• Dr Emily Barney

Does online therapy really work? Our experience of going online during lockdown

As the owner of a new community Mental health service in Stourbridge, West Midlands called Gravy Banana I have noticed that since the Prime Minister made his speech on the 10th May about his conditional plan to re-open society, we have received a dramatic increase in the amount of people contacting our service seeking professional help with their mental health.

Why is this?

Is this because the nation is collectively starting to prepare itself for coming out of “crisis management” mode and therefore people now have the "mind space” to think about addressing their mental health, and such a space was simply not available whilst trying to just “get through” the crisis of lockdown? Or, maybe, for some people is it because, as far from ideal as lockdown was, it felt reasonably safe, and now talks of coming out of it are making people feel very anxious about what’s next. We have also found that a lot of people making contact with us have been coping with a problem for a long time but have found that the stress of Coronavirus has made symptoms worse.

With the above in mind, we felt it was timely to write a short blog about online therapy to educate anyone who feels that they would like professional help with their mental health now and to give some clarity over what to expect and for who it can be particularly helpful. As social distancing will continue for some time, it is likely that the majority of mental health therapy we deliver at Gravy Banana will continue online for a little while longer so we wanted to give more information about it.

Like many businesses, over the last two months we moved all our services online, (we were one of the lucky ones who could do this). This has given us the opportunity to see first hand the benefits of online therapy and learn more about how helpful it can be to improving access to therapy for people who otherwise would not be able to access it. To elaborate, for a lot of people, significant barriers must be overcome just to get to that first appointment (which for most people is the hardest part) and there are some mental health symptoms and conditions that actually make it very difficult to go to new places and have close contact with other people, and therefore, online therapy can be so helpful, particularly for the following conditions/symptoms or scenarios:

  • A condition called agoraphobia. This can actually keep someone from leaving their house completely

  • Severe obsessions or compulsions, such as a a fixation of germs or persistent thoughts of doing harm to others. This makes it very difficult to leave the house

  • Severe phobias of something encountered outside such as dogs, birds or cars

  • Severe panic attacks, particularly if someone hasn’t identified the trigger or find that they are brought on by crowded places

  • Social anxiety, if this is severe enough can make in person face to face interacting unbearable, even to consider

  • Certain physical conditions or mobility issues that make it difficult to leave the house

  • Having young children or dependents and no-one to look after them

  • Having no mode of transport to get to physical location

  • Being out of area

  • Not enough time to travel to appointment

We can see then the huge benefits of online therapy for people who are experiencing the above symptoms or situations. A few of my clients have actually said that they would not have accessed therapy if there wasn’t an online option and some of our clients when starting out are actually too anxious initially even for their faces to be seen and need to have to work up to this slowly.

Another great benefit that we have realised, we have mentioned briefly above is that you do not have to be local to the area to access the service. Gravy Banana now has clients from all over the Country and also in different parts of the world, getting the help they want when they want it.

Now, we are very aware that online therapy doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people will just prefer connecting to someone in person and having the experience of “going for therapy.” In the same way some of us prefer to “go to work” of we prefer to read a book instead of a kindle, or the same way some people prefer to go shopping and try on clothes instead of ordering online, its personal preference and as a service we want to be able to provide choice for our clients. However, regardless of preference, most of our clients who prefer meeting in person have said that they consider it a preferable option to have online therapy than to have no therapy at all and are very happy for it to be a short term plan, especially when they see that the outcome is actually the same, i.e. they get better, their symptoms reduce, it is just a different process.

What is our therapy and how is it done online?

At Gravy Banana we provide a very modern form of therapy based on the most up to date research of how the brain works called Solution Focussed Hypnotherapy. This therapy is very effective for treating symptoms of common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD/trauma, panic, phobias and more. Please visit our website for more information about our therapy.

Each session is structured the same. It will last up to 1 hour and the first half of a session is a particular set of exercises designed to get you using and strengthening positive neural pathways and increasing the brains production of serotonin. All of this can be done online very easily and effectively.

The second half of each session is hypnotherapy. During hypnotherapy you listen to music designed to slow your brain waves down so that you enter in and out of a trance like state (there is more information available on our website about the neuropsychology of the trance state and why it is so important to mental health).

But very quickly, some important points about trance and hypnotherapy.. trance is a very natural state and you are in complete control the whole time. During trance the brain is working very hard to process negative emotion that is stuck in the central nervous system. Hypnotherapy is also very relaxing, it quietens an overactive amygdala - the amygdala is the brains alarm bell for detecting threat and is oversensitive when we are stressed, it gives us this feeling of constantly being "on guard" and it talks to the hypothalamus which is responsible for the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause problems for us in the long - term. The therapist reads a variety of "language patterns" to you over the music, and as you go into a deeper relaxed state your subconscious mind takes over and focuses on the words that are spoken that it needs to hear, all of which have been written specifically to increase confidence and positive thinking in the person listening to it.

All of this is very easy to do online and very effective.

For anyone who is reading this and they feel they want to make a change and get help, we hope that this has provided some reassurance. It is very easy to access online therapy with us, all you need to do is contact us through our website, email us at or contact us through our facebook or instagram accounts @gravybanana to book a free initial consultation where we can talk you through exactly what to expect. All you need is a room in your house where you know you won't be disturbed for an hour, ideally somewhere where you can lie down, either a sofa or a bed and a phone, tablet or laptop/computer.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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