The idea of going to an office and sharing their concerns with a therapist face to face scares many people. They might have been feeling anxious and a bit off for months now, but they never have the nerves to call for an appointment to begin with! They try talking to a friend or a family member, but sometimes when the stress level is too high and the pressures are piling up, you know your mind and body needs professional help. This is exactly the reason why online counseling has become very popular nowadays. “Counseling can help you dive into some of these issues and determine what is at the root of the constant conflict.” Susan Block, LMFT said.
The emergence of finding help online has been making its way to changing the conventional methods of trying to help people solve their life problems. Such sensitive issues as depression, anxiety disorders, and different types of addiction are now being tackled by certified therapists helping people with addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders through a one-on-one live counseling from the comfort of their homes, or wherever they may feel safe, for that matter. There are two major services offered online: assessment and therapy. The former utilizes self-scored quizzes, evaluations, and examinations, and the latter involves the actual therapy session in a chat room. But remember “therapy is a lot of work and this is important to keep in mind before starting. It’s imperative to understand this so that you can set realistic expectations for yourself.” Nathaniel Cilley, LMHC explains.
Still, there have been arguments about its efficacy and its long-term outcomes. Is online counseling really beneficial to you? Is it right for everyone? Let us delve into the strengths and weaknesses of online therapy and find out if it’s something you might want to try.
Strengths of online counseling
Ease and comfort. Much of the reason for not going into therapy is the discomfort of having to talk to someone face to face. For those with anxiety disorders who have a fear of getting close to someone, for instance, remote therapy would be beneficial to them. It allows them to do the therapy at their own pace because they get to decide when they can begin. They would love the idea of taking tests in their room, relaxes their nerves. They can schedule the therapy at their own time. That is a plus.
Affordability. Finding help remotely proves to be cheaper compared to doing therapy session in an office setting. The therapist’s fee is more affordable. Additionally, it saves one from time and money spent traveling, even for the therapist. And no parking fees, right?
Access. All you need is an internet connection and lo and behold, your road to recovery begins! This is great news for those living in the rural areas or in a location where there is no access to a nearby clinic. When you need to go out and buy groceries or pick up your kid, you can schedule your session at a later time, no problem.
Online Support Groups. Just what you need! You don’t have to be afraid of being judged or ridiculed. Chat groups provide a safe and wonderful way to get different ideas and opinions from all over the world – free of charge. It also makes a great practice ground for making new friends and expressing your honest viewpoint on things.
A few things to consider
There are just some concerns to think about before deciding to seek help online. First thing first. Your ability to type and write. It’s not much of a drawback, though, but perhaps when you have more experience doing things online, chat and therapy sessions are faster and smoother. Time zones are also something to consider. Although finding a therapist online may be easy and convenient, your chosen therapist may not be staying in the same country, so you’ll have to adjust to his or her time zone. If you like staying up late or talking in the wee hours, that would not be a drawback.
On the other hand, too much privacy may be a little difficult for the therapist to give an exact diagnosis of the individual’s problem. Assessments and evaluations involve observing posture, mannerism, and body language. There is also less emotional connection in online counseling, knowing that no one is physically there to give you a pat on the shoulder or a smile to comfort you. Nevertheless, one may find solace from someone with a good ear and a warm voice.
Finally, some cases may not be remedied by reason, such as the need for an official diagnosis to acquire health insurance benefits. Your therapist has an obligation to the insurance company, and to you, of course, to come up with a formal diagnosis. A face to face therapy is also essential when you need your therapist’s notes as evidence in court.
Virtual vs traditional
There is indeed overwhelming proof that online therapy is effective. Some studies have shown it to be more beneficial than traditional counseling. But while the success of virtual therapy is significantly growing, some people still prefer the older version – the face to face therapy with all the traveling and appointment making. What’s great is that you have a choice, and whether you prefer the traditional or the virtual way, you just have to take the first step. Now nothing’s stopping you from getting the help you need. “Counseling is an empowering process in which people take responsibility for and control over their lives.” says Brittany N. Murphy, PHD, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH.