Home » News » Online Psychotherapy Stacks Up Well Against Face-to-Face

Online Psychotherapy Stacks Up Well Against Face-to-Face

Online Psychotherapy Stacks Up Well Against Face-to-Face As technology advances the delivery of medical care, telemedicine over the Internet is seen by some as a way to improve access to care while reducing costs.

In many settings, online psychotherapy has taken the lead in providing this type of care.

Despite the obvious advantages, the central question of whether the online format is as effective as conventional face-to-face therapy has not been closely examined. But some preliminary studies have suggested the techniques are comparable.

Based on these earlier studies, University of Zurich researchers assumed that online therapy and face-to-face therapy were on a par.

Not only was their theory confirmed, the results for online therapy exceeded their expectations.

For the study, researchers reviewed the care provided by six therapists for 62 patients, the majority of whom were suffering from moderate depression.

The patients were divided into two equal groups and randomly assigned to one of the therapeutic forms.

The treatment consisted of eight sessions with different established techniques that stem from cognitive-behavior therapy and could be carried out both orally and in writing.

Patients treated online had to perform one predetermined written task per therapy unit – such as querying their own negative self-image. They were known to the therapist by name.

“In both groups, the depression values fell significantly,” said Andreas Maercker, M.D., Ph.D., summing up the results of the study.

At the end of the treatment, 53 percent of the patients who underwent online therapy – compared to 50 percent for face-to-face therapy – were not depressed.

Three months after completing the treatment, the depression in patients treated online continued to decrease whereas those treated conventionally stayed the same or even increased.

For both patient groups, the degree of satisfaction with the treatment and therapists was good. Ninety-six percent of patients receiving online therapy and 91 percent of the recipients of conventional treatment rated the contact with their therapist as “personal.”

In the case of online therapy, the patients tended to use the therapy contacts and subsequent homework very intensively to progress personally; for instance, re-reading correspondence with their therapist from time to time.

Investigators concluded that online psychotherapy is an effective, perhaps even enhanced method of care.

Source: University of Zurich

Hands on a computer keyboard photo by shutterstock.

Online Psychotherapy Stacks Up Well Against Face-to-Face

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Online Psychotherapy Stacks Up Well Against Face-to-Face. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 31 Jul 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.