As people age, they may experience stress, anxiety and other mental health issues that can have an impact on cognitive impairment. Many find therapy helpful in combating these issues. The emergence of online therapy offers a convenient way to take advantage of what therapy has to offer.
The availability of online therapy is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic that has left many people unable or unwilling to visit a mental health professional in person. And living under mandatory stay-at-home orders may cause elevated levels of anxiety and stress for many people.
Is talk therapy worth it? Handling age-related cognitive issues is a complex undertaking, but therapy can play an important role. Stress is one factor that can negatively impact us as we strive to age well. Studies have shown that people who have high levels of stress and mild cognitive impairment are 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they age.
Stress and anxiety can contribute to the worsening of depression or physical issues such as heart disease. The mental health of aging adults has become more of an issue because people live longer today than ever, and because of the large number of Baby Boomers now entering their senior years.
As we age, many things we do can help us better manage stress and anxiety, including mediation, yoga, routine exercise and improving our sleep. Talk therapy also is among the most effective tools at our disposal to lower stress and reduce cognitive impairment.
Online Therapy Advantages
Online therapy offers plenty of advantages. In this time of pandemic, the most obvious one is that fact you don’t have to leave the house! That’s key right now, but it’s convenient even under “normal” circumstances for those with a disability or chronic condition that impairs mobility.
Online therapy also is convenient for those in areas not served by many therapists, including rural areas. In those cases, online therapy gives people access to mental health services they might otherwise not enjoy.
Online therapy also typically costs less than attending a therapy session in person.
How Online Therapy Works
The online therapy website Talk Space offers an example of how online therapy works. It begins with an online chat to determine your therapy needs. You then pick from a variety of plans, finding one that fits into your budget (plans start at $65 per week).
Then comes perhaps the most challenging part: finding the right therapist. The site takes information from you and matches it with a therapist who seems like a good fit for what you need. However, much like in-person therapy, you may find yourself going through one or two choices before finding the right therapist for you.
The therapy itself can work in different ways at Talk Space or other online therapy sites such as 7 Cups of Tea and Betterhelp. Typically, you write questions or share your thoughts and feelings with your therapist through direct messaging. The therapist will typically respond one or two times per day. Patients can also schedule online video chats to speak directly with therapists.
Some argue online therapy cannot replace person-to-person therapy sessions. One concern is that therapists cannot see their patient, making them unable to read body language that provides insight into mental states. Research continues in this area.
That said, it’s extremely useful during the coronavirus pandemic and, for many, the only alternative at any time. Preliminary studies have found it is effective, according to Psychology Today. For example, a 2018 study found online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for treatment of major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.