There is no denying that the cost of mental health treatment is prohibitive for much of those suffering from mental health issues. It's not just the cost of healthcare – although the price of therapy is high. There is also the issue that those that suffer from mental health issues may not be able to work in a career that provides health insurance, or earn enough income to pay for their therapy costs.

Experts put the number of people living with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as high as 20%, and that excludes those that may experience some degree of life stress that could benefit from speaking with a counselor or therapist.

eTherapy – The Low Cost Treatment

It is these issues that generated interest in creating a more affordable type of therapy – one that would not only be less costly, but also could be utilized by a greater number of individuals. From there, programmers, researchers, and businesses came up with the idea of online cognitive-behavioral therapy, often referred to as "eTherapy." eTherapy takes the basics of CBT and places it in a type of interactive software program that works with the patient to improve their mental health.

If this type of treatment option works, it could have a number of benefits. These include:

• Affordable Therapy
eTherapy would be far more affordable than traditional therapy, because it would be offered to a wider audience with a pay-to-download style. Once the therapy is created, the product is completed, and businesses can distribute openly online to anyone that wants access.

• Instant Download/Online Access
Online therapy would also have advantages for the potential clients. Rather than wait for their next appointment, the client can "see the therapist" immediately, whenever they are suffering, since the therapist is a computer screen and programming. In addition, this type of downloadable or online therapy is very useful for someone that has finally admitted that they need help – it allows them to reach that help before they change their minds.

• Cost Controlled
These programs would be far less expensive, and while they would most likely be a little pricy for those that are struggling with their finances, they would be more affordable to the average middle class family, and would most likely be only a onetime payment or low monthly payments depending on

Research has uncovered other potential benefits as well, such as the openness people experience from anonymity, and freedom from first impressions. Overall, it's easy to see why these options may change the mental healthcare world.

Problems with eTherapy
Yet despite these clear benefits, eTherapy has serious risks that could potentially affect every client. These include:

• Little/No Research or Accountability
While the early stages of eTherapy are undergoing research at major universities, the success of any online eTherapy business would likely create splinter groups that release low cost eTherapy solutions with no empirical testing just to make a quick buck. Any client that uses online therapy is at risk for using software that is either ineffective or no more effective than placebo, unless they choose the select few options with ample research.

• Little/No Human Interaction
Some eTherapy would involve real therapist, interacting with clients over some type of medium. But even with that interaction, there are a number of risks. In person, the therapist can adjust sessions to respond to more immediate needs, challenge the thoughts of the client, notify appropriate groups if the client is a risk to themselves or others, etc. Without that human interaction, none of this is possible. In addition, the bond between a client and therapist is something that often improves the success rate of the sessions, and that bond would not exist.

• Glitches/Imperfections/Etc.
Like any software or online service, it's possible that the Internet crashes, the DNS server goes down, or a bug causes the client to miss out on the information they need. These can all harm the patient's ability to recover from mental illness.

In addition, it often takes years of study to create therapeutic techniques that are truly beneficial to those suffering from anxiety, depression, personality disorders and other mental illnesses, and in general each therapeutic technique needs to be tested and retested against not only each type of mental illness, but also subsections of these mental illnesses, age, demographics, etc. It's hard to believe that any online program will receive that much scrutiny, nor would any such program be ready for years to come.

Overall Thoughts on eTherapy

There is a reason to be hopeful. eTherapy would drastically change the field of healthcare for mental health issues, and there are several studies indicating early success with different types of eTherapy treatments. But it may be presumptuous to assume that any such therapy will be ready for many years, or that these therapies will be as effective as traditional talk therapy.

Author's Bio: 

Ryan Rivera has focused much of his attention on trying to get mental healthcare to those that need it. He has information on anxiety and other mental health conditions at