Why Has There Been an Increase in Online Therapy Searches During the Pandemic?

It isn’t just the physical health that COVID-19 has impacted, mental health around the world has been displaying a rapid decline. From anxiety, stress, depression to even more severe symptoms, such as suicidal tendencies, the pandemic has been affecting individuals everywhere.

With face-to-face help currently on pause, more people are turning to the internet, from seeking professional help, finding modern methods to cope such as apps and even loved-ones of those struggling wanting to know how to become a therapist to know what to say and do should someone they care about need help.

A recent study was conducted to see exactly how Americans have been coping during the pandemic over the last 6 months. This study looked into the number of downloads for mental wellbeing apps, such as Headspace from January to September of this year. Alongside this, Google searches for the same period were analysed to see the rise in interest for therapy, wellbeing and meditation-related search terms.

Seeking Online Alternatives 

People searching ‘online therapy’ half almost doubled since WHO declared COVID-19 a world-wide pandemic. Social distancing and forced business closures have led to traditional therapy methods unable to take place. This has led to the public finding new ways to get help.

Calm, Headspace and Better Help have also doubled in search interest in the last year. These are online apps that can help those with less severe mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress and even poor sleep quality. Each one of these apps hit their peak demand in line with some of the most apparent COVID-19 events.

Wanting Guidance 

When a loved one is experiencing a difficult time with their mental health and professional support isn’t available, it can be a distressing time for those around them.

If mental health isn’t properly addressed, it can lead to serious consequences and with no end date to the pandemic, family and friends of those affected are looking for ways they can help.

The study revealed almost 10 times more searches for the term ‘how to become a therapist’, this may have been users looking for a career change but when analysed with the rest of the data the study produced, it is highly likely that individuals are wanting to help those they know with their mental health issues during this time.

These searches on becoming a therapist may not allow users to be fully qualified and start earning in this profession straight away. Training to become a therapist can take many years, but it can provide useful guidance on how to find resources to help others they care about.

Isolation Causes The Most Issues

Search engine terms for those looking for online therapy or similar help also referenced social isolation and loneliness. Quarantine fatigue has hit numerous Americans, whether this is from having to isolate due to symptoms, being vulnerable or living alone and unable to mix with other households.

Even for the most introverted individuals, going weeks and even months without any other human contact can take its toll on mental health. For those who have downloaded the previously mentioned apps, a large majority of users stated that social isolation was the main reason they had done so.

Social isolation doesn’t just lead to a feeling of loneliness. Having zero interaction with others can lead to other mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disruption and even PTSD. While modern technology has allowed us to continue speaking and even (virtually) seeing loved ones and is currently more popular than ever it can not replace seeing others in real life.

Is This The New Form of Therapy? 

The study showed Headspace was given over 6000 reviews during the period and almost all of them were positive. Providing help and support during COVID-19 was particularly noted for many users, especially with features that helped with a lack of routine.

However, while these apps may provide a short-term solution or even everything needed for those with minor issues, mental health professionals are warning that they are no replacement for tailored and personal therapy sessions. 

These apps have proven a great alternative when traditional therapy is not available, however, they will never be able to provide the same expert help and guidance that a trained professional can. An individual’s journey and recovery from mental health are imperative to tailored sessions with a real human who can learn and understand why a patient is feeling a certain way and be able to give the best methods for improving their state of mind.

Know When To Seek Therapy 

At this time, it can be easier said than done. Medical professionals are swamped with having to deal with the pandemic and many therapists offices are still closed. However, many experts are offering online sessions via video call, with the hope that once the pandemic is over, face-to-face sessions will continue.

Anyone who is experiencing poor mental health should seek a professional, this could be anything from depression, feelings of hopelessness, stress or anxiety, no matter how big or small these feelings are, these individuals should seek help whenever they can and are safe to do so. The earlier professionals are consulted the better.