Inside Online Counseling's Many Benefits: Pros and Cons of Online Therapy

By Nicola Kirkpatrick|Updated June 10, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Dutil , LMHC, LPC

There comes a time in nearly everyone’s life when they find themselves in a situation where they need someone to talk to about their issues. This might mean it is time to find online therapy resources to lend a hand. There are many advantages of talking through one’s issues in online counseling instead of keeping them bottled up. There are also very few cons of online therapy. Having someone available, like a therapist,benefits a lot of people because they can help you process your thoughts and feelings and provide some guidance, if needed,which can be truly valuable. We all need someone who is willing to actively listen to us without judgement. Think about these pros and cons related to online therapy when you are deciding what approach you’d like to consider.

a woman explaining herself during a counseling session, pros and cons of counseling session
Online Counseling Has a Track Record of Helping People With Mental Health

Pros & Cons Of Therapy

Below we'll discuss common reasons someone might seek help for a mental illness or life challenge, as well as the pros and cons of using therapy through a loss, breakup, or just to get life advice. Often when we are navigating a difficulty in our life, we have a physical reaction in our body-- such as tears, endorphins, lack of energy, loss of appetite, or irritability. In fact, our low emotional state often impacts our overall sense of well-being or could even affect your body language. If you have a sense that you might need help and support, there are articles that answer these questions about online therapy, full of content and ideas relating to the risks, benefits, and ideas of virtual counseling.

Counseling And Its Benefits On The Whole

Much has been written about the benefits of counseling in treating mental health conditions or lending a hand in times of hardship. Counseling can help you address issues causing you distress, help you understand yourself, and help you achieve your goals. Besides that, many people find it helpful to talk to an objective person who has education and experience in the issues people often struggle with. This can hold you accountable to your mental health care and growth. Recently, there have been a study published in JMIR Ment Health that has demonstrated the effectiveness of online counseling. It has been shown to be just as effective as office-based counseling, which is what some people choose to utilize.

However, not everyone has access to a licensed professional counselor where they live. Some people live in remote areas, rural areas, or places where only a few mental health professionals practice and they may not be available to take on many new clients. Other people have access to professional counselors through their public health services, but many of these services have long waiting lists for patients and can only meet the most chronically mentally ill or offer in person intervention with any immediacy. This can be problematic for those worried about accessing mental health care in person. While these seem like pros of online therapy, there are pros and cons of online services.

Traveling For Sessions

In addition to lack of public mental health services and long waiting lists, there is the issue of getting to a mental health counselor’s office or therapy office. Many office-based counselors have limited evening hours, making it difficult to get a therapy session for those who work traditional 9-5 hours, or already have a busy schedule, especially if you have kids. People with physical limitations and disability issues can struggle attempting to get to a mental health counselor’s office as well. Therefore, online counseling with a licensed mental health professional is a perfect alternative. There are many advantages to online counseling, or "e therapy" to consider when you are doing your best to decide whether you want to employ in person therapy or virtual therapy.

Privacy At Home

Finally, many people enjoy the quasi-anonymity of online counseling, considering it offers a unique therapeutic experience. Although being anonymous isn’t truly the case (online therapists must follow the same government rules as an office-based therapist), because people can text from their phone or laptop, with provides a familiar setting, it allows many people to open up much more quickly than if they were verbally expressing highly personal issues in person. After all, they are not sitting across from someone who is looking at them. This can lessen a person’s sense of shame in divulging something that they would normally perceive as embarrassing or strange.

When Online Counseling Is Appropriate

a man explores online therapy while being online

Types Of Online Session

Online counseling is appropriate for many common mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress management, and career and relationship issues. And it is convenient. On the other hand, online therapy may not be well suited for serious psychiatric illnesses, when you experience complex symptoms, or when you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. These can be complex situations that could require real world interactions with a therapist, as well as medication or hospitalization. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach them anytime, day or night.

There are a couple of other reasons you may require or prefer in-person therapyservices or traditional therapy sessions. Meeting with a doctor in their office lets you take advantage of direct treatment for any mental illness you are experiencing.Your therapist will also have the ability to pay attention to your facial expressions, nonverbal communication, vocal signals, and body language, which is not as easy when you are utilizing online treatment. This can provide your therapist with a clearer picture of what treatment strategy may be beneficial to employ. You might consider these cons of online therapy.

For many people with scheduling and logistics issues as discussed previously, these problems no longer factor in. Online counseling and therapy service can be done from just about anywhere with an internet connection, any time of the day. This offers relatively easy access. When trying to overcome a hardship, a loss of a loved one, or just how to overcome sadness in general, therapists can help you navigate this challenge. Often people go to therapy to "get rid of sadness" or with a hope of getting rid of sadness, but therapy helps you understand the root of this sadness, and the proactive measures to take to help you navigate it.

Online counseling can be broken down into two forms: live counseling and asynchronous counseling. Live counseling is when you are meeting with a counselor via video-based teleconferencing or telephone. Another method used by some platforms, allows for a person and their therapist to text back and forth at the same timewith each other. Live counseling isn’t all that much different than working with a therapist in their office, except you can actually do it from the comfort of your own home in a digital setting. Essentially, it is close and direct treatment, except it doesn’t offer direct human contact.

Asynchronous online counseling is when a client and therapist exchange messages. After receiving one from their client, the online therapist will send a response once they log back on to the platform to reply to client messages. Most online therapists respond to messages daily, sometimes a few times a day depending on the therapist’s availability. Some clients only prefer one method over the other, but other clients will use both depending on their specific needs. It’s based on personal preference; there is no best method.However, if you don’t think this type of communication will be effective for you, this may be one of the cons of online therapy for you.

Variety Of Mediums

Over the past few years, an increasing number of individuals have sought online therapy as one of their treatment options. With online therapy, the client and therapist meet online for text messaging, phone, or video chats at a time convenient for both. As we can see, talking online is similar to traditional face-to-face therapy, but offers more flexibility for your therapy journey. Many online therapy sites offer comprehensive payment plans that include a set number of sessions and email therapy. Every company may offer different services online. These are especially helpful to individuals undergoing emotional stress, personal tragedy, or anxiety and would like to chat with someone fairly quickly. 

Online Therapy Offers An Open Door

Sometimes when individuals are going through a significant life change or difficult transition—such as a new job, loss of a job, retirement, divorce, another event that is presenting problems for you, or the death of a loved one—the simple task of composing an email to a therapist can have a tremendous positive effect. The email becomes a symbol of action, thus aiding in the alleviation of feelings of helplessness. When the therapist responds, they have had time to review the email address, assess the content, compare to previous emails, and conduct any necessary research into a topic.

Access To The Therapist

A distinct benefit of an online therapy service is its convenience for the therapist as well versus in person services. Not having to carve out time during the day to go to an office appointment means more time and energy for the therapist to focus on their client and the issue. There are also fewer overhead costs. After all, does any person enjoy commuting? This is time that can be spent working with others and providing treatment.

online counseling options can offer a lot of benefits

Online Counseling Has a Track Record of Helping People With Mental Health

There was a time when using online technology to get in touch with your counselor was something of an unknown entity and may have been considered unreliable technology. It is now safe to say, however, that that is no longer the case. A robust body of research andscientific literature and even The World Psychiatry Association supports the fact that therapy administered online, such as online CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, brings about the same effects as in-person counseling. While the treatment administered has a strong likelihood of producing results, there are numerous other benefits of online counseling sessions.

However, most online therapy platforms do not accept insurance coverage directly, which may be different from in person therapy. You can still submit your therapy claim to your insurance company after the fact to receive help from your health insurance coverage to pay for therapy. Insurance companies are more likely now, than ever before, to assist with mental health care for their clients.This may also be considered a con when you are thinking about pros and cons of online therapy.

There are also a variety of therapy types that can be performed via the internet, like cognitive behavioral therapy, distance therapy, or person therapy. Finding a therapist that specializes in your chosen type of therapy, like a distance credentialed counselor, can be straightforward with the variety of options that online therapy offers in terms of mental health services.

Currently, BetterHelp is one of the most often recommended online counseling platforms. The platform offers access to thousands of clinically licensed and caring therapists. Many of the therapists at BetterHelp specialize in certain types of mental health issues. You can connect with your therapist from anywhere you have an internet connection. Again, you will have the convenience to choose the time of your appointments without having to worry about business hours, as well as the means by which you communicate. Read what others have to say about BetterHelp below.

BetterHelp Online Therapist Reviews

“I’ve been meeting with Roberta for a few months now and have had a consistently great experience with her. She’s open and kind, always listening and responding with heart. Despite having initial difficultly finding a counselor on the site, Roberta has made me feel positive about the whole online therapy experience (both regain and BetterHelp) and I would readily recommend it (and Roberta specifically) to any of my friends.”

“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.”

Other BetterHelp Advantages

In addition to the benefits of online counseling with a therapist, the BetterHelp site also offers self-help articles written by qualified professionals, exploring a variety of topics related to online therapy and online counseling. These articles can help educate people on various common issues many people face in life. For current clients of BetterHelp, they have access to online groupinars on specific topics that many people tend to struggle with in their lives. These groupinars are facilitated by counselors who are knowledgeable about the chosen topic.

Conclusion And Parting Thoughts

With most mental health or psychological issues, having someone with whom to talk and process issues can be of great benefit. Knowing that there is someone an email away can help an individual begin to put things into perspective, as the sessions are typically via email and chat, clients have an opportunity to re-read emails from past sessions and process the information before entering into the next one. At the same time, clients can schedule live appointments with their therapists via video or phone if they prefer a more traditional therapy appointment. You can determine how to find the direct assistance that you want, if you are interested.

While your online therapist may not be able to interpret your nonverbal communication as thoroughly during therapy sessions as when you are utilizing in person services, it is still an effective form of therapy to use if you wish to. Consider the pros and cons that cover online therapy, to decide if it is a good choice for you.

Please Note: Individuals who are in severe crises, thinking of harming themselves or anyone else should call 1-800-273-8255 and allow trained emergency mental health professionals to take care of the situation and provide assistance. BetterHelp is not designed to assist clients experiencing an immediate psychiatric crisis.

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