MARTHA hurries along the hall, keen not to be late for her appointment with her therapist. But she hasn't had any of the usual delays on the way, such as getting stuck in traffic or failing to find a place to park. She's also not bothered by the fact that she lives in Kent and her therapist is in Manchester. In fact, she hasn't actually left her flat. She's just overslept.
Martha is one of the pioneers of a radical new approach to counselling and therapy.
Rather than travelling to an appointment, sitting or lying on a couch and talking to a therapist, both sides stay at home and connect over the internet.
Settling down on her own sofa, Martha has a sip of coffee, curls up, picks up her laptop and logs on to Skype. Her face and that of her therapist both appear. "How are you feeling?" he asks.
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The therapist's consulting room has long been a staple of books and films – a place where unpleasant truths are revealed and neuroses soothed, or a stage for couples to exchange witticisms.
"It's surprising it hasn't happened sooner," says Joanna Bawa, a psychologist working in Herefordshire who studies internet-therapy links.
"There have always been other ways of offering psychological help, such as phone helplines, and Skype has been around for a number of years. But the whole move to the web has only taken off recently."
It could soon be available on the NHS through your GP, thanks to the campaigning of clinical psychologist Nadine Field, who set up PsychologyOnline.co.uk several years ago to speed up access to therapists
"We've now got the evidence to show what we offer is actually more effective than face to face," she says.
The magic of the internet abolishes the constraints of geography.
What's more, by tapping in to global demand, therapists will become really skilled at treating very specific problems such as claustrophobia or obsessive compulsive disorder.
Surprisingly, the site doesn't use anything more sophisticated than a web version of text messaging.
You sign up to the site, give your doctor's details, and then a window comes up where the therapist types a greeting such as, "Hello, what's happening?" and you can hit the keyboard and tell them.
"The fact that you can't see the other person can be very liberating.
"A trial found that people with serious depression were much better after seven or eight sessions. These patients would normally need 15 to 20 face-to-face sessions on the NHS to reach that point," she says.
Unfortunately, that's still in the future. Right now, you can only access PsychologyOnline through your GP if you're in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire or Southampton, although it's hoped Peterborough and Cambridge will sign up soon.
But much speedier delivery and greater specialisation are just a few of the benefits of therapy's move to a new realm.
As well as getting better service, patients could also get more power as therapists will be in the unfamiliar position of having to sell themselves.
But at a relatively new site called Mootu – which Martha now uses – the situation has become closer to internet dating.
Set up by successful entrepreneur John Witney, who made his money with the recruitment website JobServe, Mootu has a database of more than 70 therapists and counsellors who will see you through Skype for between £40 to £60.
Its unique feature is that each therapist sells themselves with a promotional video, so you can flip through to see who you'd feel comfortable with. Then, once you've selected a few – there's a button to store potential ones – you can book a free 15-minute trial to see which one you click with.
What's certain is that its transformation by the web has only just begun.