An Online Counseling Guide & 8 Facts About Counseling
Updated September 04, 2018
Online counseling has been on the rise as of late. For many, the idea of being able to talk to a counselor anywhere they go is quite enticing. However, some are still skeptical about what online counseling can do for them. In this post, we will look at online counseling as a whole - the history, the studies that have supported its effectiveness, and some fun facts about online counseling.
What Is Online Counseling?
Online counseling is simply mental health counseling done through the Internet. By the Internet, we mean any device that has access to the World Wide Web. Your computer can be used as online counseling, and so can your smartphone. During online counseling, you may speak to your counselor through different methods. These methods can include:
- Email. Emailing allows both parties to write a detailed message. The client can write all their feelings, and the counselor can write a detailed solution. This allows both to think about what they are trying to say. However, there is no tone of voice or body language, and the client may try to present himself or herself in the best light, when it would be more effective for them to slip up.
- Texting. A messenger app may be used. Instant messages are quick and are good for those who need instant gratification. While quick, they are usually less thought out than email.
- Video chatting. Having a face-to-face conversation through your computer or smartphone allows you to have an experience that's like traditional counseling. Body language and tone of voice is fully allowed. Video chatting has improved quite a bit as well, so there is lesser lag. However, there is always a chance for technical difficulties.
A counselor may use all of the above during your online counseling session. Some counselors use a combination of traditional counseling, where you can meet them in the office, and online counseling.
History Of Online counseling
Remote counseling isn't anything new. For decades, telephone lines have been used to help those in a time of crisis. When someone needs help right away, being able to call someone and talk to them is comforting. Ever since the Internet was conceived, the idea of it being used for counseling was flirted with. As the Internet became more mainstream and there were more ways of accessing it, online counseling truly took off.
Why Someone Would Choose Online counseling
There are many reasons why one may pick online counseling instead of or in addition to traditional counseling. Here are a few reasons why.
- Disability. Someone who has a disability or a fear of getting outside may find it hard to travel to a counselor's office every week or so. Being able to talk from home will be much more beneficial to them because of this.
- Someone may have no transportation to commute to an office. Or they may live in a place where a counselor lives too far away.
- Social awkwardness. If someone is not comfortable talking to a counselor face-to-face, being able to text them or speak through the phone may be more comforting. While someone should face their fears of talking to people, online counseling is a good way to ease someone in to the communication.
- Counseling at their schedule. Not everyone works a traditional 9 to 5, and has the schedule to talk to a counselor. Online counseling has a very flexible schedule, allowing someone to make an appointment based on his or her own time.
- It can be cheaper. Online counseling is less costly due to the remoteness of it. Counselors don't need their own office and can work at home if they want to. This cuts the cost without cutting the quality.
These are just a few reasons why someone would choose online counseling. With that said, is it effective?
Effectiveness Of Online Counseling
Some are skeptical of online counseling, saying that traditional face-to-face counseling is the only effective measure. While traditional counseling has its benefits, there is a reason why online counseling has been growing in popularity, and that reason is because it works.
One study revealed that Internet-based cognitive behavioral counseling can help with those who have moderate depression or anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a commonly used counseling technique that involves replacing behaviors or thoughts that can fuel one's depression or anxiety with more positive thoughts or behaviors.
Another study reveals that online CBT is just as effective as in-person CBT.
In short, online counseling works.
Concerns Of Online Counseling
With that said, there are a few disadvantages and concerns one should look at if they want to consider online counseling.
First, counseling should be private. If your counselor is outside in public while you're performing your session, you may want to reconsider it. Your counseling session should be private.
Second, while online counseling is effective, the studies have said that talking to someone in person is more effective if your problems are severe. If your depression or anxiety is intense, or if you are feeling suicidal, you may want to speak to someone in person.
Also, with counseling online, you need to check the person's credentials. Sites such as BetterHelp have qualified counselors available for you, but if you're talking to someone outside a site such as this one, you might want to make sure the person who you're talking to is who they say they are. Of course, this is common sense for anything on the Internet.
Finally, online counseling has a disadvantage that's not really its fault. Many insurance companies do not cover online counseling. Insurance companies are sometimes behind the times when it comes to treatments, and they may wait a while until they cover a treatment that has been proven to be effective. See if your insurance provider covers online counseling. If not, make your voice heard.
What Can You Expect
You may be wondering what you should expect from online counseling. When it comes to online counseling, it's not much different than traditional counseling. You give the counselor your information and the method of payment, and then the session begins.
The first session is usually the icebreaker. You tell about yourself, your problems, and what you want out of the counseling session. The counselor, over time, will teach you how to handle your problems by coming up with a plan. For example, with CBT, there may be exercises that are given to you to help you think more positively.
One thing you should expect from online counseling, and counseling in general, is that results are not instant. It may take months for your counseling to be effective. Also, it's often up to you. The counselor can't force you to do anything, but instead offers suggestions and strategies. If you don't take their advice, don't be surprised if life doesn't improve.
If their advice doesn't work, they will try something different. Often, everyone's solution is a little different, and the counselor will work diligently to find the best solution for the job. A good counselor will often think outside the box if needed.
Facts About Online Counseling
The First Computer Counseling Session
Online counseling has been around longer than you think. In 1972, the first simulated psychocounseling session was created by two computers between Stanford University and UCLA.
The First Online Service
Cornell University was one of the first places to provide online counseling. In 1986, back when the Internet was more for students than home use, Dear Uncle Ezra was created. This was an online counseling service used for students who were troubled. College students, as you can imagine, were quite stressed.
The First Online Depression Support Group
Besides counseling, support groups have always been valuable on the Internet. It's always good to talk to likeminded people who are dealing with the same problems as you, and find ways to fix the problem by working together or by trading tips. In 1993, Depression Central was formed. Depression Central was the first online support group for people with depression.
The First Online Chat Service
During the earlier years of the Internet, the chat room was quite important when it came to instant messaging. In 1995, the first person to person chat-based message was formed. This was known as Pink Practice, a London-based counseling service. Since then, many have been able to chat with counselors through much more convenient tools, such as using a counseling app on their smartphone.
Online Counseling Can Be Anonymous
With online counseling, there are anonymous choices available if you don't want to tell people their name. Even with the secrecy of counseling, some people prefer to keep their identities a total secret, and that's fine. With a total anonymous service, you can have counseling in the most private way possible.
Also, when it comes to online counseling, it can truly be anonymous because you don't have to travel anywhere. You aren't bumping into your friend while in the waiting room, or someone isn't watching your car pull into the counseling office. There is a lesser chance of people sticking their noses where they don't belong.
Online Counseling Is 24/7
Sometimes, time doesn't wait for your crisis. You can be having an anxiety attack at three in the morning, or be having a fight with your loved one at midnight. In times like these, immediate relief is important. Online counseling has options for those who need help at any time.
Most Need Mental Help
If you look at the search histories of 4 in 5 Internet users, you may be surprised to learn that they all have searched something related to help when it comes to mental health. You don't need to have a severe mental health problem in order to seek help. Often, depression, anxiety, and other disorders come in much milder forms. With that said, always seek help regardless of how irrelevant you think your problem is.
Online Counseling Services Match You Up With the Best Possible Counselor
When it comes to counseling, everyone has a different choice. A motherly figure, a father figure, someone they can talk to, a life coach, and the list goes on. Finding the best counselor for the job is quite important, and if you find one who isn't a good fit, you may feel like you've wasted your time.
Online counseling helps by making sure you find the best fit possible. You can easily try a new counselor if the first one isn't as effective.
You Don't Need to Have Severe Problems to Get Counseling
Everyone could benefit from counseling online. A new couple who is trying to figure themselves out, a young adult who has just moved into their dorm, people who are considering getting a new job, people who need life advice in general. There are many good reasons to go to counseling, and many people go for all sorts of reasons. People aren't broken or weak because they want to go to counseling; it takes a strong person to admit they need advice. Life is difficult, and while a counselor isn't going to make everything magically go away, they can help you deal with your life one problem at a time.
This covers the basis of online counseling. If you have considered e-counseling or wondered, "Is counseling for me?" then you've come to the right place. We believe that everyone deserves to receive help, no matter what the issue is. If you are interested in online counseling, we definitely recommend checking out an online counseling service provider and seeing if we can help you. There are counselors from all around the world who are ready to help you. Maybe you want advice from someone locally, or perhaps you are looking for a new perspective. Whatever the case, people can help you, and you can find great services both online and offline.
If you are ready to get counseling services online, talk to someone today about your problems.