With the rise of online therapy apps, therapy has reached new levels of accessibility. But are these online companies the answer to mental health? We don’t think so. While there are benefits to online therapy, such as accessibility, and convenience, their current incarnation leaves much to be desired, including better solutions for nonverbal communication gaps, stringent licensing requirements, and a stronger ability for therapists to intervene in a crisis.
The Pros Of Online Therapy Companies
While they may not be the answer to mental health, there are a few benefits to online therapy companies that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are some upsides to the new online therapy space that’s been popping up recently.
Online therapy apps do offer increased accessibility for those who are unable or unwilling to seek help in their local vicinity. Some communities are home to more robust mental health services than others, and remote therapy can be important for bridging that gap.
Rebuttal: Most therapists such as the team at Love Heal Grow offer online video counseling and can meet the remote therapy need.
One factor that may be a major selling point for online therapy companies is the convenience they offer. By offering users the ability to log on and attend therapy on virtually any mobile device, they’ve increased the convenience of therapy.
Rebuttal: Love Heal Grow and the majority of local therapists are able to offer convenient virtual therapy options. At Love Heal Grow, we are meeting this need by training our team on high quality virtual therapy.
Destigmatizing Mental Health Care
Having mental health apps publicized has brought mental health to the forefront of public discussion, which is a great stride for society in terms of destigmatizing mental healthcare.
Rebuttal: We can’t argue with this one—any company that wants to take on the act of destigmatizing mental health care is good with us!
The Pitfalls Of Online Therapy Companies
While online therapy may have things to offer, such as convenience and accessibility, they also leave a lot to be desired and have their own—sometimes dangerous—pitfalls.
Virtually nothing online is unhackable. While apps can try their best to guarantee your privacy, they realistically can not guarantee that there will never be a data breach putting your sensitive information at risk.
What’s more, testing by Consumer Reports recently showed popular mental health apps sharing “unique IDs” used to track users across multiple apps. Different apps and companies will have their own privacy policies, so it’s important to understand what may or may not be shared when signing up with one.
Gaps in HIPAA
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is an important facet of our healthcare system. It put in place a set of standards designed to protect your privacy as a patient. HIPAA may not cover every service offered by online mental health apps, though.
HIPAA guarantees your privacy by imposing standards on what are considered “covered entities,” but if you use a mental health app that doesn’t fall under that definition, your sensitive data may not be covered by HIPAA.
Blurring The Lines Between Real Therapy And Non Therapy Intervention
Some mental health apps offer users the ability to connect with licensed therapists, and some do not. While having access to someone who will listen can be a great thing for many users, it may also blur the lines of what is and is not therapy, carried out by a licensed and professional therapist.
Some mental health apps might offer to match users up with a “coach” or “mentor,” someone who may be able to help users through tough times, but also may be unlicensed to practice therapy.
Gaps In Communication
It can be difficult for therapists to grasp fully where a patient is mentally. This divide can be further exacerbated by apps that offer instant messaging as a way for users to connect with their therapists.
While it can be beneficial to be able to reach out and speak to a practitioner at a moment’s notice, using text to communicate can also make it much more difficult for therapists to gauge where a patient is, mentally. At best, this can lead to therapists misunderstanding patients and at worst it can lead to them missing vital cues if a patient may need emergency intervention.
Equity For Therapists
While therapy apps boast access to cheaper therapy, this may come at the expense of therapists themselves, who may find they have to take on an increased workload to keep up with their own living expenses, which may diminish their ability to provide users with high quality therapy
Why We Think Private Practices Like Love Heal Grow Are Able To Provide Higher Quality Care
While mental health apps reflect a positive change in attitudes about mental health care and can make therapy accessible for some, we believe that private practices like Love Heal Grow are able to provide higher quality care. Here’s why.
With Love Heal Grow, we’ll also probably provide you with more options when it comes to therapy styles. There are a lot of approaches to therapy, based on various theoretical frameworks that different therapists like to engage with. At Love Heal Grow we offer different therapy styles, and we can work together to ensure that your therapy style matches your specific needs.
While some mental healthcare apps may attempt to impose training standards and verify licensing of therapists they connect users with, it may be less feasible for a large corporation to remotely enforce training standards and keep up with every single therapist. In stark contrast, small private practices like Love Heal Grow (who is committed to keeping up with the latest techniques and findings) have a much easier time training and keeping up with new therapy techniques and scientific findings.
Ability To Intervene In A Crisis
Therapists in a local private practice like Love Heal Grow are able to intervene in the event of a mental health crisis. Whether through in-person sessions or through video sessions, therapists with local private practices are much more likely to be able to intervene and help in an emergency situation or crisis. Even during online sessions, your therapist at a local private practice may ask you where you are at the beginning of your session just in case of an emergency.
Supporting Local Business
By going to small private practices like Love Heal Grow, you can also rest assured that your money is actually going to your therapist. Different mental healthcare apps have different business models, but it’s hard to say if you give money to a large corporation whether some amount of it may be pocketed by the company, at the expense of therapists.
They might be underpaid and have to take on unreasonable workloads just to make ends meet. At Love Heal Grow and other similar practices, you can expect quality over quantity and support a small business at the same time.
Ability To Guarantee Privacy
At a private practice like LoveHeal Grow, we can actually guarantee your privacy when it comes to your personal data. It’s just you and your therapist—no third parties or techno-jargon user agreements.
Strict HIPAA Standards
Love Heal Grow and other licensed private therapy practices are held to strict HIPAA confidentiality standards. End of story. With us and other similar private practices you can rest assured knowing that your privacy is backed by federal law.
Expanding access to mental health resources is great. No doubt about that. And for some people, mental health apps might become a bridge to therapy or help them through difficult times.
But we think that mental health is important, and you are important, and helping someone with their mental health is not something we take lightly. People need delicate care and concern and perhaps most importantly careful attention. While these apps might be great as a bridge to therapy, we urge caution. Licensed, local, small private practices like Love Heal Grow May be able to offer you better solutions. If you’ve been thinking about reaching out for help, we are always here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out today.