Connecting virtually with colleagues, friends, and loved ones is easier now more than ever. When so much of our personal and professional lives are happening online, it’s clear why online counseling has become a staple in the mental health community.
Even though online counseling is widespread and is now considered standard practice, some may still feel wary about participating in therapy through this realm. However, learning more about how it works and the benefits of online counseling can shed light on this practice and help you decide if it’s right for you.
In this article, you’ll find:
- Definition of online counseling
- How online counseling works
- How to choose an online counselor
- Benefits of online counseling
What is online counseling?
Online counseling is the process of connecting with a licensed therapist through a protected and private online platform. Some therapists conduct online counseling through standard video conference programs, such as Zoom or Facetime, while others work with other video software systems. Online counseling formulas typically follow the same guidelines as in-person therapy, such as engaging in a 50-60 minute weekly session. The one key difference is you’re meeting with a counselor virtually instead of in an office. Everyone participating in online therapy needs to have a device that connects to the internet, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
How does online counseling work?
When you choose an online counselor, they’ll explain their specific online counseling process. The online counseling instructions will vary from therapist to therapist, but it’s a similar procedure overall. You’ll learn about their chosen platform, its privacy settings, and how it all works. Even those who don’t consider themselves technically savvy can still participate in online counseling because of its ease of connectivity. You and your online counselor will discuss a set time for your sessions and how many times a week your sessions will take place.
In most cases, you’ll receive a link that leads you straight to your online counseling sessions. All you have to do is follow these instructions, and you’ll be immediately connected with your therapist online. You may also be able to communicate with your therapist through email, text messages, private chat, and other channels. Your counselor will discuss their protocols with mental health emergencies and how you can reach them at off-hours.
What do you need to know before choosing an online counselor?
There are a few key things to consider before choosing an online counselor that’s right for you. At your initial consultation, you’ll want to assess their personality, experience, communication style, ethical standings, and other typical criteria for any therapist –regardless of whether it’s online or in-person. However, there are specific factors to consider before choosing to do therapy online and choosing an online therapist.
The most critical things you should check before beginning online counseling sessions are:
- Is the online counselor licensed? If so, are they licensed in your state? Telehealth rules can be tricky in a virtual setting. It’s highly recommended to work with a licensed online therapist in the state where you live to avoid any issues.
- Do they take your insurance?
- How much will the sessions cost?
- Do you have to pay for access to their online program?
- Is their online counseling program easy to use?
- What is the protocol if there are issues with WIFI or other technical problems in a session?
By asking these questions, you can learn more about the online counseling realm, your new therapist, if online counseling meets your budget, and how the sessions are typically conducted.
What are the benefits of online counseling?
Now that you have a better idea of what online counseling is, how it works, and the best way to choose a therapist, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of online counseling. Patients who choose to do therapy online frequently experience the following advantages:
Accessibility is a significant advantage of online counseling. For many patients, finding a therapist’s office in their town can be one of the biggest obstacles. For instance, those who live in rural areas may have to drive many miles to see a mental health professional. With online counseling, people who have never had access to therapy before can now seek the help they need.
For those who wake up each day with a long list of tasks and responsibilities, the thought of going to a wellness center or counselor’s office for therapy can be stressful. For people who are single parents, work full-time, or have busy school schedules with extracurricular activities, online counseling has become a game-changer. Cutting out the time it takes to drive to a therapist’s office makes getting help that much easier. Many patients express that convenience is a primary factor for why they choose online counseling.
The foundation of therapy is getting personal, sharing vulnerable experiences, and discussing private thoughts and emotions. Diving deep into these personal issues can be a scary process for many people, especially when sessions take place in an unfamiliar place. Being able to share your most intimate experiences and feelings with a therapist in the comfort of your own home or office can ease some of the anxiety and tension.
Less Social Exposure
Participating in therapy is a highly personal experience. While many people are open and honest about seeking therapy, others prefer to keep their treatment private –and each choice is entirely valid. However, much of this fear of exposing our mental health challenges come from outdated cultural views, where mental health struggles are viewed as a weakness.
Thankfully, society has begun to normalize caring for our mental health, just like we care for our physical health. Nonetheless, one of the advantages of online counseling is that there’s no social exposure. You won’t be seen walking into a mental health clinic by neighbors or co-workers. If you choose to do so, you can keep your treatment completely private with online counseling.
A wide range of patients seeking therapy are dealing with domestic violence or other life-threatening situations. A key advantage of online counseling is that it’s completely secure. Patients can receive treatment without having to leave the protection of shelters or undisclosed locations.
More Openness and Honesty
Many patients feel disinhibited with online counseling. They tend to express more emotions, share more thoughts, and let their guard down in this realm. Meeting with a therapist face-to-face can make some feel more vulnerable, making it more challenging to be authentic. Don’t forget that being open, honest, and showing our true selves is an essential part of therapy. Online counseling can benefit those who feel uncomfortable in traditional therapy settings.
Utilizes Various Communication Methods
Many online counselors utilize various forms of virtual communication, such as emails, chats, and text messages. Opening up the counseling process to these other channels of communication can provide an all-encompassing experience of therapy. If you’re facing a challenge at work and you can’t wait until your next face-to-face session for support, it’s comforting to know that you can reach out for help through a text message or email. In addition, many patients find it easier to express themselves through the written word. They have more time to process questions and answers and feel more productive with these other formats.
While payment plans, insurance coverage, and hourly costs will vary from counselor to counselor, online counseling tends to be more affordable than in-person counseling. Avoiding traveling costs to and from therapy sessions can also help patients save on the overall price of their therapy.
Online counseling is a form of therapy that allows patients and counselors to communicate through a virtual realm rather than in person. If you’re interested in online counseling, it’s important to consider a few key factors when choosing a therapist. For instance, you want to make sure that they’re licensed to practice online therapy in your state and if they’re covered under your insurance.
Online therapy has become more and more popular for many reasons. Countless patients choose online counseling because it’s a more convenient way to get the help they need. Online counseling programs are often secure, accessible, and can offer more privacy. Finally, in the online counseling setting, many patients feel less inhibited and more open to sharing because they’re in the comfort of their own homes or offices. With the help of communication technology and the willingness of counselors and therapists to offer service in this format, online counseling is now standard practice around the globe.