Mental Health Expert Yohnit Spruch Breaks Down Online Therapy Versus In-Person Sessions - Exclusive

Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost everything has shifted online — including therapy. Being able to see a therapist from the comfort of your own home, and without having to deal with traffic, can make therapy feel more accessible. "Even though in-person support is more available again, people are still choosing to connect virtually. The safety and convenience of being able to connect with others without having to leave your home is very appealing to many," says Yohnit Spruch, a mental health expert. But is online therapy just as effective as in-person sessions? 

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Spruch talks about the pros and cons of online therapy versus in-person sessions. Spruch is the head of emotional health at Circles, a mental health service that offers support groups. Through Circles, people going through similar life challenges are matched into groups and meet weekly via video chat to give and receive emotional support, guided by trained, vetted mental health professionals.

How online therapy compares to in-person sessions

Some people may argue that online-only therapy sessions create a literal barrier between therapist and client, making it difficult for them to really connect, and that it may be a challenge to fully understand each other — it can be harder to pick up on body language and facial expressions when speaking virtually. 

However, according to Yohnit Spruch, "The virtual relationships that form can often mirror the deep, meaningful connections that can occur in the in-person space. People in the online space may feel safer to be true to themselves and talk to other people much more openly than if they were people in their daily lives." Sometimes it can feel vulnerable and stressful to share openly with a stranger — many people find that speaking to a screen instead of a person helps ease this anxiety. "Virtual connections can be honest and transparent right from the start. Even though it might take time to feel comfortable, with less body language online, people learn to be much more direct with their communication," shares Spruch. In fact, many psychological studies have shown that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy.

Circles offers small online support groups, guided by trained, vetted mental health professionals, to ensure that no one has to cope with life's challenges alone.