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What Impact Does Virtual Therapy Have on the Mental Health Industry?

Speaking about mental illness is no longer a taboo in most societies. However, getting professional help is still a rarity as more than half of them don’t approach professionals to receive any kind of treatment. But did you know that the mental health industry has undergone noticeable growth in recent years and has been striving to be more accessible to those who need professional assistance?

Similarly, the number of tech startups that provide virtual therapy has also increased in the due course of time. The majority of startups are in their nascent stage, and their main focus has been to boost access to health care providers and diminish the social taboo that is associated with mental health.

Disruptive Tech Companies Are Coming Up

The advantages of virtual therapy, compared to those of conventional therapy, are still under discussion and a lot of debate is underway. However, none can deny the massive popularity that it has attained. TalkSpace and BetterHelp are the pioneers of virtual therapy. Onboarding over 1 million and 700,000 users respectively and catching the attention of investors across the globe, these health tech startups are surely creating a buzz the right way.

Funding for these mental health startups has increased several manifolds with time and the figures have jumped from $100 million in the year 2014 to a staggering $500 million in the year 2018. Talkspace, the online therapy platform, has raised the funding by an extra $50 million. The success of smartphones along with the lessening of the social taboo attached to any mental illness and its treatment have been the key factors behind the increased desire to avail virtual therapy.

It Is More Convenient

More than personal interactions, users seem to have a liking for back-and-forth messaging. Talking about BetterHelp, its founder, Alon Matas believes that older users would probably opt for phone and video therapy sessions, while the younger ones would prefer text messaging. Based on recent research, the current generation is addicted to smartphones and thus, it seems they would be a lot more comfortable while seeking online care.

Moreover, the convenience of not having to step out of the house for therapy is where virtual therapy wins, especially for those individuals who are busy owing to their professional commitments or have limited access to a physical therapist. Online therapy does not require scheduling appointments before time and users can easily avail real-time coaching whenever they feel it’s convenient. This is quite different from the way traditional therapy works. Besides that, virtual therapy promises anonymity, which is something that can help people to be more open with their therapist and help those who are in dire need of therapy, would find it easy to go through such sessions.

It’s Not Expensive

The cost of traditional therapy, along with the social stigma, has prevented people from accessing proper mental health care. Health insurance, in most cases, does not cover therapy sessions, and while most therapy sessions cost around $75 to  $150, this can reach up to $200 or even more.

Online platforms like BetterHelp offer membership of $200 every month. And that includes live sessions every week, besides unlimited messaging. Talkspace’s monthly subscription can be as low as $260 every month and offers unlimited video, audio, and text messaging to its users.

However, text-based therapy is considered to be not suitable for every individual. Online therapy, as experts say, isn’t good for folks who suffer from mental health issues or, for that matter, any type of depression, violence, or psychosis. The community is a bit concerned about issues related to mental health owing to structural discrimination.

The Possibilities Are Endless

Virtual therapy can still work in favor of people who are going through stress, insomnia, and anxiety can play a major role in helping the users who have detailed knowledge about harmful behaviors and at the same time, attain a higher sense of their well-being. Some of the entities in the mental health industry are receiving high valuations and therefore, there lies a lot of possibilities for commercializing. If you look at it from the perspective of treating mental illness, a virtual therapy app wouldn’t probably solve the problems as individuals who are mentally ill in the truest sense would require more facilities and personal attention.

In such cases, over-reliance on digital platforms might offer users a false sense of security and not the right remedy. If they need more impactful care, these apps wouldn’t suffice and live up to the expectations. Hence, these aspects are yet to be evaluated and a conclusion can be deduced.

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