Mental health is something that everyone should take seriously, especially in modern society. Everything becomes more busy and stressful. However, if you reach out and find the right therapist, it will be far more helpful to your wellness. However, this can give you a hard time depending on factors such as location and schedule.
Not everyone will live near a quality mental health professional, and even if they do, their schedule may be almost impossible to work around. This is where the convenience of online counseling with a trained crisis worker can be the best option going forward. For successful online counseling, all that is required is an internet connection and a device with a screen for video conferencing. As you will see, there are a lot of benefits to online therapy as opposed to traditional face-to-face sessions. There are minimal drawbacks.
How Does Online Counseling Work?
Online counseling has many names, such as e-therapy, e-counseling, teletherapy, and cyber counseling, but they all mean the same thing: therapy over the internet. The most common way for online counseling to work is for the therapist and client to establish a set time to video chat with each other using a platform such as Zoom.
They would both plug into their computers at a set time and discuss whatever issues for a set amount of time, but there are other options as well. Real-time counseling would be the aforementioned video chatting or phone conversations. This is when the client talks directly to the therapist live. But there are other time-delayed options available, such as crisis text lines, emails or crisis hotlines or helpline. The most prominent of the hotlines is the national suicide prevention lifeline. Typically online counseling is best served via desktop or laptop computers, but there is a growing trend in mobile apps making the cell phone another option. The drawback is the smaller screen size.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
The list of benefits for online therapy can be quite long. When compared to traditional in-person sessions, there are only a few downsides. This is a list of some of the benefits of online counseling:
- Convenience: One of the biggest hassles to therapy is finding the time to make an appointment through your health care provider. Typically a therapist’s office hours will be Monday through Friday during normal work hours. These hours happen to be when a large majority of people work, so scheduling an appointment would most likely mean missing time from work. Additionally, traveling to the office could be quite an annoyance and may take longer than the actual session just to get there. With online counseling, the scheduling is much more flexible. There are even several 24/7 options available! Also, all travel is eliminated, so that will save a considerable amount of time.
- Location: There may be severe limitations on therapists in your area. Anyone living in a rural or remote area may find it quite difficult to find a therapist at all. It would be impractical to drive several hours for therapy once or several times a week but up to this point, there were not many options. Online counseling can bring therapy options to anyone with an internet connection.
- Price: Therapy can get pretty expensive, even with good health insurance or a referral, sometimes but for good reason. The office that the therapist uses costs quite a lot in rent, the utilities can be expensive, and any staff would need to be paid. So for a therapist to be able to maintain all of these bills, they would have to charge their clients more. Online therapy eliminates pretty much all of these expenses, and the savings are typically passed on to the clients.
- Accessibility: When considering a potential therapist, you really only have the options in your local area. Anything outside of a 30 to 45 minute drive time would be hard to justify, so you end up stuck with whoever is nearby. With online counseling, the options are pretty much endless. Mental Illness specialists of all kinds are available, so you won’t have to settle for someone. This means you really can choose exactly who you want. Someone in another state or even country would normally never be a realistic option, but with online counseling, it is.
- Comfort: Entering a foreign space can be quite intimidating and raise anxiety levels. It’s why the saying goes that “there’s no place like home.” Going to a therapist’s office can put anyone on their guard, and this is a place where they should be open and vulnerable. Being able to talk with a therapist from the comfort and safety of your own private residence can greatly help with the emotional support you feel, and can relax and calm you while also helping you to open up.
- Consistency: Seeing a therapist routinely will greatly affect the results and quickly bolster your coping skills. But with traditional therapy, there are so many things that could happen to throw off the appointment. Weather, sickness, or car trouble are a few examples that could cause cancellation or delay. By operating online, almost all issues that could affect consistency are removed. Short of a power outage or internet connection issues there would hardly be reasons to cancel, and even if there were rescheduling would be much easier to achieve online.
- Stigma: Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma around therapy in society. Although opinions are changing on the topic and therapy is becoming more accepted, there are still people who would prefer not to have anyone know they are in therapy. Having online sessions removes any concerns as the counseling would happen exclusively online and from the privacy of your own home.
- Flexibility: Traditional therapy sessions could never possibly offer 24/7 support, but online therapy can. Having the ability to contact your therapist whenever an issue may arise, even through text message or e-mail, can go a long way to comforting anyone struggling with mental health.
- Safety: Thanks to the worldwide pandemic of COVID 19, in-person therapy has become even harder to schedule. If you are successful, then there is the potential danger of contracting or spreading COVID-19 as well. Online counseling removes all potential issues that could arise from COVID-19, making it the much safer option of the two.
Potential Drawbacks for Online Counseling
As with everything in life, there are always potential downsides for something. Online counseling clearly has a lot of benefits, but there are a few issues that should be shared. Some of them would include:
- Insurance: Therapy, in general, is woefully underfunded by most insurance companies, especially online options. It’s worth checking into exactly what, if any, options are covered by your insurance before signing up for any sessions.
- Distractions: Part of the joys of online therapy is being home, but it can also bring issues. Pets, children, family members or guests can make sessions hard to maintain.
- Lack of intimacy: Losing the ability to speak to someone face to face could result in a lack of intimacy for some online users and therefore make it harder to open up and be honest.
- Body language: Part of a therapist’s job is to be able to read their client, and one of the ways they do so is through body language. By losing in-person visits, it may become harder for them to read their clients and their subtle cues. How would a therapist know their client is nervously tapping their foot if they can only see their face?
- Technological issues: Internet connectivity could cause issues with online therapy, but there are also privacy concerns. Information being transmitted online brings about the real possibility of privacy leaks and hacks.
How Effective Is Online Counseling?
One of the misconceptions about online counseling is that it is not as effective as in-person therapy sessions. However, educators have studied this and it has shown that online therapy can be just as effective as traditional therapy, and there is no noticeable difference in outcomes between the two in terms of emotional health.
In fact, for people that find attending face-to-face support groups or therapy sessions uncomfortable, having an online option is a great option for them to seek help and be more comfortable saying “I need help.” Online therapy also has the added benefit of reaching more people. A therapist can see many more patients online as opposed to in real life, and the convenience of online therapy has resulted in more people seeking counseling. Therapy will only be effective if someone attends the sessions, so the more people attending therapy, the more effective it will be!
Online counseling can be a wonderful tool for anyone seeking to improve their mental health or that is having suicidal thoughts The benefits far outweigh the potential drawbacks and should make online counseling the first choice for anyone having thoughts of self-harm.
Seeking help for improving emotional and mental health is a very big step and should be applauded. However, for some people, the journey ends here for various reasons. If you any of your loved ones struggle with these thoughts, it could be a great suggestion.
Scheduling, travel, lack of options, and stigma are all common reasons why people give up their search. With online counseling, it has never been easier to get quality expert therapy from licensed professionals. So much of modern-day life revolves around the internet, so why shouldn’t therapy?