Does Mental Health Online Chat Make You Feel Better?
By: Nicole Beasley
Updated February 09, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
It is estimated that over 43 million people in the United States have a mental health disorder. That is roughly one out of every five people. In addition, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Between 30% and 80% of those who experience it do not get treatment. Whether it is because of money, fear, shame, or some other reason, many people do not get the help they need.
Why People Do Not Get Treatment
Many who do not seek treatment are ashamed or afraid to admit there is something really wrong with them. They may have heard that it is "all in their head" and that they will "get over it" eventually. Such assessments can come from our families of origin, friends, colleagues, or even beliefs we have picked up over the years. Others may not know where to go for help because they have never had any reason to seek counseling in the past. Perhaps they live in areas in which resources are very limited. And, of course, many do not have health insurance that covers mental health services. Even where medical insurance is accepted, one may have a high deductible, or limits on areas of service. In some cases, your health insurance is virtually irrelevant when it comes to addressing mental health. Anxiety disorders form the most pervasive mental illness in the United States. They affect 40 million people annually. This is party due to the fact that many types of anxiety disorders and phobias make it inherently difficult to access care.
Taking advantage of mental health online chat could be a perfect solution for these individuals—as well as anyone else who feels like they want to talk to someone. Sometimes it helps to talk to a neutral professional about your struggles in a setting that does not involve face-to-face discussion.
How Mental Health Online Chat Can Help
Because one reason some people may not get treatment is due to shame, online chat can be exactly what they need. It helps them be able to chat with other people online who have similar issues without actually having to see anyone. The option to be semi-anonymous convenient and easy through an online chat portal.
It can ease the fear or shame and give people a platform they can use to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling like you are alone and have nobody with whom to talk is common in those with mental disorders. Online chat is a wonderful solution. Sometimes, one of the most impactful symptoms of any mental illness can be the feeling that you are completely alone. You can fall into cycles of thought in which you believe that no one else can possibly understand and no one else has ever experienced what they are experiencing. It can be quite surprising to experience just how beneficial it can be to have one's perspective compared to others. Support groups of any variety can meet this need better than any other forum. If you need to know you are not alone, seeking a support group may be very important for you. Online chat platforms serve the needs of face-to-face support groups, with the addition of allowing for more complete privacy, if that is also important to you.
Many times, just talking about your experiences can be cathartic. They can provide a sense of relief and release that helps you better understand why you think and feel they way you do. This, then, can sometimes lead to better opportunities to process those thoughts and feelings with the goal of letting them go. Online chat groups can be a great source for such opportunities. So if you need something beyond personal practices, like keeping a journal, consider joining an online chat group.
You will receive responses to what you write in an online chat group, so this is not the best forum for someone who wants to express their feelings and vent without in turn taking in the experiences of others. Further, since any support group includes others who are also struggling, it is possible to receive comments from others you may not find to be helpful. So you want to understand that the nature of 'chats' is to be reciprocal. Many online chat groups are monitored by professionals. If this is important to you, you should be able to confirm such details prior to joining.
There are many types of online chat groups that can provide various types of benefits. Guided chats are more likely to provide solutions to problems and new perspectives. Participants often describe them as ‘deep.’ Unguided chats, meanwhile, offer more personal connections around shared experiences and might be described as ‘smooth.’
What to Expect
There are many online mental health chat websites of all different kinds. Some of them have group chats in which you talk to a group of people about thousands of various topics. You do not even have to talk if you do not want to; you can just listen. If you do not want to talk to a large group of people, there are chat rooms in which you can speak one-on-one with a therapist. In seeking individual counseling, you can avoid social pressure that many experience in group settings. This makes it even more attractive to those who are struggling with shame.
Chat Rooms, Forums, and Threads
Online mental health chat has an endless supply of topics on thousands of threads in forums or chat rooms. Many of them are free of charge, which is another barrier that chat rooms eliminate. Some of the thread topics you may find in chat rooms include:
How do I know if I am depressed?
Am I lonely or just bored?
Why do I get so stressed out?
How can I stop feeling this way?
What can I do about peer pressure?
How do I handle a bully?
It Helps to Talk
One of the hardest things to do sometimes is to talk about your feelings. Being able to communicate with others who are similar to you makes it much easier. Don't wait another day to seek the support you need. There are simply too many options available now in this digital age to not have at least the anonymous benefit of being able to share your experiences with others who need something similar. While you may find that an online chat service does not meet all your mental health needs, it can be a start. Experiencing the ability to share in such an environment might encourage you to seek more direct professional counseling services.
Additional Types of Online Mental Health Services
If financial constraints are keeping you from seeking the support you need and an online chat is not serving your needs, virtual counseling options can be much more affordable than the vast majority of more traditional professional counseling practices. The current average rate for an individual mental health counseling session varies between $150 and $250, depending on your location and the credentials of your provider. Online services like BetterHelp offer a flat subscription fee, which is incredibly reasonable by comparison. The variety of methods of interaction with your online counselor are also greater, and more convenient than most other venues.
Mental health platforms like BetterHelp allow you to chat with a therapist via videoconference, call, or even chat. Can a therapist really deliver treatment to someone experiencing mental illness via text messages? The answer, according to this recent study, is yes. Chat-based interventions found to deliver the same results as face-to-face counseling. In addition, those in the experiment group reported forming stronger connections with their therapist than those in the control.
Online counseling with BetterHelp provides you with the means of getting in touch with a therapist from the comfort of your own home. In addition, you will be able to connect with a therapist who is able to meet with you on your schedule. And if you decide you don't like communicating via chat, you can always switch to call or video. Read what others have to say about their experience with BetterHelp:
“I am grateful that to have met Velma on BetterHelp. She is highly insightful, empathetic and has helped me with concrete and targeted advice. In fact, she is acutely intelligent in grasping the key issue based on just a few conversations, which helped me. She is quick to respond to messages, and she comes back with effective advice and suggestion. Based on my other experiences with therapists, this is the most effective psychological help I have had. I feel heard and understood.”
“I started my journey with Donna not knowing what it is that I needed help with or what to really expect. I was in pain, that is all I knew for certain, and I threw everything at her. That was new for me. I have had face to face counseling experiences before with two other very kind professionals and with none of them I talked as much during the first sessions as I did with Donna. It felt super safe when talking with Donna. It is like her aura emits safety which penetrates the skepticism one might have with online counseling (it did for me). Apart from feeling safe, her great listening and non-judgement skills kept me staying with Donna. I did think a lot about changing counselor once because I wasn't sure whether Donna could understand or help me with problems I was facing in regard to high sensitivities (HSP). However, my gut kept me away from it because of the three traits mentioned before. Till now, I have always wanted to get better very quickly (max. 1 month to get better and even that is too long), but with Donna I managed to learn with my heart slowly to let myself take time with the process of getting better. One more thing which I found amazing because I was not expecting that all, is Donna's ability to shed light on new perspectives on my deep, philosophical/complex writings. Sometimes just a short message from her on my writing makes me something new or helps me gets closer to a solution within me.”
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