The beginning of Online Therapy
The history of Online Psychotherapy is intimately related to the development of Internet. The more Internet connections and speed increased, the more Online Psychotherapy and Counseling of all kinds became widespread. Even before the appearance of Internet, remote therapeutic relations were quite common using phone calls.
Internet connections started to become widespread in the 1980s. The first online psychological counseling service known in the world could be traced back to an online forum created within the Cornell University in the state of New York. The forum was called “Dear Uncle Ezra” and was launched in 1986. Students and later people from all over the world could go on the forum, ask questions and get answers anonymously. We are of course still far from the direct continuous relation with a therapist.
Online therapy is available worldwide
Once Internet technologies were advanced enough to allow direct chat and video conference in the 1990s, online psychotherapy started to appear and became available worldwide. According to Ainsworth (2001), David Sommers, Ph.D., was “the first to establish a fee-based Internet service in which, more than answering a single question, he sought to establish longer-term, ongoing helping relationships, communicating only via the Internet.” This dates back to 1995. Martha Ainsworth also reports that when she started to track the existence of online psychotherapy practices in the fall of 1995, she only found 12 e-therapists. Shortly after, in the second half of the 1990s, e-clinics started to appear, using modern online marketing tools and offering long list of online therapists with different specializations.
Exactly in the same period, scientific researches started to wonder if online therapy or online counseling can be as effective as traditional psychotherapy. Researchers from the Department of Psychology of the University of Amsterdam (2011) pointed out out that the effects of online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been studied since 1996. This first study was also conducted by a research group from the University of Amsterdam. As a result, the Dutch Health Insurance decided to cover the costs for Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy since 2005.
The effectiveness of online therapy has been proven
In the years 2000, many scientific studies were interested in the effectiveness of online psychological therapies and the results mainly find that online therapy has more or less the same beneficial effects like the offline face-to-face psychotherapy.
The offer of online therapies is nowadays very widespread and very diverse. From text or chat-based therapies to video conference therapies with a professional psychotherapist, you can also find all kinds of online counseling services, phone apps, online courses and programs, automated coachings or even bots based on artificial intelligence. Finding the right online therapist or psychologist has become quite a good challenge for those looking for help. I already wrote a short guide to help people find the psychotherapist they need.