The massive increase in volume of conversation regarding mental health post-pandemic has apparently had a significant impact as people have now started to look at it in a positive manner.
Deloitte Global has predicted that the global spending on online therapy applications in 2022 will reach $500 million, not such a large amount, but impressive enough considering that many of the apps are either free or cost less.
Today, those with mental health issues are more forthcoming in seeking online therapy, discussing mental health issues, and in general accepting the fact that it can happen to anybody at any time.
Online therapy has not only become demystified and destigmatized and people now recognize that mental health care is no longer the responsibility of just the patient but the state’s institutions as well, especially for the economically marginalized and the underprivileged.
Therapists have begun using Zoom for online sessions as it offers functions such as reactions, screen share, community whiteboard, and breakout rooms that can be incorporated when working with clients.
If the network is not strong enough, they utilize WhatsApp calls or Google Meet or reach out to clients via email and texting between sessions to access modalities in online therapy space as they would do with in-person therapy.
Psychotherapists are now extending their service to clients across the world, to reach out to people communicating in their language, for those who may not have the capability of taking a shower and getting dressed to travel to the office of a therapist or those not open to receiving treatment from a traditional channel at all.
Online therapy may not be a replacement for in-person mental health treatment, but all the above factors are more likely to see its popularity grow rather than ebb. Studies show that for CBT in particular, online counseling can actually be just as effective as live, face-to-face sessions.
New app developers are also getting their act together and taking notice on how mental health is going mobile with apps providing support on-demand and on the go.
Though more than 20,000 mental health apps exist today, developers are launching new collaborations with other online service apps like Bumble and Snapchat to make services available to a wider range of consumers.
Apart from mental health diagnosis, online therapy platforms are being extensively used for improving general wellbeing through behavioral change brought about by practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Since an estimated 11% of the world’s population live with some sort of a mental health condition, the potential market for online therapy is considerable.
In the United States, for example, nearly four out of ten adults reported issues related with anxiety and depression between June 2020 and March 2021, a pointer to the prevalence of issues that mental health apps can address.
Since talking therapies are not only stigmatized or difficult to access across many communities of different countries, people are resorting to mobile applications in place of traditional treatment.
Even in an advanced country like China where stigma around mental health is very high, the consumer spending on mental health apps during the first month of the pandemic from March to April 2020, grew by 60% as against the thirty days prior to it. All this, it is believed, will drive the mental health app growth upwards, not only in China, but in many other Asian countries as well.
One thing worth noting is that most of these apps are either unregulated or know little about the regulations surrounding mental health, which has now become a cause of concern globally. Take the case of BetterHelp, a service widely viewed as the best online therapy site in the world. Despite that, over 80 users filed complaints of excessive charging or the assigned counselors were unresponsive and in some cases even refused to treat the patient.
Frauds and cover-ups are rampant in the healthcare system and unfortunately, it has spread to online therapy as well. Upcoding, as an example, is a significant problem between insurance providers and policyholders which leave customers high and dry as they have no control over pricing.
Transparency, therefore, should be the key for the app developers to work on to educate the customer about the methods adopted to design the mental health app.
Poor mental health also puts a strain on the global economy to the extent of $2.5 trillion a year, a figure that is expected to increase to a staggering $6 trillion by the end of 2030. Out of this $1 trillion alone accounts for lost productivity as a result of anxiety and depression.
If no action is taken these impacts will continue to be felt by economies everywhere, resulting in lower production and less consumer spending.
This is where opportunist app developers and corporations can step in with improved features such as subscription tiers or tailored paid programs and offerings.
They can also consider personalizing these services for the user to encourage frequent logging in and app use. Research collaborations between the app developers and the health care providers may further strengthen the quality of this service.