What is it?
Online Counseling (also referred to as telehealth, e-therapy, remote therapy, technology-assisted therapy, internet counseling, etc.) means that counseling services are provided by means of technology – emails, texting, discussion groups, chats, or video conferencing.
Every day, there are more and more companies and websites pop up all over the place that offer those services. Some of us, therapists, are jumping on that bandwagon too.
Why choose online counseling?
Obviously, modern technology and the Internet have changed the world we live in. It has opened up possibilities that never existed before. In the past, important emotional support, guidance and understanding were often difficult to obtain – especially mental health counseling or psychotherapy.
Much research is being done comparing online vs “in person” services. Early statistics have been very positive. They show that online counseling can be as effective as live, in person treatment. Of course, this all depends on the personal connection you establish with your therapist. For some people, the digital connection just doesn’t work. Even though the face-to-face live video usually does support a good, emotional connection between two people, we all know how easily we can misunderstand what someone really means in a digital exchange.
That said, what are some of the benefits of doing counseling online?
Freedom of Choice
You can choose any therapist or counselor you want within your own state. You’re not limited to someone who’s located near you – you and your therapist might be separated by hundreds of miles, or more. With a few other exceptions, you can actually work with a counselor who might be located anywhere in the world!
This is a very important point. For any therapy to be successful you need to find somebody you feel comfortable with. When you do it in person, you are realistically limited to only those therapists who practice near you. Online counseling expands the service area significantly. Whether over the Internet, or in the therapist’s office, both you and your therapist are auditioning each other and see if you have a “good fit.”
I myself worked with a psychotherapist in Russia via Skype, so I know first hand that it works!
You can connect with your therapist in the comfort of your own home. Some people feel more secure and open when they’re in a familiar place. No more driving back and forth to the therapist’s office, you can do it in your pajamas! But this isn’t always true. For some people, the lack of a face-to-face, in-person setting, may actually make them feel more self-conscious, protective and less open to helpful suggestions. In this case, the “digital distance” gets in the way.
Also, some forms of e-therapy don’t require scheduling – you can exchange messages with your therapist any time of the day, asynchronously. No worries about scheduling an appointment at a convenient time for both of you.
And like I mentioned before, no more driving or sitting in traffic. In big cities it’s a big plus.
I once had a client who drove 2 hours to see me.
It’s accessible to those with limited mobility, or people in rural areas where there are no counselors within an acceptable distance. However, more remote areas may lack the Internet connectivity or bandwidth necessary for lively, quality video conversations.
Only you can know whether online counseling will work for you, but realistically you will only know for sure if you give it a try!