Looking to treat your fear of heights? Whether you’re pressed for time, live in a remote location, or feel uneasy in new surroundings, you might find it difficult to attend therapy in person. You may, therefore, ask yourself: can you treat acrophobia online?
We’re going to delve into what online therapy is, explore whether it can be used effectively to treat acrophobia and help you determine if it’s the right option for you. Let’s get started!
What is online therapy?
Online therapy is when psychotherapy or counselling services are conducted over the internet through a live video call rather than in person. You might also see it referred to as virtual therapy, e-therapy or teletherapy.
How does it work?
In-person therapy is conducted face-to-face and requires the patient to head to a certain location, whereas online therapy sessions can take place anytime and anywhere. All a patient needs is a device with an internet connection, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone, to connect to a therapist or counsellor.
In your online therapy sessions, you’ll work with your therapist in the same way as you would during in-person therapy. You’ll complete your recommended treatment and receive regular feedback to help you overcome your mental health challenges.
Treating acrophobia online
There are various treatment options for people with acrophobia, but can they all be taken online? Let’s find out!
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
It involves helping the patient understand their fear of heights and breaks down the recurring, negative thoughts that appear when they encounter their triggers. During each session, the patient will learn to rebalance their mind and replace irrational thoughts with logical ones. In turn, this should help to reduce their anxiety, sadness and general fear.
Is this available online?
Cognitive behavioural therapy can indeed be completed online and is otherwise known as internet-based CBT, computerised CBT, and virtual CBT.
Depending on the patient’s preferences, there are two types of online CBT: self-guided and therapist-guided.
- Self-guided online CBT does not involve any contact with a therapist. Instead, patients will make their way through online CBT modules and self-help exercises to treat their phobia.
- Therapist-guided online CBT includes everything from the above, in addition to the direct assistance of a therapist through video calls, emails and telephone calls.
Studies have shown that internet-based CBT can be effective in treating and managing various mental health conditions, including phobias (see Kumar et al and Ruwaard et al). As such, it’s certainly an option worth exploring for acrophobes.
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that involves patients gradually getting used to facing their fear of heights.
To reduce a patient’s anxiety and fear in response to their triggers, a therapist will expose them to the object of their fear. They will start with something small, like pictures and videos, before eventually challenging the patient to expose themselves to heights in person.
Is this available online?
Exposure therapy can be completed online and does not differ much from an in-person format. The patient can view pictures and videos of potential triggers through a screen share with the therapist and can be guided through imaginal exposure (picturing heights in their mind) over a video call.
Though the therapist cannot physically be present when a patient exposes themselves to a real-world scenario, they can use virtual reality to simulate the situation or ask the patient to take their device with them so that they can offer their support and guidance.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is a therapy used to help patients process and recover from past traumatic experiences.
During these sessions, the patient will recall a traumatic experience with heights whilst receiving bilateral stimulation—following the therapist’s finger or listening to a tapping noise—to guide them to move their eyes from left to right.
Over time, the patient will be able to think about these experiences without feeling emotionally or physically overwhelmed.
Is this available online?
EMDR can be completed online and follows the same techniques and processes as in-person EMDR. The main difference between the two is how the bilateral stimulation is delivered.
With in-person EMDR, the therapist will guide the patient through their finger movements or tapping noises. However, when EMDR is done online, the therapist may have to use software to make sounds through the patient’s headphones or ask them to make the tapping noise themselves.
Though online EMDR can be effective, focusing on negative and traumatic experiences can be highly upsetting. Some patients may struggle to deal with the side effects all alone and instead may feel more comfortable doing so in the safety of their therapist’s physical presence.
Hypnotherapy, also known as guided hypnosis, is a treatment that uses the power of relaxation techniques and suggestions to encourage patients to think about heights and dissociate from their fear.
During these sessions, the therapist will place the patient into a hypnotic state so they can dissect their thoughts and emotions regarding heights and explore past traumatic experiences.
While under hypnosis, the patient will be much more open to suggestions—allowing them to view their fear from a different perspective and make positive changes in their life.
Is this available online?
Like the rest of the treatment options on our list, hypnotherapy is available online and does not differ much from its in-person iteration.
During online hypnotherapy, the therapist will ask the patient to get comfortable whilst remaining in front of the webcam so they can be guided into a state of relaxation—making them much more responsive to suggestions from the therapist.
The main issue that patients might have with online hypnotherapy is that it lacks the intimacy and comfort that in-person hypnotherapy offers. It may be difficult to immerse yourself in the experience when you’re not in the same room as your therapist or find yourself being brought out of it by distractions in your home.
Online therapy vs in-person therapy
Acrophobia can be treated online, but is this a better option than in-person treatment? To get to the bottom of this, we’ve compiled the pros and cons of online therapy.
One of the biggest advantages of online therapy is that it is incredibly convenient. Instead of taking a couple of hours out of your day to head to your therapist’s office, you can log on to your device at a time, day and location that suits you.
If you’ve got a busy schedule, or you’re never sure what you’ll be doing on any given day, this is far more effective than waiting weeks to fit in an in-person appointment.
If you live in a remote location or can’t travel easily, it can be challenging to attend in-person therapy sessions. Online therapy removes this problem and allows you to get the help you need from wherever you are.
Facing your fears can be an extremely challenging and upsetting experience, which is why some people put it off for so long. When you can do it from the comfort of your own home, however, it can seem much more manageable.
The cost of an online therapy session can often work out cheaper than in-person office rates, and therapists sometimes offer discounts for patients who book multiple sessions at a time.
As you’re not travelling to a separate location, you’re also cutting out the cost of public transportation or petrol for your car.
A foot in the door
Some people find the prospect of in-person therapy intimidating or view it as too much of a commitment. Online therapy is much easier and can convince people who would otherwise not bother to find treatment to give it a try.
If you have a positive experience, it might even give you the push you need to give in-person therapy a go.
Lack of neutrality
Just as some people struggle with working from home in a world where remote working is only increasing, many patients find it difficult to focus on their treatment when at home.
A therapist’s office is the perfect neutral environment for patients looking to understand and overcome their fears. It holds no distractions and is designed to help you focus on the task at hand. You’re also less likely to be interrupted by the people you live with, your pets or the doorbell!
Lack of intimacy
Though some people prefer communicating with their therapists virtually, others can struggle with the extra distance it creates. Video calls can often feel relatively muted and tend to lack the intimacy that face-to-face interactions offer.
Additionally, whilst you and your therapist can gauge each other’s body language and tone through your respective webcams, some subtext can be lost or misinterpreted along the way.
At the mercy of the internet
As anyone who has had the pleasure of taking a virtual group call knows, the internet can be extremely unreliable at the best of times. If you or your therapist is undergoing spotty internet connectivity, it may lead to an unsatisfactory therapy session or a cancellation.
Of course, if you’re able to check your connectivity beforehand, you should be able to reschedule your session for when it’s running more smoothly.
Issue of privacy and security
With in-person therapy, you know that your therapist’s office is a safe and secure place in which you can confidentially share your emotions, thoughts and personal experiences. Online therapy, however, cannot always guarantee the same.
As you’re sharing sensitive information online, hacks and data leaks are a concern. Before picking an online therapist then, you need to check which app they intend to utilise to ensure it is encrypted and secure.
Should I treat my acrophobia online?
If you’re nervous about seeking out treatment for your fear of heights, or you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, online therapy can be a great start. If your phobia is severe, however, or you respond better to face-to-face communication, in-person therapy might be the better option.
Online and in-person therapy both have their merits, so your choice will ultimately depend on the severity of your condition, your personal preferences and your proximity to local therapists.
You might even find that a combination approach is much more effective in treating your fear of heights.
Where to treat acrophobia online
Climb Above Fear offers acrophobes ultimate flexibility when treating their fear of heights. We provide online therapy packages, in-person therapy packages and a combination approach which allows you to reap the benefits of both options.
If you’re interested in getting started today or want to learn more about our courses, book your free 30-minute phone consultation using our contact form.