because of the pandemic. Mass shootings continue unabated, racial violence headlines the news on a regular basis, and natural disasters span the globe.
People need mental health support. Period. But access to therapists continues to be one of the greatest barriers to mental health treatment.
Between pandemic lockdowns, busy schedules, and a shortage of in-person therapy opportunities, online therapy has become a normal part of many of our lives, and an effective way to address the mental health crisis.
Employee mental health is in crisis
Employees are prioritizing working for companies that provide mental health support. In fact, 81% of employees say they will seek out workplaces that support mental health in the future.
Considering the percentages of employees who are struggling with mental health, it’s not surprising that they’re looking for more support in the workplace:
- Nearly one-fifth of employees rate their mental health as poor or fair
- 86% of employees dealing with high levels of burnout have also experienced mental health struggles in the past year
- 62% of workers are experiencing high levels of stress, along with extreme fatigue and feelings of being out of control
- National data shows that 13.6 million employees have a substance use disorder
- Almost half of all workers say mental health has negatively affected their work performance during the past year
Employees clearly need support for mental health, and online therapy is effective and beneficial in so many ways.
5 advantages of online therapy
We live in a world where there are not enough therapists, and nearly half of the U.S. population lives in federally designated shortage areas for mental health professionals. Many live in rural areas with no mental healthcare providers at all.
For those who do live within the range of providers, there’s often a weeks or months long waiting list. Online therapy removes these barriers keeping people from accessing therapy and more, including:
- Having a disability that makes travel difficult
- Childcare or eldercare responsibilities
- Busy work schedules or traveling a lot for work
- Being intimidated by the thought of sitting in a room with someone and opening up about mental health struggles
It increases the number of available therapists beyond those who are within driving distance, and can even provide access to therapists who are licensed in multiple states. For example, a therapist who is licensed in both California and Georgia can reach more people remotely than they ever could with in-person sessions.
Additionally, by receiving therapy services online, busy employees are able to meet with their therapist without leaving the house, and more easily schedule sessions during the workday.
Powering up a laptop or tablet is much easier than driving through rush hour traffic, sitting in a waiting room, and then fighting more traffic to get back home after the appointment.
Nearly one-third of Americans worry about others judging them for seeking mental health support, and 21% have even lied to avoid telling people. For those struggling with the stigma of seeking therapy, online therapy alleviates the stress of being seen walking into a therapist’s office.
Employees can keep their mental health support as private as they like using virtual therapy. Furthermore, some people feel they can open up more when they are in their own home or private space.
Imagine these two therapy experiences:
- An employee jumps into their car during a lunch break at work, rushes through traffic to their therapist’s office, barely makes it in time for their session, eats lunch while driving back to work, and is almost late for their next meeting.
- At 11:55 am, this same employee begins wrapping up their current task or meeting, settles into a comfortable chair in a private, quiet area of their home, clicks into the Zoom link from their calendar invite, virtually meets with their therapist, and then heads to the kitchen to eat their lunch.
It’s not difficult to imagine which person has more mental space to open up and be vulnerable about whatever they’re struggling with, along with some time to process and reflect afterward.
During a time when many employees value flexibility in when and where they work, online therapy can be scheduled at a time that suits their needs and responsibilities.
Employees don’t have to figure out scheduling therapy around limited office hours while also taking into account work and the many other responsibilities they have in their personal lives.
Depending on the provider, online therapy may cost less than in-person therapy, since the provider has lower overhead and may even practice from home. Most insurance plans are required by states to cover virtual therapy.
The person seeking therapy also utilizes fewer resources to attend therapy online. Costs for missed work, childcare, eldercare, and gas/transport add up.
Potential downsides of online therapy
Researchers recently published a review of online therapy, covering the evidence of what works and for whom.
Katherine Saunders, a co-lead study author and a research associate in mental health policy at King’s College, summed it up nicely: “Our study found that, while certain groups do benefit from the opportunities telemental health can provide, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Of course, there are very few solutions that fit the unique needs of every single individual. So what are some things to consider before using online therapy?
Availability of privacy
Online therapy allows people to be vulnerable in the comfort of their own home. But it also requires a private, quiet room, without interruption or concerns about being overhead.
Parents may have difficulty maintaining a private space without interruption if children or a partner is in the same living area, there might be noise from next door neighbors who share a wall, or construction that makes hearing difficult.
Technology issues and video fatigue
Many of us spend a significant portion of our days on Zoom calls, which can quickly lead to Zoom fatigue. Most of us have experienced the immense frustration of laggy internet, dropped calls, and the difficulty of communication when technology doesn’t work or services are down (or due to user error).
Some may be tired of communicating via video calls and craving in-person connection, feel uncertain about their ability to navigate technology, or don’t have access to stable internet coverage. These are all things to take into account when thinking about the pros and cons of online therapy.
Potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding
Interpreting the body language of another human, perceiving nuance, and all the small, unspoken cues that loop back and forth between people as they communicate are delicate and sometimes difficult to understand.
Humans are prone to misreading each other, and using virtual therapy could result in some misunderstandings due to the lack of in-person connection.
For more severe mental health conditions, in person wellness checks are more important, and therapists may prefer to see their client in person. This is also true with conditions for which nonverbal communication is more essential to treatment.
Spring Health offers both online and in-person therapy
Spring Health’s comprehensive mental health solution for employees includes both in-person and online therapy options.
The many benefits of choosing online therapy with a Spring Health provider include:
- The ability to schedule a therapy appointment in less than two days, for both adults and children over 6 years old
- Licensed clinicians act as Care Navigators, guiding members through the therapy process
- Improvements in employee mental health in an average of 5.9 weeks
- Our precision mental healthcare approach matches enrolled employees with the right provider, eliminating a trial-and-error approach
Employees have a lot to gain with online therapy
So many employees feel overwhelmed at work, exhausted and unhappy at home, and don’t have the tools to cope with the tremendous strain of navigating these uncertain and frequently chaotic times.
Therapy is a fantastic way for employees to get support, learn coping strategies for mental health, and connect with a professional who helps them feel less alone in their struggles.
But with so many barriers to accessing in-person therapy, online therapy provides a powerful tool to reach employees and support their mental health, wherever they live and work.
Learn how to measure the quality of a provider network, and ensure your employees are getting the best possible mental health support.