There are times in life when we want to speak anonymously with someone about things that are important to us. Technology and the internet have enabled anyone that wants to have an online chat session with a stranger to be able to do so with the click of a button. For those with particular needs and concerns, chatting with a licensed professional could be an even better decision. Below we'll discuss some of the different kinds of options available for this type of online communication.
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Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Chat has become increasingly prevalent since the internet emerged in the early 1980s. Initially, using AOL messenger (frequently referred to as AIM) in the 1990s, people used instant messenger to have conversations with other users via text. This basic chat platform was a place people used to talk to and develop relationships with their peers. Now, millions of people use chat globally as a convenient online form of communication.
More recently, chat has served another function when it comes to mental health support, providing people with psychological relief and a place to express their feelings. In fact, one of the reasons why online therapy is successful is in part because of this chat option. When a person interacts with a mental health professional using online chat, they can communicate their emotions at a time that’s most convenient for them and, once the feedback arrives, read the response on their schedule.
Chat As Social Support
Chatrooms may be built around a variety of topics, such as grief or living with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or even a hobby like painting. By simply creating a dedicated space for a particular topic, a person might be reassured by the presence of other users who are there for the same or similar reasons that they are.
The relatively low social pressure of a faceless chat can be especially helpful for someone who is living with a mental illness or facing transitional life issues. Perhaps a person is getting divorced and does not want to talk to their friends about it because they sense that repeatedly discussing the topic is putting a strain on their friendships. Locating a chatroom where other people are also separating from their spouses creates a space in which to correspond with people who will understand what that person might be going through and offer firsthand advice or comfort. It can be difficult to reach out for support for such topics as divorce and mental illness, and chatrooms can provide comfort in a nonjudgmental virtual environment.
In the right environment, developing online friendships is appropriate and can be helpful. But like any relationship in life, it is important to remain vigilant as one reveals information about their personal life. Online chatrooms are no different. Do not use any identifying information when chatting with strangers online until safety is assured. The same can be said for establishing a relationship with a therapist or counselor. Taking the time to get to know a therapist is important in developing any trusting relationship.
For those who are hesitant to engage in a face-to-face discussion with a therapist, online chat can be beneficial to therapeutic treatments for various mental health issues. Using online service providers such as BetterHelp, a credentialed therapist can work with you via in-app messaging, phone calls, or video calls, depending on a person’s preference and availability. In-app messaging may be preferred for some who find phone calls or in-person discussions distressing. It also allows a person to message their therapist when a situation arises that they want to discuss. This way, they can record their thoughts or emotions as precisely as possible in the moment instead of waiting for a scheduled session. They can rest assured that their therapist will receive the message and reply as soon as they become available.
Chatrooms offer peer-to-peer interaction and offer the opportunity to talk with people who are experiencing similar issues, be they mental or otherwise. Even so, it is important to remember that regular online chatrooms are not always an adequate substitute for trained therapists or counselors offering professional support. If you are living with a mental illness, or if you realize that you need more guidance regarding life challenges, consider seeking a therapist. Therapists and counselors with online service providers such as BetterHelp are credentialed mental health professionals who are available to support you via video call, phone call, or in-app messaging.