Got back pain questions? Our Back Wellness Coaches have answers. Text Us Now at 412.419.2225. It's FREE!

Turn Your Online Time into Online Therapy

Published September 22, 2017

You had a bad day. Not only is your back pain a huge inconvenience, it now appears that it's causing depression-like symptoms. Maybe it started off as just physical back pain. Maybe it's since transferred over into a decreased quality of life, making you a little sadder than you're used to feeling.

Do you want to talk to someone about your daily challenges? In theory, a therapy session sounds fabulous. The problem maybe isn't talking, the problem is getting there. Are we close?

Maybe you had every intention of getting out the door on time for that appointment, but then your back pain flares up and it seems impossible.

We are here to turn the impossible into 'I'm possible' with a new spin on therapy, and that's real-time chat therapy.

What is Real-Time Chat Therapy?

Online therapy, also acknowledged as "e-therapy" or "e-counseling", is a comparatively novel development in treating mental health issues. It consists of a therapist or counselor presenting psychological advice and support over the Internet via e-mail, video conferencing, online chat or Internet phone.

A unique study was recently published in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal —also one of the world's oldest and most well-known. The study proposes that online therapy with a certified 'psychotherapist is successful in helping people with depression.'

Does it Really Work?

Dr. David Kessler of the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, the lead author of the study wrote, "We think that writing gives people time to pause and reflect and that this may help the therapeutic process."

In an email between his team, Kessler also revealed, "There is also evidence that writing about traumatic events may contribute to mental health."

Members of the trial were screened by therapists prior to engaging in this chat-based therapy. They all were required to take a written test to estimate just how depressed they truly were. "Careful evaluation is important using this medium as it is in any type of psychotherapy," Kessler reported in an e-mail.

Individuals were then randomly allocated to undergo online cognitive behavioral therapy as well as their usual physical care, which could include medications, such as antidepressants, or to continue their day-to-day treatment plan in addition to being placed on a waiting list for talk therapy.

The participants assigned to the online cognitive behavioral therapy were scheduled for 10, 55-minute sessions. The last five were presumed to be concluded during the four-month follow-up.

One hundred thirteen people received online therapy and out of those, 38 percent fully recovered from depression after four months, compared to the 24 percent of people in the control group (non-online therapy group). The benefits were supported at the eight-month mark, with 42 percent of the online therapy group and 26 percent of the control group recovered.

Dr. Gregory Simon, a psychiatrist, and researcher at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington, wrote the editorial that accompanied the study. Simon and his team suggest that the Internet has tremendous potential for psychotherapy, particularly for people who wouldn't otherwise seek the help of a psychologist or cannot make it to a weekly meeting.

"People may be more willing to talk about things that are embarrassing or stigmatizing if they're not interacting face-to-face" with a therapist, Simon added.

Instant messaging, of course, is not perfect. Experts say the one thing that online therapy misses out on are the visual cues, gestures and speech tones. Those experts state it's most likely not going to make in-office sessions moot — it simply adds another approach in treating mental illness to reach that many more people.

Marlene Maheu, a psychologist in San Diego, California, private practice forewarned, "This is exactly the kind of study that we need to show that computerized and Internet-based psychotherapy can be effective, but that's a far cry from saying that this is going to replace psychotherapy."

A way to not miss the mark would be to video chat instead of texting (not for every single session). By video chatting, the therapist would be able to see how you react to certain questions, the way your body reacts and inflection in your speech.

What Can I Take Home from This?

A psychologist in Palo Alto, California, Thomas Nagy, explained he has greater confidence in therapy propitiated by telephone or the Internet if the therapist and patient previously meet face-to-face for evaluation and initial treatment.

Nagy reported that he has attempted telephone and video therapy with patients in which he had already treated in his office and had moved away. Besides technical difficulties with the initial video setup, he found it extremely similar to face-to-face meetings.

The questions remain on whether health insurance companies will or will not cover these Internet-based therapies. Simon concludes with the fact that if insurance were to cover online therapy, it would largely be predicated on the popularity and demand for it.

"Managed care companies have consulted [with me] about Internet-based therapy and these companies are reluctant to incorporate these techniques because they have not yet been perfected," Maheu offered.

"The funding for investigation in this field is leaning mostly toward video chat therapy."

Improving the quality of each video session to ensure the therapist doesn't miss a second of their patient's behavior, in addition to adequately encrypting each convo so that the session is absolutely private are two of the major bugs Maheu depicts need to be addressed for the progression of this therapy.

"As soon as this is a reasonably sound mode of intervention, it's going to be integrated into health care," Maheu concluded.

We want all of your days to be good ones. We know that back pain is spontaneous. You plan, your back pain laughs. But you don't have to go through this all alone. Consider online therapy as your resource to get out your emotional pain when your physical pain has you down. Maybe, just maybe you can be a little happier than you're used to feeling. Let's turn that frown completely upside down.

Last change: April 3, 2019