Millions of US adults experience mental health issues each year; it’s estimated that around one-quarter of all Americans age 18 years or older live with a diagnosable mental illness, of which anxiety disorders are the most common and impact more than 18 percent of adults.
Sadly, Covid-19 has only exacerbated the United States’ mental health problems. Almost half of the people questioned feel that the pandemic’s global impact has harmed their mental health, and it’s believed that the effects could be seen long after the crisis ends.
Lockdown and social-distancing measures have made accessing traditional care difficult or even impossible, as has the increased demand for help. Fortunately, virtual therapy apps offer a simple alternative, empowering the general public to access mental-health support without leaving their home.
Here’s how virtual therapy apps are disrupting the mental health industry.
Ease of Access is Key
There are an estimated 275 million smartphone users in the US. This, combined with Americans’ increasing openness about their mental health, has helped to cultivate the rise of virtual therapy apps.
Most smartphone users are familiar with the process of finding, installing, and setting up an app. That is often more digestible and less intimidating than registering with a local therapist.
The level of flexibility virtual therapy apps offer is crucial, too. Specific communication preferences are catered to, with certain apps offering a choice of channels. The health experts at Manlywellness highlighted this in its review of BetterHelp, addressing users’ freedom to receive support through text messages, video calls, and email. Scheduled appointments and their frequency can be managed according to the user’s needs.
Another major benefit of virtual therapy apps’ easy access is that people living in rural locations can still reach out for help from qualified professionals despite their remoteness.
Apps Provide More Cost-Effective Therapy
High prices may stand between people struggling with mental health issues and the help they need when a single 45-minute meeting with a therapist can cost as much as $200.
Multiple meetings throughout a month, with one or two sessions each week, would eat into the average monthly American income of $3,714 significantly. Some health insurers will cover therapy, but with specific stipulations. Anyone expected to pay for sessions out of their own pocket may simply need to go without.
However, virtual therapy apps offer a more affordable alternative. Users can expect to pay between $35 and $70 each week. This provides unlimited access to the chosen counselor via messages, so support isn’t limited to strict periods only.
Apps such as this utilize the subscription-based model which is so popular now. In an age when consumers pay for Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and so many other services with a recurring monthly bill, taking advantage of virtual therapy apps may lessen the financial impact further.
And let’s not forget the reduced costs involved with traveling into a city or across town to speak with a therapist in person. Patients may spend substantial amounts of cash on gas each week to visit their counselor for a brief session or pay for public transport during peak hours.
With virtual therapy apps, these additional expenses are no longer an issue.
Virtual Therapy Apps Align with Gradual Lifestyle Changes
By connecting users with a trained therapist, virtual therapy apps can help people affected by mental health issues access the support they need sooner than with traditional methods. Interacting with a professional via text message or email may feel like more of a gradual lifestyle change than sitting across from a stranger in an office and discussing your most private thoughts face to face.
As a result, the best online therapy can complement other changes with the potential to improve mental wellbeing. For example, research shows how pets can help with your mental health and have a long-term positive effect, as pet-owners may experience less stress and anxiety than people without pets. Loneliness, social isolation, and depression may be reduced, too.
Walking a dog, for instance, encourages a more active lifestyle, with daily exercise essential for canines’ wellbeing. Walking and jogging have both been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. Going for a brief walk with a dog once or twice per day may seem like a small lifestyle change, but it could complement others effectively.
Users may even access their virtual therapy app to interact with their therapist when outdoors, whether walking the dog or enjoying the quiet of a local park. It removes the formality of the traditional office environment and helps to integrate professional support into your lifestyle smoothly.
Virtual therapy apps are having their day in the sun right now with the pandemic. But even when the virus fades from memory, app-based therapy likely will stick around due to the benefits of making professional support more accessible, cost-effective, and personalized.
Users can choose the communication methods which work for them best, and introduce therapy into their life gradually. In effect, these applications put greater control in the hands of patients and may reduce the number of people who have to suffer in silence.
Photo: SIphotography, Getty Images