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Does online video CBT work?

Short answer: Yes, online video CBT Therapy does work


Long answer: Yes, the research shows that online video CBT therapy can work as well as therapy where you are sat in the same room as your therapist.


There are some important considerations to make it work and some people prefer it this way.


During the COVID-19 pandemic the government recommended that people stop all non-essential contact to reduce risk of transmission of the virus.


In March most therapists transferred all their work online and on the telephone. While this was a sudden shock for many of us who were used to a mixture of seeing people in venues and working online, the pressure did mean progress happened faster than it may have done.


There was already good research evidence for online working and more recent data from the NHS in England is showing that people are still continuing to benefit as much if not more from online CBT.


Online CBT is usually conducted by Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or a similar video platform. You can see and hear the therapist live and talk as if you are in the same room.


The CBT will follow the same structure as in person therapy. It is based on your therapy goals and working towards you gaining skills to manage your mood differently now and in the future.


An advantage to this way of working is not being limited only to therapists who work close by. You can pick someone who may be further away, giving you a greater choice. The therapist may specialise in the problem you are experiencing or feel a better match in things such as your gender, age, religious or cultural background, or availability for sessions in the evening or at weekends.


There are some things I suggest you consider to help make it work in the best way possible.


  • Having a private space at home where you can be for the therapy. You won't feel comfortable if you are concerned about being overheard or the kids walking in. Be clear with your family that you need this time alone for this one hour a week.


  • You will need an internet enabled device with a camera. Something the size of a laptop or iPad is best but using a smart phone can work too.


  • Having good enough internet connection at home. Wifi is better than using your phone data for quality of the call.


  • Giving yourself time before and after the session. When attending in person we use the travel time to separate ourselves and get ready for treatment, then to wind down at the end. Try to build in at least 15 minutes for yourself before and after an online session, rather than jumping straight from making the dinner and back into bath time at the end. Giving yourself the space will allow you to process and remember the session. Try not to be to hard on yourself about this. Sometimes things do get rushed and you jump onto the call with seconds to spare!


  • Turn off distractions! Silence and put away your phone, close your emails and shut the door. This time is for you to focus on yourself, it's okay to shut out the rest of the world for a little while.


  • Think about your comfort, holding a phone in your hand for an hour is not going to help you be relaxed enough to open up. Try stacking books up to rest your phone on. I prefer to sit at a desk or table, while others prefer to stand or sit on the sofa. The location is up to you but I recommend it is somewhere you are able to make notes. This leads me to my final point.


  • Have a notebook and a pen handy. CBT therapy will involve you making notes. The best way is a notebook so they can stay together but paper and a folder works well too.


Other than using the telephone one partly safe alternative to online therapy is sitting in a room with both you and the therapist wearing a mask. The problem with this is not being able to clearly see each other's facial expressions. Currently (November 2020) the UK's leading organisation for CBT the BABCP are recommending therapy is not conducted in person because of the COVID-19 risk. So it appears video is here to stay.


Online video Cognitive Behavioural Therapy does work.


Here at CBT Reflections we are able to offer online video CBT to people across the UK. Please contact us to find out more.


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BABCP Accredited CBT Therapist in Hertfordshire
CBT Reflections
Providing Online and Telephone Therapy for adults
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