Frequently Asked Questions about the Online Psychological Care

What is the difference between psychological therapy and coaching?

Psychological therapy is aimed at solving psychological problems and treating mental disorders. The professional who performs these tasks of diagnosis, prevention and psychological treatment must be registered and qualified to be a mental health professional, as in the case of Spain, is the figure of the General Health Psychologist.

Typical cases for a psychologist are related to the loss of a loved one, breakup of a relationship, work stress, anxiety disorders, obsessions, depression, addictions, emotional dependence, etc.

Coaching, unlike psychotherapy, focuses exclusively on achieving personal or professional goals, without applying any treatment associated with mental illness. Therefore, the coach does not need to be a psychologist or a health professional. However, the coach must have specific skills to accompany his client (coachee) in the process of personal change and decision-making.

The coach does not give advice, but rather establishes an optimal mental context so that his client can discover his own resources, make his own decisions and achieve his goals.

Typical cases in coaching have to do with professional challenges, seeking a new job or professional change, personal, family and work conciliation, communication problems at work, team management, leadership, etc.

A psychiatrist is a specialist medical doctor who is responsible for diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, mainly from a physiological perspective, which is why he/she relies heavily on the use of drugs, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics and antipsychotics. Medical intervention through drugs aims to correct a biochemical imbalance in the patient’s brain, but without forgetting the psychological variables that also play a fundamental role.

There are a number of mental illnesses whose treatment usually requires the intervention of a psychiatrist and the use of drugs, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or serious eating disorders. This type of diseases may also require periods of hospitalization.

The health psychologist also focuses his work on mental health, but usually does not do so in a hospital setting (unlike the clinical psychologist) and, although he has knowledge of psychopharmacology due to his training, in Spain he cannot prescribe any medication.

The job of the health psychologist is to diagnose, evaluate and treat psychological problems. In order to do this, he/she uses therapeutic tools for the management and adaptation of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Through multiple techniques and tools, the psychologist trains his client to modify dysfunctional behaviors, thoughts or emotions that are generating suffering.

As mental problems usually have a psychobiosocial explanation (that is, they have causes that involve the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors), it is common for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, educators and other socio-health professionals to have to work as a team for the integral treatment of some cases.

What education and training should a psychotherapist have?

In Spain there are currently three professional figures who can legally practice psychology as a health profession (health care related to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases). These are licensed psychologists (who were already practicing the profession before 2011 and meet training and experience requirements), clinical psychologists (who have passed the PIR – Internal Resident Psychologist) and general health psychologists (who have passed an official licensure master’s degree). Clinical psychologists usually work in hospitals or the public health system, while the other professionals usually run a private practice in healthcare centers (authorized by the corresponding autonomous community).

Receiving an alleged psychotherapy by a person who does not meet these requirements endangers your health and does not guarantee the proper use of techniques based on scientific evidence. In the course of psychological therapy, the therapist needs to know how to properly handle and deal with a multitude of complex situations, such as the bereavement of a loved one, suicidal ideation, a panic attack or post-traumatic stress. For this, the psychologist has a solid scientific base on the functioning and intervention in mental processes, including emotions, cognition and behavior.

To provide a high quality and safe psychological care, it is not enough to have good intentions, be an empathetic person, have read a few books on emotional intelligence and have taken a 300 or 600 hour course. The training and practical preparation of a health psychologist usually takes more than 10,000 hours and many years, including 4 years of the psychology degree, 2 years of the licensure master’s degree or 4 years of residency, additional postgraduate training specialized in different disorders, countless hours of professional practice in different healthcare centers and professional supervision, in addition to adhering to the deontological code of the official psychological association.

Is online psychological therapy effective?

Online psychological therapy, or telepsychology, is effective as long as it is conducted by an accredited professional in psychology and the appropriate techniques are applied in each case.

To obtain results, equivalent to those obtained in the face-to-face modality, it is necessary to carry out sessions in real time using a videoconference system, which allows fluent communication and the good establishment of the therapeutic rapport.

The online therapy based on videoconference has different characteristics compared with face-to-face sessions, including, inevitably, advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that there may be a decrease in verbal and non-verbal communication, which requires that the psychotherapist have specific skills handling the technological environment. The main advantages are the convenience of being able to access from home, the greater accessibility independent of the location and mobility of the client, lower cost and greater privacy.

Does online therapy work for any disorder?

No. Online therapy is not recommended to treat psychiatric psychopathology or serious disorders. However, it can be totally effective for psychological problems related to stress, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, phobias, psychosomatic disorders, relationships, etc.

For the treatment of serious disorders, such as substance abuse and serious eating disorders, we recommend asking for help to specialized treatment centers.

Is online therapy safe? How is privacy and confidentiality protected?

The use of digital communication technologies and public networks such as the Internet involves information security risks. To ensure total confidentiality of sessions and client privacy, at Psicobótica we use a professional videoconferencing platform specially designed for online psychotherapy and approved by the Official Psychological Association of Madrid. This platform applies an end-to-end cryptographic system that ensures the security and privacy of the sessions.

We discourage the use of free video conferencing systems such as Skype, Whatsapp, Hangout, Zoom, etc. since they do not provide sufficient security standards for this type of communication.

How long do the sessions last?

Psychotherapy sessions normally last about 50 minutes. However, in specific situations, the duration could be slightly shorter or longer. It is important to maintain a stable schedule, but it is also relevant that each session can be closed properly. For this, the therapist is in charge of managing the rhythm of the sessions and the client does not have to worry about controlling the time.

In the case of coaching sessions, the duration can be very variable. Our proposal is to do 90-minute sessions, since the emotional intensity is much lower than in psychotherapy and the frequency of the sessions is also lower.

How often do sessions take place?

The recommended frequency to obtain the best results in psychological therapy is weekly. By holding one session per week, the client has time to implement the changes agreed during the last session. Also, a week is not too long a time for the emotional effects and the memory of the work done to fade from one session to the next.

Although the weekly frequency is the most recommended during a psychological treatment, it is possible to adjust the therapy to other options, such as having two sessions per week or one session every two weeks. This type of frequency change in the sessions is made according to the specific needs of each case, prior agreement with the client.

In the case of coaching processes, the frequency of the sessions is much more variable, with appointments being established every two or three weeks. Coaching is aimed at achieving objectives and implementing specific changes, so it is usually necessary to leave enough time between sessions for the client (coachee) to make these changes.

What happens between one session and the next?

In the period between one session and the next, many things can happen and sometimes you may need to contact your therapist or coach. A messaging system is available to you through the online platform, so you can contact us at any time. In addition, you can use the email of your psychologist or coach to contact him when you need it.

Depending on each case, we will assess together if there is a need to carry out an extra session, advance the next appointment or take any other measure regarding the therapeutic or coaching process.

How long does the whole process take?

The psychological therapy processes have a highly variable duration, which depends on multiple factors, such as the severity of the existing problems, the therapeutic goals, psychosocial environment, etc. In general, two or three sessions are usually used at the beginning of the process to carry out a detailed evaluation of each case and establish the goals of therapy. Subsequently, the treatment phase focuses on implementing changes in the direction of achieving psychological well-being. Once the changes have been made, we propose a consolidation and maintenance phase where sessions can be carried out less frequently.

In situations where the scope of the problem is limited, well identified and the sessiones develop at a good pace, the process can be completed in less than three or four months. You can also agree to carry out a brief strategic therapy process, which has a maximum duration of 20 sessions. However, it is also usual that, as part of a process of personal growth, additional therapeutic objectives are established, or that specific situations have to be solved before the therapeutic objectives are approached in depth, so that the therapy can be divided into different periods, that can last several months and even years, since they can be interspersed with seasons in which there is no need to go to therapy.

In the case of coaching, a maximum duration of the process is usually set between 10 and 15 sessions, having achieved the objectives at the end of this period. It is also possible that after a coaching process, in which the initial objectives were achieved, a new process with different objectives is subsequently proposed.

What are the technical requirements for online sessions?

The video conferencing platform we use for sessions works on any device without the need to install any program. You only need to access, through the Internet browser, the online therapy platform and enter the username and password that we will send you in advance.

To ensure good image and audio quality, you must have a broadband Internet connection, like your home WiFi connection or access through a mobile device with a 3G or better network.

You can use a mobile (Android and iOS), a tablet, a laptop or a desktop computer. You simply need to give permission for the internet browser to use the device’s camera and microphone.

We recommend using headphones to enjoy better audio quality and greater privacy.

Do you need any technical knowledge?

No specific technical knowledge is needed to conduct the sessions online, you just need to properly configure the camera, headphones and microphone to be used on the device.

During the first session we will help you to make the necessary adjustments to ensure the good quality of communication.

From where can I connect to the session?

The benefit of online sessions is that they can be done from the comfort and privacy of your home, without having to go to a consultation. Any place with a good internet connection, quiet and no noise or distractions is suitable.

If we share the space with other people, it is important that we notify them before each session so that they respect our privacy and make sure there are no interruptions or disturbances.

How much do online sessions cost? How are they paid?

One of the advantages of online psychology is that online sessions are cheaper than face-to-face sessions. You can check the prices of the sessions online in the pricing section. The first session is free and involves no obligation to contract the service.

The sessions are paid in advance, by bank transfer or other accepted methods. You can choose to pay each session independently or to buy a 5 or 10 session pack, for a lower price per session.

What do I do if I cannot afford the sessions?

Investing in our own psychological health and well-being is always a good investment, one that provides us with many short and long-term benefits. However, the situation may arise that, for various reasons, you cannot afford the cost of having a private psychologist or coach. In such a case, you can explore other alternatives.

The public health service offers the specialty of mental health, with professionals from psychiatry and psychology, however, due to the lack of resources, it is likely that you do not have access to the optimal frequency and duration of sessions for effective treatment.

Due to the problem of poor psychological coverage offered by public health services, there are alternative services, managed by different organizations, for people who do not have the necessary resources to access a private psychologist. To access these low-cost psychological care services, you must provide the necessary official documentation that justifies a vulnerable socioeconomic situation.

Some of the centers that offer psychological therapy at a reduced cost are: