Midterms, finals, challenging courses, dorm life, social events, sororities and fraternities, prom, PSATs, drama club, sports, college applications, friendships, social media… you name it, the life of a student is busy and there is always something vying for your attention!
More and more young adults and college-aged students are understanding the value of professional therapy services, but where do you find the time to prioritize your mental health amidst your class schedule, homework, club sports, and so many other competing priorities? It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and business of life as a student, and to neglect your mental health and wellbeing. However, avoiding facing your need for support and self-care can do irreparable damage to your self-image, your wellbeing, your friendships and relationships and even your GPA. While it may be natural to put your mental health on the backburner of all things student life, it is really important to prioritize your wellbeing as you navigate your studies and prepare yourself for the next steps in your life.
If you’ve tried to squeeze in individual therapy sessions, you know how easy it is to skip, cancel, or no-show (even by accident) to one on one therapy. Or maybe you’ve been sticker-shocked at the cost of individual therapy (no one wants to choose between ramen and their mental health), and just couldn’t make it work on a shoestring student budget.
The good news? Online group therapy is more affordable and convenient than traditional therapy, and makes complete sense for those trying to balance student life while still taking care of their psychological well being.
Here are a few things you need to know before getting started with online group therapy.
Online group therapy is NOT a support group. In fact, every online therapy group is led by a qualified and licensed therapist, counselor, psychologist or clinical social worker - the same individuals who would and can administer one-on-one therapy. When you join an online therapy group you’ll most likely attend your sessions once a week for about an hour through a video chat platform, or possibly in a chat room or on a voice call. Most groups specialize in a specific issue or condition like anxiety, depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, grief, eating disorders, and more. Your group will have a lot of the same members every week, in order to increase your level of comfort with attendance and help the group to offer support and familiarity to each other over time. You don’t have to appear on camera, although it’s usually encouraged.
The therapist leading your group will often use a specific method of therapy (Such as CBT or DBT) to lead the group through skills training and applications that can improve your mental health outside of the session, in your everyday life. These methods are always evidence-based and science-backed, and are focused on helping you meet your goals. If you want, you can always supplement your online group sessions with individual therapy. Some group session leaders will even offer 1:1 support for crisis situations outside of your weekly meeting time.
When juggling a busy class, study, exam, and social schedule, convenience becomes EVERYTHING. You need a solution that is available on the go, remotely. This is where online group therapy comes in, with a mobile, flexible solution that is convenient for your schedule and needs. You can attend online group therapy from anywhere you have a stable internet connection, which makes it much less likely for you to skip a session or miss due to unreliable transportation, schedule changes, or time constraints. Most online therapy groups offer several session times in order for you to choose the best option for you and your schedule as a student.
Research continues to prove that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy: Everyone can benefit from online group therapy, just like everyone can benefit from therapy in general. You know how easy it is to vent to your friends or family about your schedule, your teachers, your fellow students, or your school crush, and it's just as easy to open up to your therapist through online group therapy… but much more effective in the long run! Instead of gathering unqualified opinions and advice from peers, you can receive professional guidance from your therapist and the support of people just like you who know what you’re going through. In online therapy you’ll learn healthier coping strategies, how to manage things like emotional distress, highs and lows, impulsive behavior, depression, and more. Through online therapy you can improve your communication with your friends and family, increase your resiliency during stressful times, and much more.
Students often survive on shoestring budgets that don’t leave much room for mental health care. While traditional, in-person individual therapy often runs at more than $200 per session, the average online therapy group can cost between $30-$40 per session, which is much more reasonable for those looking to prioritize self-care without sacrificing basic necessities. Online group therapy isn’t cheaper because of the quality of care, but instead because therapists are able to lower the per session cost since they see multiple patients at the same time, and without the additional cost constraints of things like travel, office rental, or utilities. For some people, their health insurance will even cover their online group therapy sessions!
The same HIPPA laws that govern all medical care in person are applicable for online therapy platforms. Each of your fellow group members will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement, and your sessions have to take place over HIPAA-compliant software to protect your privacy. Members are never asked to share personal identifying information or their location, and you can utilize your first name or a pseudonym for your sessions. Unlike support groups, your sessions are led by a licensed therapist who understands the laws around therapy and confidentiality. These groups are made to ensure you feel safe and comfortable so you can share openly and grow and evolve quickly for a healthier, happier you.
It’s easy to feel like no one understands you or what you’re going through, especially during a heavy study and homework schedule or when juggling multiple classes and deadlines, along with the social dynamics that can cause strain in your self-image and friendships. Many students struggle with high levels of anxiety, depression, and a sense of isolation. Online group therapy can help with those feelings by creating an environment of your peers in which you feel supported and understood. These individuals will help you learn to apply the skills you’re guided through by your therapist, and can encourage accountability as you courageously pursue better mental health through group therapy.
It’s easy and affordable to get started in an online therapy group! Take the first step today toward a better, happier version of yourself and get placed with the perfect group for you, your struggles, and your student schedule.