Can Text Counseling Help Someone?

By: Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated May 27, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Kristen Hardin

It is almost a given that most people will face a mental health issue at some point during their lives, whether it is the result of a major life change or stressful event or a longer-term condition such as chronic anxiety or depression. In fact, approximately 44 million adults in the United States experience some sort of mental health condition at one point in their lives. That is almost one in every five or 18.3% of American adults. Professional counseling can be of huge help in these times, but not everybody can utilize traditional therapy, for reasons ranging from location to finances. Online services are now available to people in this position, but you may be wondering: Can text counseling be an effective form of therapy?

How Text Counseling Works

Although the specifics vary between different service providers of online and text counseling, the following describes more or less the ideal way that online counseling can work. First, you will contact the service you think most suitable and they will ask you some questions about yourself. Your details will remain confidential at every stage, and all of your correspondence and most of your personal information will only be available to a counselor of your choosing. In fact, you can remain completely anonymous if it makes you feel more comfortable. The ability to remain anonymous is one of the biggest differences between online counseling and traditional counseling.


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Getting Started

Next, you will enter a trial period (which may be free) during which your case is evaluated by the service to determine if your needs are appropriate for the service and they will assign a counselor to you. You will be able to tell your counselor what the problem is and what it is that you want help with. You and your counselor will set treatment goals together. All of your information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) law. You will want to make sure that the service you choose is HIPPA compliant and has a secure platform and bank level encryption, such as BetterHelp has. During this trial period, both you and the counselor will determine how well you two mesh so that you can be sure to get a therapist who is right for you.

Depending on what kinds of challenges you are facing and some other factors, you will be assigned to a mental health expert who specializes in that area. Some online therapy providers such as BetterHelp have counselors who specialize in everything from addiction issues to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a particular counselor does not work out for you, which may be the case for any of a variety of reasons, requesting a different one is usually no problem. And you can switch as many times as you need to. BetterHelp wants you to be comfortable with whoever you choose so it is up to you to choose the best fit.

How You Can Communicate

From here on, you can communicate with your counselor by chat and message or schedule a virtual appointment for a phone call or video conference on the platform. The choice is up to you and you do not have to choose just one. This makes things more convenient for you as you can message your counselor any time of the day or night any day of the week. Due to the nature of text counseling, your messages will not necessarily be in real time. So, how effective can online/text therapy really be?


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The Effectiveness of Text Counseling

Research has shown that online therapy has effects comparable to traditional therapy. In fact, in some cases, text counseling can be more effective because it gives some people the opportunity that they do not have with traditional therapy. For example, those with certain mental health or medical conditions that make it difficult for them to leave the house, those with no transportation, or those who live in rural areas where there is no public transportation, would not be able to easily or regularly access traditional therapy services.

All people are different and the type of counseling that works best for you may be different from other people. One of the biggest challenges that mental health experts often face is overcoming a patient's reluctance to be open about topics which they carry a lot of shame and fear judgment. For some, it may be easy to talk to a counselor who is physically in the same room, but for some, it might be easier to write down difficult feelings and thoughts and send them to a counselor.

The Benefits of Text Counseling

Individuals who suffer from depression often have a hard time making or keeping appointments because at times they do not even want to get out of bed, let alone go to an office to talk to a therapist. For them, text counseling is a big advantage. In addition, those who have anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a hard time leaving the house, being in public or talking to strangers. For these individuals, online or text therapy can be a huge relief. Normally, those who are unable to go out in public or talk to strangers would avoid getting treatment because of their mental illness and being able to communicate in writing is so much easier for them that online therapy is their best choice.

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Written communication is less spontaneous but also tends to be more thoughtful. In fact, many people find it much easier to communicate their feelings through writing rather than in person or even talking on the telephone. Young people are often especially reluctant to share their personal thoughts and emotions face to face, but they are used to being able to communicate their thoughts through text that text counseling may be their best option.

Online counseling is also an excellent choice for those who do not have health insurance or those whose health insurance does not cover mental health care. With an online service like BetterHelp, you will pay a flat fee and you can use it as much as little as you prefer. This is very different from traditional therapy where you pay per session and generally are not going to be able to have more than one session per week.

Another benefit to online counseling with a service like BetterHelp, is you can access many different ways of communication with your counselor. You might have weekly live chat sessions and send a few messages in the week as you think of important things you want to share. You could even do a live chat session during a stressful family time without having to leave your house.

Who Can Benefit from Online Counseling?

Anyone who can benefit from traditional counseling can benefit from online counseling. Just about any mental health condition can be helped by text therapy including depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, addiction, eating disorders, ADHD and ADD, relationship counseling, and family therapy. There are some cases when online therapy is not appropriate, such as if the client is actively suicidal or not medically stable. If your needs are not appropriate for online counseling, your counselor or the counseling service can help you find someone in your area who can help you. If you are interested in online therapy, you can get started with BetterHelp anywhere you have an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Get started today!

 

FAQs

Is the Crisis Text Line free?

Yes, texting Crisis Text Line HOME to 741741 is free in the US and Canada. Almost all hotlines like this will not charge you anything. Alternatively, you can message their Facebook if you want to make sure you won’t be charged. So send a text message to Crisis Text Line and get started with your care.  

Does Crisis Text Line call the police?

One reason why some people may be wary of messaging Crisis Text Line, or any hotline for that matter, is that they’re afraid that the police will be called if the person says they’re suicidal. Dealing with the authorities is something that many people don’t want to do, especially if they worry if the police will arrest them or send them to a psych ward.

Luckily, the Crisis Text Line will not call the police unless there are special circumstances. Calling and saying you feel suicidal won’t make the Crisis Text Line crisis counselor call the police. The Crisis Text Line crisis counselor will only contact the police if the person poses an immediate danger to themselves or someone else, such as threatening to shoot themselves. In addition, the person has to be unwilling, or unable, to make a safety plan. Otherwise, the Crisis Text Line is anonymous, and no crisis counselor of the Crisis Text Line will call the police on you.

Is there any free online therapy?

Online therapy can be harder to find for no cost at all. Many online therapy outlets that are legitimate and employ licensed therapists will charge money. Usually, it’s easier to pay for online therapy and you can cancel anytime, but the fact remains.

However, many online therapy websites do offer a free trial to get you started. A crisis line can have online services as well, and while the crisis counselor isn’t a licensed therapist, they can listen to you and give you resources.

Is there online therapy?

Online therapy and counseling has existed for almost as long as the Internet has, yet in recent years, it’s only began to see a huge spike in popularity. Online therapy connects you with a licensed counselor, either through email, text, video chat, or voice chat, and it allows you to talk to a licensed therapist from anywhere at any time.

Is online counseling effective?

Online counseling can be quite effective, just like traditional counseling. Just like traditional counseling, the effectiveness can depend on the person’s willingness to get help. The effectiveness of online therapist can also depend on what type of therapy that is used. For example, text-based therapy may be less effective for some due to the lack of voice and body language. However, for people who can only use text, it’s much more effective than nothing. If you’re having an issue, online counseling can help you immensely, and it’s something that you should not brush away just because there is less interaction.

Is online therapy cheaper?

It can be. Due to the lack of a commute, the fact that therapists online can work from home, and the fact that online therapy websites have different plans for different budgets, online therapy can indeed be cheaper than traditional.

However, the lack of insurance acceptance can make it more expensive for some, depending on who you are, so it all depends.

How do you become a text crisis counselor?

Working as a crisis counselor on a hotline is not something you need to spend years educating yourself and training for. Usually, it’s a volunteer position. Becoming a crisis counselor can depend on which hotline you work for, so let’s look at the Crisis Text Line to see how you become one there.

You sign up to become a crisis counselor and spend 30 hours of training. You learn how to manage a crisis, be a reflective listener, and learn how to collaborate with the caller to help solve problems. Training to be a crisis counselor is a process that doesn’t require you to go to any school or anything. Instead, you can train to be a crisis counselor at home. Training to be a crisis counselor costs over a grand, but the Crisis Text Line covers the cost.

Quite often, a crisis counselor may have to work third shift hours. Many people have their 

crisis at night or past midnight, and a crisis counselor needs to be there for them.

A crisis counselor does have a 200 hour commitment, usually spread 4 hours a week. Once they complete their job, a crisis counselor now has experience under the belt. We say to try out being a crisis counselor if you're interested.

Where do crisis counselors work?

A crisis counselor is commonly associated with working at a text or phone line. However, you can also find a crisis counselor at a school, a mental health clinic, an organization, or any other place where a crisis can happen. A crisis counselor helps people who may be in danger and can connect them with resources needed to solve the problem. A crisis counselor can be a rewarding career because lives are saved.


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