Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Benefits of Online Counseling
Perhaps you have been telling yourself that you are ready to try counseling, but feel you don't have the extra time or money to spend. For many, these are the two biggest factors preventing people from seeking out professional help and support. One benefit of online counseling is that cuts out the time it takes to dress, commute to and from the appointment, or even arrange for someone to watch the children. Online counseling can also make therapy more accessible to individuals who live in rural areas, travel extensively for work, or reside in areas with a high volume of traffic. For some clients, this could cut out up to an hour or more of time needed just to make it to the appointment. Another benefit of online counseling is that it is often more reasonable than face-to-face counseling sessions. Many therapists offer discounted packages and sliding scale rates.
Online counseling sessions offer a private and confidential method to provide quality treatment within the safety and comfort of one's own home. One can meet with a licensed professional and receive quality care with the benefit of not having to fight traffic or brave bad weather. Seeking out mental health treatment in person may feel like a daunting process as it often involves meeting with several counselors, selecting a counselor, dressing and getting ready, driving to a session, filling out paperwork, opening up emotionally, and then driving back home. In addition, online counseling can be a great option for individuals struggling with high levels of anxiety, social anxiety, severe depression, agoraphobia, chronic pain, severe health issues, disabilities, and other major diagnoses. With online counseling, clients also have the flexibility to choose whether to engage with their therapist via video or phone.
It is a quite common experience that many clients appear to open up and also experience relief of symptoms more quickly while using online counseling services. This may be due to sessions taking place within the safety of one’s home or the physical distance from the therapist. For most clients, there is an unconscious desire to receive approval from the therapist, which can lead to self-censorship, omission of important information, or avoiding talking about important issues. Online therapy can help reduce these barriers to effective therapeutic engagement. Many clients feel a greater sense of freedom to open up and talk about what is most important to them.
Selecting the right therapist is still an important part of starting online counseling. I recommend consulting with at least three therapists before selecting and choosing to move forward with a therapist. Be sure to ask the therapist questions about their background, different modalities employed, and their experience treating your set of symptoms. It’s important that you are aware of your rights as a client and understand that you can terminate therapy at any time. However, if do you feel your therapist is a good match for you, termination is usually a joint decision and openly discussed.
When to Consider Face-to-Face Counseling
There are certain circumstances where online counseling may not be appropriate. This may be your individual choice or the therapist may recommend face-to-face counseling if you have had a recent suicide attempt, severe trauma, an active addiction, or suffer from a severe, persistent mental health diagnosis. In these cases, it may be more appropriate to address issues with a professional in an office setting or you may require a higher level of care, such as inpatient or intensive outpatient services. Other circumstances where face-to-face counseling might be more appropriate are if you are in an abusive relationship, where your technology devices are monitored or recorded or if you don't have access to a room with locked door to ensure your privacy.
Some clients may also feel that they need that be in the same room with the therapist to feel a sense of safety and presence. While this sense of being heard, listened to, and understood can be achieved through online counseling, for some it may not be enough. It's best to know your own limitations and relationship to different technologies. There are certain benefits to working with a therapist face-to-face, such as feeling a strong sense of connection and continuing the tradition of undertaking the journey of counseling in-person.
Regardless of whether you choose online counseling or face-to-face counseling, it is important to select a provider that you feel you can trust and develop a rapport with. It's also important that you choose a provider that is able to treat the set of symptoms that you are seeking help with. However, if you find yourself in a crisis or life-threatening emergency, please contact 911 or Colorado Crisis Services at 844.493.8255 for immediate support.
For more information, please read this review of online therapy sites at Consumer Advocate.