Does online therapy for mental wellbeing work? – Health

JP Staff (The Jakarta Post)

Jakarta ●
Thu, March 10, 2022

2022-03-10
10:14
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Health
Psychology, online therapy, mental health, mental health awareness, treatment, therapy
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Can a big problem like mental health be addressed through a screen?

With the proliferation of online or virtual counseling services, it is now easier than ever to get help for mental health support. The concept is simple: the patient usually pays in advance for a session before making an appointment at the time that suits them.

While the current state of online counseling offers practical benefits, some claim that mental health issues are meant to be resolved in the traditional way, meaning face-to-face sessions are held.

comfort zone

Heralda “Sasa” Savira, a master’s student in psychology at Airlangga University, said online counseling certainly has its own advantages and disadvantages for both the therapist and the client, just like most internet-based services today.

“Being an online psychologist has its pros and cons […] For example, one of the advantages of online counseling is that customers feel more comfortable because they are at home,” says the psychology student.

The Good and the Bad: According to Heralda Savira, online counseling has its own advantages and disadvantages for both the therapist and the client, just like most internet-based services today. (Courtesy of Heralda Savira) (Personal Collection/Courtesy of Heralda Savira)

As a result, customers are more likely to open up when they are in their comfort zone.

“Counseling depends solely on whether the client wants to be open [about the problem]. Whatever the situation, it’s the psychologist’s responsibility to get them to open up,” she added, emphasizing that any counseling should be client-centred.

Sasa said online sessions are also beneficial in that they can “cut.” [the client’s] Costs because a client does not have to go to the psychologist and can save time”.

Ivana Maretta, a 22-year-old graduate from Surabaya, East Java, is a strong believer in the benefits of online therapies and frequently uses the alternative herself.

“When it comes to an in-person session with therapists, I believe that access is much easier because the patient doesn’t have to queue to get their needs met,” Ivana said. “Virtual therapy is actually convenient.”

Personal choice: Ivana Maretta thinks online consultations are more convenient, but they're not for everyone.  (Courtesy of Ivana Maretta)Personal choice: Ivana Maretta thinks online consultations are more convenient, but they’re not for everyone. (Courtesy of Ivana Maretta) (Personal Collection/Courtesy of Ivana Maretta)

While she agrees with the supposed benefits of online sessions, Ivana also believes that certain things can only be done through in-person sessions.

“A patient may have some triggers that need to be addressed directly [through an offline meeting],” She said.

In addition, internet problems may arise during the session, which could affect the therapy goal.

According to Fath Fatheya, a 30-year-old adult clinical psychologist at the Tiga Generasi (Three Generations) psychology office in Jakarta, the problem with online therapies lies in the fact that a psychologist cannot fully observe the client’s circumstances during the treatment session.

“As far as psychotherapy itself goes, I have no trouble connecting emotionally with clients [with online sessions]. However, you can only observe through a screen to a limited extent,” said Fatheya, who received her master’s degree in psychology from the University of Indonesia. “Observations can be done thoroughly [through] offline meetings. In comparison, [you can] only [observe] the client’s upper body during online meetings.”

Fatheya, who has been actively practicing psychology sessions since 2018, often notes that her clients are plagued by privacy concerns during her sessions. In this case, patients cannot freely consult with her, potentially rendering the entire session ineffective.

“Some customers feel they lack privacy [to consult freely]so they intentionally do the counseling in their car, in a quiet coffee shop, in the backyard and so on,” she explained.

“An offline meeting is different. [The conversation] between a psychologist and the client is guaranteed to be kept safe in this dedicated room. It’s also not uncommon for customers to want to talk [directly with their therapist] instead of having to speak up and be heard [people in] their surroundings.”

While the psychologist knows how each session should go, the patient may not know what to do during a session. For example, underage clients understand so little about their underlying mental health issues when they go to a mental health professional.

This problem is exacerbated when counseling is done through a computer screen. Children will not be able to address the problems unless they are guided by the psychologist, and the psychologist does not even know if the child client is really paying attention. On the other hand, this type of session should be conducted without parental interference.

“For me, online counseling is not intended for every case and every age,” says Sasa. “In theory, online counseling is fine, but it’s still not enough for testing and certain glitches.”

Sasa also explained that online test results taken for psychological purposes are likely to be biased or invalid because participants “could cheat or find help online.”

Better than nothing

Some customers admitted to Fatheya that the online alternative has particularly helped them in terms of accessibility. Instead of just having to travel to the big cities to get psychological treatment, they can simply get help at home.

“The easy accessibility [that online therapies offer] allows more clients in remote or far away areas [to seek help]that is the excellence of online counseling or therapy,” said Fatheya.

Connection: Fath Fatheya has no difficulty connecting with her patients, but agrees that some treatments require precise techniques and require face-to-face sessions.  (Courtesy of Fath Fatheya)Connection: Fath Fatheya has no difficulty connecting with her patients, but agrees that some treatments require precise techniques and require face-to-face sessions. (Courtesy of Fath Fatheya) (Personal Collection/Courtesy of Fath Fatheya)

“Some of my Indonesian customers living abroad are also benefiting from this [from online therapies] because in some cases […] Clients feel more comfortable and understood by psychologists who share the same cultural background.”

However, some techniques that psychologists commonly use may not be practical online. For example, Fatheya finds it more difficult to instruct patients to relax or unwind during online sessions.

Sasa, on the other hand, believes online psychological first aid is appropriate, especially for people with mild disorders such as insomnia, stress, or detachment issues.

On the other hand, Sasa recommends patients with “severe disorders such as autism, ADHD [attention deficit hyperactive disorder] and others who require clinical testing” to arrange face-to-face meetings with their advisers whenever possible.

However, even in high-risk cases where patients should ideally receive offline treatment, Fatheya reiterates that online therapy could be a viable alternative.

“Although the most ideal [solution] would be to get offline instructions [for these kinds of patients]they could also benefit from easy online advice, which is better than no advice at all.”


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