Can Online Therapy Help with Stress?

Are you interested in learning whether online therapy can help with stress? Whether you are currently receiving in-person therapy and looking to transition or wanting to start therapy for the first time through an online platform, this form of treatment is ideally suited to stress-related issues.

Particularly if you are unable to attend in-person therapy, or going to in-person therapy would actually exacerbate your stress (for example, needing to travel or take time off work), then an online platform could be the perfect fit for you.

That being said, it's important to understand what to expect from online therapy for stress.

Unlike in-person therapy, you won't be receiving a diagnosis for a mental disorder. Instead, your therapist will learn about any existing diagnoses that you have and help you develop strategies to manage your mental health.

What Is Stress?

Before you can understand whether you should see an online therapist for stress, it's important to learn exactly what stress is. Stress is a physical and emotional reaction to a life situation. Often, we experience stress during times of life changes. For example, a person going through a divorce or facing a disaster would experience stress.

Stress vs. Mental Disorders

Although stress is common and pervasive in the world we live in, you may not have thought about it as a mental health condition. In fact, stress is a risk factor for the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

In this way, receiving online therapy and support to deal with stress may make it less likely that you will be facing mental health issues later on.

It's important not to minimize the stress you feel simply because you may not think of it in the same way you think about something like depression. Anyone who experiences stress knows how deeply it can affect you.

Types of Online Therapy for Stress

Your online therapist will determine the best strategies and techniques to use with you to combat your stress. Below is a list of some of the options that you might be given or the techniques that might be suggested during therapy.

Together with your therapist, you should choose the ones that seem best suited to your stress and that would be easiest for you to implement. Some might require direct instruction from your therapist, while others could be used on your own when you are not in touch with your therapist:

How Online Therapy Differs from In-Person Therapy

How does online therapy for stress differ from therapy that you would receive in person? As previously mentioned, your online therapist would not be able to provide a diagnosis of a mental health condition. Instead, you would work with your therapist to address the issues that you are facing with stress in the context of any previous diagnoses or other symptoms that you are experiencing (such as anxiety or depression).

Your online therapy or e-therapy would take place with a licensed mental health care professional, just as it would in an in-person therapy setting. Your therapist should be a mental health professional such as one of the following:

  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Licensed professional counselor
  • Marriage and family therapist

However, rather than going to an office for in-person appointments, you will be meeting with your therapist online either through video conferences, messaging chats, telephone, or email, depending on your preference.

Given the nature of online therapy, there generally will be an opportunity to message your therapist throughout the week, even when you are not in a session.

This could be particularly helpful if you find yourself responding poorly to stressful situations. Having feedback within 24 hours of a situation happening could be more helpful than waiting a week or longer when the situation is no longer causing you stress.

How to Build Rapport With an Online Therapist

How do you build rapport with an online therapist? It's not going to be the same as how it happens in-person, because you aren't there with them in their office and they can't as easily read your body language or pick up on many of the nonverbal signals that people send.

What this means is that it's helpful if you can be more communicative than you might normally be if you are doing video conferences. If your stress also has effects on your ability to communicate, be sure to tell that to your therapist. It could be that you'll need to take advantage of multiple methods of communication in order to develop the same level of rapport that you would through in-person visits with a therapist.

Should I See an Online Therapist for Stress?

How do you know whether you should see an online therapist for stress? As human beings, we are not built to be continually stressed. If you have multiple sources of stress in your life right now that are unrelenting, such as work problems, financial issues, health problems, or relationship issues, then talking to a therapist online could help.

In addition, if you find it hard to escape mentally from your stress or you never feel relaxed or recharged, it could be that you are dealing with burnout in addition to stress. Receiving help from an online therapist could be the early intervention that you need to prevent later complications in terms of your mental health.

The advantage of an online therapist is that it's a low-stress way of connecting with someone without a lot of upheaval to your life or schedule.

How an Online Therapist Can Help You With Stress

How is it that an online therapist could help you with stress? You might think that talk therapy alone would not be sufficient to make a difference in your stress. After all, if everything in your life is causing you stress, how can you escape it?

The truth is that talk therapy with an online therapist can help to rewire your brain connections to respond to stress in a better way. in fact, research has shown that there are physical differences in the brains of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They show a higher ratio of white matter to gray matter.

This disruption in the balance of the brain structures means that the brains of those with PTSD have poor timing due to the changes in their connectivity.

  • Sronger connection between the hippocampus (incoming signals) and amygdala (fear center)

Without PTSD
  • Stronger connection between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (moderation/control center)

When your hippocampus and amygdala have a stronger connection than your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, your response to stressful or fear-inducing situations is a lot faster and your ability to calm down is impaired. You'll have a stronger fear response and limited ability to stop that response once it starts. It's as though you have a high-speed connection to stressful reactions and a slow, bumpy road to being calm and in control.

Working with an online therapist can help to strengthen the positive connections in your brain that will allow you to better respond to stressful situations in a calm and rational manner.

When Online Therapy Is Not Appropriate

When is online therapy not appropriate for stress? If you are in a crisis or experiencing thoughts of suicide than online therapy is not appropriate. In that situation, you should have your local emergency number or a crisis line.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Online therapy may also not be appropriate if you have better options locally due to your insurance coverage or other factors. You'll need to investigate whether your insurance provider will cover online therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Online therapy for stress could be a good option for you if you are looking for support to develop strategies for managing stress and respond better to stressful situations as they arise. An online therapist will work with you just like an in-person therapist would, except the method of communication is different.

Whether you are a long-time recipient of therapy or just thinking about it for the first time, online therapy could be a good option if in-person therapy has become unaffordable or out of your reach for whatever reason.

In particular, if you are facing a situation in which online therapy is your only option (due to agoraphobia or other reasons for not being able to leave the house), it should be comforting to know that the end result should be similar to seeing an in-person therapist.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chetty S, Friedman AR, Taravosh-Lahn K, et al. Stress and glucocorticoids promote oligodendrogenesis in the adult hippocampus. Mol Psychiatry. 2014;19(12):1275-1283. doi:10.1038/mp.2013.190

Additional Reading
  • Martin L, Oepen R, Bauer K, et al. Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention-A Systematic Review. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018;8(2). doi:10.3390/bs8020028

  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Stress.

  • NHS. Types of Talking Therapies.

  • Sucala M, Schnur JB, Constantino MJ, Miller SJ, Brackman EH, Montgomery GH. The Therapeutic Relationship in E-Therapy for Mental Health: A Systematic Review. J Med Internet Res. 2012;14(4). doi:10.2196/jmir.2084

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.