Text-based therapy offers a more accessible and flexible way of getting support. But is it the right choice for you? Here are a few of the main benefits...
Therapy is changing in a big way. In part, this is due to the big shifts created by both new technology and the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, people are now seeking ways to connect with therapists beyond travelling to in-person appointments once a week. This includes online and phone-based options such as video, live chat and text.
In other words, we ping, text and message each other all the time — so why not a therapist too?
It makes sense for a lot of people. Maybe you’re juggling a really busy schedule? Or have physical, mental or emotional challenges that make in-person sessions difficult? Or maybe you just prefer communicating online?
If this is the case, then text-based therapy could be for you. In fact, according to a 2013 study, it can actually have a more calming effect, as some people find online interactions to be less pressured than face to face. Also, in a more recent 2020 study, 94% of participants said that text therapy made them feel better.
Text therapy itself can be split into two main categories — ongoing text messages with a therapist that might unfold over several weeks or months, or more structured live chat conversations that take place over a set appointment time. MTA offers the latter option via our platform.
And while text therapy isn’t necessarily suited for every kind of approach (for instance, Art Therapy or EMDR), it can still be a fantastic option when using other models. Perhaps best of all, you can do it all from the comfort of your sofa, without the nerve-wracking elements of video or the time demands of in-person appointments.
With this in mind, here are 10 key benefits of text therapy:
No matter how caring and compassionate your therapist is, a lot of us find it hard to confide in people face to face, especially in the early days of a relationship. This can be especially true if you are not used to talking about your feelings or grew up in a family where showing emotions was seen as shameful. There are also some issues, such as sexual difficulties, that might feel harder to talk about than others.
Also, some of us who deal with ‘hypervigilance’ — the state of constantly assessing the likelihood of potential threats or mood shifts around you — might also struggle with face-to-face therapy. This is because we might find ourselves distracted by monitoring the therapist’s facial expression, body language and tone of voice for signs of judgement or disapproval. For this reason, it can be hard to fully relax into a session.
That is why communicating via text can feel a lot safer to some. You have a chance to talk about difficult issues, without constantly worrying about your therapist’s visual reactions or vocal tone. You can just concentrate on the content of their messages instead.
Not everyone can travel to regular in-person therapy appointments easily, for many different reasons. Whether you live in a rural area, have transport issues or simply a busy schedule, trying to find a therapist in the right location — and with time slots that work for you — can be a challenge. Also, if a therapist is based across town then the long commute to see them can leave you feeling exhausted before the session has even begun.
Added to this, if you have a disability, physical health problem or mental health issue that makes attending appointments difficult (such as limited mobility, chronic fatigue or agoraphobia), then text therapy means you don’t have to miss out on getting the support you need. New and nursing mothers might also find this option helpful, as could people caring for loved ones full time.
With text therapy, you can talk to someone about what’s troubling you from the comfort of your sofa, or in the lunch room at work, or even in your favourite café. You can also keep up your appointments when out of town or on holiday, meaning that you can enjoy a regular, consistent relationship without any interruptions.
The pandemic created a ‘Zoom revolution’, where everything from socialising with friends to work meetings to college courses became video-based. In fact, MTA offers a video call therapy option that many of our clients love, as it combines ease, flexibility and social distancing (and many other benefits too).
That said, we are also well aware that some people find video chat highly stressful, for a whole host of reasons. For instance, many people experience seeing themselves on the screen as distracting or triggering unpleasant thoughts or emotions, as it can make them feel self-conscious about their looks, facial expressions and mannerisms. So if you are dealing with issues like social anxiety or body dysmorphia, then live chat therapy might be a much easier option, at least to start with started.
Some people might also feel stressed out about how tidy their home looks via video (particularly if perfectionism is an issue for you), or feel worried that their children might make a noise during calls, or just might not have access to a private space for video calls.
It is also worth noting that not everyone has access to strong, reliable WiFi or even a laptop, but most people do have a phone with a basic internet connection. For this reason, live chat therapy is probably the most accessible and inclusive option available.
Whether it’s WhatsApp, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, many of us already carry out the bulk of our interactions via live chat and message apps. In fact, it’s what a lot of us prefer as it can feel a lot more comfortable and low pressure. And in the case of teenagers and younger people, it is simply a way of life.
With this in mind, it makes a lot of sense to have the option of live chat therapy. This way, seeking support will feel like less of a huge step into the unknown and instead, just a continuation of your usual daily way of communicating.
Added to the above, some people worry about feeling ‘put on the spot’ in therapy. What if they freeze up and can’t speak? What if they don’t know how to answer a therapist’s question? What if they say the ‘wrong thing’ or ‘sound silly’?
It is really important to note that these feelings are totally natural and that a good therapist will help you to work through them. So if you choose in-person appointments, then they will create a safe space for you to open up about your feelings, allowing trust to build gradually. That said, you might still prefer the buffer that live chat gives you, as it’s a chance to think about how you want to express yourself before hitting that ‘send’ button. Live chat sessions can be great if you’re someone who naturally expresses themselves more easily by writing things down, perhaps by already using journaling.
Plus with live chat, you have a record of your conversation, so you can look back and remember what you and your therapist said. This in itself can also be highly beneficial as it gives you a chance to reflect on sessions afterwards and track your progress over weeks, months or years.
While having therapy is a positive life choice to be proud of, lots of people still prefer to keep the fact that they’re seeing a therapist private, for all sorts of reasons. Because of this you might feel worried about being spotted entering a counselling or therapy centre in your town or city. But with live chat therapy, you can get the support that you need in the privacy of your home or office.
Additionally, people in abusive or coercive relationships — especially those at risk of domestic violence — might struggle to get face to face help from a therapist. This is because in-person and video appointments might be hard to hide from partners, but live chat is much easier to be discreet about. This way, people in abusive relationships can get the support that they need without fear of retaliation or sabotage from a controlling partner or family member.
Lockdown changed how therapy was carried out across the world. With in-person appointments being unavailable due to social distancing, people began to explore text, live chat, phone and video options instead.
As a result, many therapists began to notice that their clients were actually more relaxed during online appointments. They seemed to be able to open up more candidly, perhaps because they were in the familiar space of home. Also, some people can find being in a room with a therapist too intense or even threatening, so text sessions can feel more manageable for them.
If you’ve had a particularly emotional conversation with your therapist or had to process a difficult memory, then it can be a strain to leave their office for the commute home. But with live chat therapy, you can finish your session, have a cry, make a cup of tea, cuddle a pet or do whatever you need to do to decompress.
You could also practice wellbeing techniques that you might have been working on with your therapist, such as soothing, breathing or grounding exercises. Plus you can jump into any ‘homework’ your therapist has given you straight away, while it is still fresh in your mind.
For one reason or another, many of us are still having to practice social distancing, either due to underlying medical conditions, our jobs or being in contact with vulnerable loved ones.
But with text and live chat therapy, we can continue to get the support we need no matter what’s happening in the world. And although we all hope that there won’t be any further lockdowns, in the event that there are, your therapist can still be there for you, helping you through it all.
Remember, the point of text therapy is flexibility. So your therapist might be happy to combine different types of sessions with you, for instance both video and live chat. Also, when you are ready and feel that you trust your therapist more, you might want to move on from chat appointments to video or in-person ones. You might also want to switch back and forth between different kinds of sessions at different times, depending on what is going on in your life.
Of course, this all depends on how your individual therapist prefers to work but it is certainly worth asking about flexible and blended models of support. There is no right or wrong way to do this — it is your journey, so make it work for you.
Text therapy offers a more relaxed, flexible and accessible way to get help from a caring professional. Some people find it easier to express themselves through live chat, others find it safer and others just value its privacy. Whatever your own reasons, text therapy offers a whole new way of finding support, so why not give it a try and see if it works for you?
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