Is something bothering you, but you have nobody you feel you can tell? And is texting your preferred method of communication? Text therapy (also known as 'chat therapy' and 'messaging therapy') might be for you.

Text therapy and you

Text therapy means your therapist can’t see your facial expressions or body language, which gives them clues as to how you are feeling. On the other hand, it might work for you if:

1. You’re nervous to try therapy.

If you’ve never done therapy and feel too anxious to speak to a stranger over video counselling, or visit an office? Chat therapy is a great ‘soft start’. It can give you an idea of how talk therapy works, and how it can benefit you.

2. You express yourself better in writing than speaking.

For some of us, texting is our comfort zone. It’s the only way we can currently express ourselves.

3. You’ve never told anyone about your thoughts and feelings before.

If it's your first time talking about what’s going on for you, texting can be an easier way to start opening up.

4. You have zero privacy.

Living at home with your parents? Or with roommates who never seem to leave the house? Video counselling might feel impossible. But messaging therapy means nobody can overhear what you are saying.

5. You want more access to a therapist, and faster responses.

In-person counselling and online therapy tend to take place once a week. For the rest of the week you don’t have access to your therapist, unless otherwise arranged. Text therapy can be more frequent and give you faster access, depending on what you and your text therapist agree to.

6. You are on a limited budget.

Messaging therapy is often cheaper. That said, it is also possible to find low to no cost online and in-person counselling. And with text therapy you need to be careful that you are not being trapped into a subscription model you can’t get out of.

7. You like to take your time thinking and processing.

Do you like to take your time thinking things over? Chat therapy means you have a written record you can read later, perhaps having new 'aha' moments.

8. You have social anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

If you have panic attacks or intrusive thoughts when it comes to talking to strangers, or leaving the house? Text therapy can feel safe.

9. You aren't yourself, or you worry you have depression or anxiety.

Taling about our low moods, school and work stress, anxiety and anxiety disorders....these all translate well over text. But if we have something traumatic or big to work through, it often deserves more than a typed message.

But does chat therapy actually work?

Unlike therapy via video conferencing platforms such as Skype or Zoom, which has been the subject of extensive research? There are not yet any serious studies done on chat therapy, unless you count the biased research funded by companies pushing subscription packages.

On the other hand, research does show that writing things out is in itself powerful and beneficial. For example, a study at North Carolina State University that saw students write for seven weeks about their thoughts and feelings found they then had less intrusive negative thinking about their stressful experiences.

When messaging therapy just won’t cut it

How do you know if text therapy isn’t for you? Just as the therapist can’t see you, you can’t see the therapist. Which can be a little less intimate. So it isn’t the best if you:

  • need a lot of reassurance when you share things
  • have a tendency to misread what people say over texts
  • often say what what you don’t mean
  • find words confusing when it comes to describing how you feel
  • have a big thing like a childhood trauma to process.

In these cases, it is advised to try online video therapy or in-person therapy.

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