More and more people use the internet to look for solutions for medical or psychological issues such as depression. Before the internet existed, we would frequently get patients in our doctor’s practices who did not dare to take the step toward therapy until several years after their doctor gave them the address of a therapist. The step was such a large one to take. By 2011 we noticed that a part of these sufferers of stress would look for a solution via the internet. That was the reason why we, together with some colleagues within and outside of the country, took the initiative to provide online solutions on the internet: online therapy for stress-bound issues such as burnout, anxiety, tension, or depression.
The border is more difficult to set than it used to be. Modern medicine discovers that many issues can be cured with online self-help, without medical intervention. In the past, this phenomenon did not exist. Of course it remains important that the patient consults their doctor to, together, find out which type of help is best to use. Sometimes, a combination of online self-help with therapy or even medication is needed.
Maybe the word therapy is not the proper name for online therapy because online therapy does a lot of therapeutically useful work, yet still plays out outside of a clinic, meaning it occurs without medical research. That is the reason why we recommend anyone who considers online therapy to talk about this with their doctor.
Online therapy is seen by some people as conversation via chat. Others see online therapy as communication via e-mail.
The way in which we saw it, when developing the concept ’15 Minutes 4 Me’, is that we first of all wanted to offer people online self-help therapy, which they could follow 24/7 and where they could, if they felt the need to, also request a conversation via e-mail, telephone, or chat. Yet, this was not something which is required, and did not force one to go into counselling. Most people feel that proper online self-help therapy suffices for their problems. Only a few of them ask for extra support via the internet.
Anxious people have one advantage: they are generally very perfectionist in their ways. So if they do something, they do it well. This is very useful when following online therapy in the form of a self-help program. Because they will generally apply and follow the program in a disciplined way. And those who do it in such a disciplined way, are the ones who of course benefit the most. Their problems disappear like snow during summer because they apply that which they learn. Especially the use of anti-worrying exercises and specific techniques is something which many such people benefited from.
Sometimes, extra conversation can be very useful for those who have suffered from ‘fear of fear’ for several years. For them, the fear that the anxiety will return at some point is dominant, as I have written in an earlier article. In this sub-group, extra online communication can help to support them in getting them to see this fear of fear in a relative way, until even this fear disappears.
For depressed patients, online therapy helps in the shape of self-help, given that they keep following the program, even on days where they feel hopeless. This can sometimes be an issue. That is why we developed a separate module in ’15 Minutes 4 Me’ where the participant can invite a friend of family member to support them throughout this process. The program will then guide the family member in the support of the patient, through encouragement, feedback, and support. Except for the family, we invite the family doctor to follow-up with their patient during these difficult times and to support them until the depressed patient starts feeling better and finds their own motivation. Getting rid of a real depression does still often take several weeks, even before the patient feels the first signs of getting better. Antidepressant medication takes 2 to 3 weeks and sometimes even longer until the first effects are noticeable. This often gets a little faster in online therapy, but you should still count on at least 10 days before the first signs of improvement become noticeable. So, in this period of time, those people can ask for extra support via e-mail or chat.
Other types of stress or tension improve a lot through online therapy. Of course, it is important here too to invest fifteen minutes per day in yourself, but this tends to be less problematic when there are no depressed or hopeless feelings present. And what we see is that many people who reduce their general stress or tension also experience a reduction in their fears and/or depressed feelings.
Most people who are overworked and get burnt out, suffering from burnout, first need to understand what is gong on. Their doctor or our free online test (the online stress meter on this website) can help with that. Once they know what is happening to them and they have decided that they want to overcome this, online therapy is a good solution because they are guided by the program for fifteen minutes every day. This is good for them because that means that they never need to wait for their next appointment with a doctor or therapist, which can take a week every time. Rather, you feel like you can move forward a little bit every day. The online therapy program helps them day in day out to move forward in order for them to get out of their exhausted circumstances.
If you are unsure whether you suffer of some sort of stress, anxiety, tension, burnout, or even depression, you can take the free online stress test, because this test allows you to check how you are doing within 5 minutes. Afterward, you can then discuss with your doctor what type of therapy you prefer: online therapy or offline therapy.
Of course, like in any type of therapy, your result largely depends on how much your prioritize getting rid of your problem. You pick how intensively you want to make use of the program. And, together with your doctor and our stress meter, you can evaluate whether online therapy is enough for you, or if you might need support from others types of healthcare, too.
Would you like to know to what extent stress, tension, anxiety, or even depressed feelings play a role in your issues? Then you can easily test his here by filling out our free online test with 21 short questions.
Paul Koeck, MD