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Does Online Therapy Work? Here Is What The Science Says

online therapy work, online therapy effective

Wondering whether online therapy works is a common question that is asked by clients looking at this type of therapy. This makes sense since psychotherapy has traditionally taken place in the office of a psychologist or therapist.

The past two decades of research into this questions is undeniable:  that remote therapy does work. And the type of therapy that has been shown to be effective is internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (iCBT). Here is a complete description of CBT approaches for online therapy.

Below, a few studies are reviewed for your information.


iCBT For Anxiety Disorders

Web-based therapy using CBT has been compared to people on a wait-list diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.

In this study, 100 patients were administered 10 weeks of iCBT for anxiety. 

At the end of therapy, those given iCBT had improved compared to those not receiving the online treatment. The effects were shown to last for at least one year. 

In addition, iCBT was shown to reduce healthcare costs as patients took less medication, less sick days were needed as well as less healthcare visits to a professional.


iCBT For Depression

Online therapy has also been studied for depression

In this study, 62 patients diagnosed with depression either received iCBT or face-to-face therapy. 

After 8-weeks of treatment, both groups improved significantly compared to those people on a waiting list who received no treatment.


Reviews Of Online Therapy

In psychological research, we have a powerful tool called a meta-analysis. This method can combine 10s or 100s of studies together, which means that the results of 1,000s or 10,000s of participants can be studied. 

Here are two meta-analyses that have evaluated the effectiveness of online therapy.

2010 meta-analysis of 22 studies showed that web-based therapy for anxiety and depression was better than just being on a waiting list.

A later meta-analysis in 2018 of 64 additional studies came to the same results. 

In addition, the results showed that the improvements lasted at least 18 months, that the patients were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with iCBT and that less time seemed to be needed with iCBT for improvements to be seen than with face-to-face treatment (note: this finding was very sparse and needs to be further replicated).


In summary, online therapy is a viable treatment that you can consider, especially in light of the current social distancing and quarantining guidelines due to COVID-19. 

The next step would be to consult how to find the best online psychologist or therapist to match your needs.

If you would also like further information on remote therapy, you can read the ABCs of online therapy and video counselling.


If you have any additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment, you can fill out the form below.

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