One fundamental question for many people is whether E-Therapy is an effective way to receive treatment for psychological difficulties. Although research on E-Therapy is relatively new, a recent search of psychological studies found over 1,000 relevant studies, showing just how important this new and exciting means of treatment has already become. The studies have been done by psychotherapists and by clinical researchers who study the effectiveness of psychotherapy. They have examined differences between traditional in-person treatment and various forms of delivering E-Therapy (e.g., telephone, e-mail, video-conferencing, chat-rooms). Overall, the results on the effectiveness of E-Therapy are quite promising, although E-Therapy should not substitute for in-person therapy for all clients. Below are brief summaries of some studies, with links to further information where available.
One concern about effectiveness is that it may be more difficult to form as strong a client-therapist relationship through E-Therapy. This is an important issue because the relationship between clients and therapists is one of the best predictors of the effectiveness of treatment.
Researchers have found that the working relationship between client and therapist (sometimes called a working or therapeutic alliance) can indeed be just as strong with E-therapy. Sucala and others (2012) reviewed the existing literature on e-therapy and the client-therapist relationship. They concluded that research indicated “e-therapy seems to be at least equivalent to face-to-face therapy in terms of therapeutic alliance.”
In a study of treatment for addiction, E-Therapy was found to be as effective as in-person therapy.
A 2008 summary of 72 studies using various forms of E-Therapy found overall positive results for a variety of psychological conditions, although the authors noted the need for further research.
A study of approximately 100,000 USA veterans experiencing psychological distress found that E-Therapy or videoconferencing reduced the number of admissions to psychiatric hospitals and number of days hospitalized. See:
Research in the UK demonstrated that E-Therapy with a trained therapist reduced levels of depression more than in-person treatment by a GP, which is the normal level of care for many people experiencing psychological distress.
A 2011 summary of 13 studies of the effectiveness of E-Therapy for clients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms concluded that “these findings support the use of telehealth treatments for individuals with PTSD-related symptoms.”
A 2012 review of 11 studies concluded that E-Therapy using a cognitive-behavioural approach was effective for the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Andersson (2010) reviewed some of the promising research that demonstrates E-Therapy can be effective for treatment of a variety of psychological conditions, but also emphasized the importance of support from a skilled and qualified therapist, and ideally one who is familiar with traditional therapy and not only E-Therapy.
Berger (2011) demonstrated that E-Therapy for depression was an effective treatment, especially with support from a trained therapist, and that the benefits of treatment persisted for at least six months.