People look to the internet these days for pretty much everything, from online banking to paying bills, purchasing clothing and food, renewing their driver’s license, scheduling an appointment for professional services, you name it and you can pretty much do it online. Have you ever considered accessing an online counseling service? While online therapy has been around since the early 80’s it is gaining more and more popularity in today’s society.
ONLINE THERAPY? AN ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION TO ACCESSING COUNSELING SUPPORTS
Online therapy is form of therapy that is done via instant messaging, videoconference, live chat rooms, telephone, or through email. It’s known as e-therapy, teletherapy, distance therapy or cyber therapy and can be accessed by anyone looking to seek out counseling supports to increase their well being.
Mental health has become an epidemic in today’s society and with more and more people having trouble accessing the services they need they often go untreated.
FACT: There are a lack of mental health service providers and more and more people are turning to the internet to access counseling supports they require and there are positive results documented by people accessing these supports. This is great news for those individuals who are struggling and may need services sooner rather than later
ONLINE THERAPY; NOT FOR EVERYONE
It should be noted that online therapy isn’t recommended for all types of mental health illness’s, if you have been diagnosed with a chronic mental health illness, such as chronic depressions or psychosis you should talk to a medical professional to obtain advice as to whether you could benefit from online counseling. It’s important to do your own research and in some instances face-to-face meetings with a therapist is most beneficial. If you are in a crisis situation you should contact your local emergency centre or mental health crisis line.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORIAL THERAPY; PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
The most common form of online therapy today is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of talk therapy is used to help patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence their behavior and is used to treat mild depression, phobias, panic disorder, anxiety and addictions to name a few disorders.
There is research that shows accessing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy online can be just as beneficial as a face-to-face appointment with a therapist. Most of these studies however have been done on actual patients who have accessed online counseling themselves and there continues to be more data research completed to substantiate the benefits or disadvantages of accessing therapy online so for now you will have to be the best judge of character in terms of whether this may be an option for you explore.
ADVANTAGES TO ACCESSING ONLINE COUNSELING
- Services can be provided to people who live in a rural area who may not have access to mental health services in their community
- Those who have physical limitations and are unable to leave their home are able to access services in their home
- It’s convenient- appointments can be held in the comfort of the individual’s home without traveling
- Some may find it more comfortable communicating online vs face-to-face. They may be able to express their feelings more openly in writing rather than verbally
- Online therapy is often cheaper than in office appointments
- More accessibility with the therapist (e.g. text messaging or email)
- Takes away the stigma of in-office appointments – some people would prefer not to be seen going into or sitting in a wait room for therapy
- It can be used as an educational tool and be utilized even if you have a strong well being and want to work on maintaining it. It allows you to understand your behaviors and strategize to find the best coping techniques that will lead to your overall psychological well being
DISADVANTAGES OF ACCESSING ONLINE SUPPORTS
Well there are may advantages to online counseling, there as just as many disadvantages and it will be up to each person individually to weigh them out to determine if online counseling is right for you
- Many insurance companies will not pay for e-therapy – check with your insurance provider before accessing supports
- Online therapists cannot assist in crisis situations – therapists can be in an entirely different state and won’t have access to the client’s information as the client can remain anonymous
- E-therapy is not for individuals who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness or experiencing complicated issues, online sessions are intended for less serious issues
- It is difficult for a therapist to read a person’s behaviour or feelings without getting a visual on the patient’s body language, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, posture if the therapist is unable to see the patient during their session
- It’s difficult for patients to get a clear sense of their therapist’s credibility – therapists need to have acquired certain credentials to provide CBT online services (which in most cases includes a degree in a subject related to health or social care followed by a postgraduate degree in CBT, this may differ however depending on where you live in the world)
- Therapists can treat people from anywhere in the world online making it difficult to enforce legal and ethical codes. Understand your therapist’s qualifications and experience before you start
- With confidential information being exchanged online through technology, it adds a layer of complexity to securing confidentiality and people have to become more aware of leaks or hacks within the system.
CONSIDERING E-THERAPY? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you’re considering e-therapy there are some things that you should know before accessing services online
- Verify your therapist’s credentials and licensing number, where they’re located and their contact information (legitimate therapists will always give you this information).
- If you have medical insurance coverage, you’re going to want to check with your insurance provider to determine if e-therapy is covered
- You must be comfortable expressing yourself through writing if email is the method of communication, you may want to request a video conference if you are not comfortable with writing
- You must be willing to communicate your thoughts and feelings to the therapist, otherwise it’s difficult for the therapist to help you as there are no visible cues that are often relied upon in counseling sessions – you won’t be getting the help you need if you don’t communicate this (and you’ll be wasting your money)
- Ensure your therapists follows the code of ethics (which should be outlined on their website)
- Get a personal response from the therapist and know the cost of the therapy. It usually is less expensive than in office appointments but you want to know exactly how much you’ll be paying as well as payment method
- Ensure your privacy is protected. Make sure your email is secure, never email from work as the employer can read your emails. For extra privacy use secure web pages and encrypted e-mail
There are many advantages and disadvantages to accessing online counseling. You may need to consult your medical professional to determine if it’s the right course of treatment for you
If you are experiencing a crisis situation call your local emergency services or mental health crisis line.
E-THERAPY, CYBER THERAPY, DISTANCE THERAPY OR TELETHERAPY
No matter what you’re calling it or know it as, online counseling is becoming more and more popular among today’s society. It’s therapy for how we live today. It’s convenient, economical and has been shown to have many benefits. It’s important to be mindful of the disadvantages and make an informed decision about what the right treatment plan is for you, which may include some consultation from your medical professional.
Leave me a comment and let me know how you feel about e-therapy and if it would be something you’d consider.