Defining teletherapy is easy. It’s simply therapy that is delivered via video. Almost all therapeutic services that you typically think of in the mental health sphere can be delivered via teletherapy. It is certainly more convenient, as it can be done from the comfort of your own home, but is it just as effective? Researchers have been studying this question for years, and the answer is yes.
There is no shortage of research when it comes to studying the effectiveness of teletherapy. We now know - it works! For example, one review of over 100 controlled trials found teletherapy to be effective for a wide range of psychiatric conditions.
Another meta-analysis examined several studies that delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) virtually to over a thousand participants. The studies included treatment of social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, body dysmorphia and more, and the findings of the researchers were consistent. The study found that teletherapy and traditional in-person therapy yielded, “equivalent overall effects," meaning there is no difference in mental health outcomes for teletherapy compared to traditional in-person therapy.
The findings of these studies, namely that teletherapy is as effective as in-person therapy, is true amongst teens and young adults as well. In fact, a review of 70 studies found that teletherapy may even be “better than in-person services” for children and adolescents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the rapidly growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of teletherapy by saying, “Outcome studies for outpatient telehealth services demonstrate high parent satisfaction, reduced absenteeism due to illness, reduced travel time and costs, high rates of visit completion, and reduced ED [emergency department] and UC [urgent care] visits.” The AAP further indicates that mental health disorders are particularly “conducive to a telehealth.”
Teletherapy offers many apparent benefits over traditional in-person therapy: It is convenient, easily accessed, and resilient to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These studies provide evidence of yet another benefit - teletherapy works as well (and, for some, better!) than traditional in-person therapy.