How Counseling Websites Can Differ From In-Person Therapy

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated February 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In traditional forms of talk therapy, a client and counselor may agree to meet at the counselor's office at a given time for 30 minutes to an hour. If the client cannot make the appointment, there may be cancellation fees, or the counselor may cancel future appointments. Additionally, traditional counseling costs, on average, around $100-$200 a session or more without insurance. 

These platforms may cost less than in-person therapy and offer accessibility to those who face barriers to treatment. Although the logistics may differ, online counseling can be as effective as in-person counseling.

How Counseling Websites Differ From Traditional Therapy

How Counseling Websites Work

Online therapy services may employ therapists or serve as a platform for contractors to find clients. Often, they must ensure mental health professionals are qualified and licensed and have a safe location to perform therapeutic practices. They may also provide technical services through online software, allowing therapists and clients to meet in an encrypted online chat room through phone, video, or live chat sessions. 

These services are often not covered by health insurance. However, they can range from $30-$100 per session, which is cheaper than the rate for traditional in-person therapy. Financial aid may also be available depending on a client's needs. However, you may need to live in their state. 

By working with many therapists and psychologists, an online therapy service can cater to various needs and potentially match you with a counselor. In traditional therapy, it may be challenging to change your therapist. With online therapy, you might ask the platform to switch your therapist or choose a new one yourself. 

Obstacles To Traditional Counseling 

Many individuals may hesitate to consider counseling due to barriers. If you relate, you are not alone. Finding a therapist who works for you can feel stressful and time-consuming, and you might not get responses from all you are interested in. Online counseling may remove barriers from many areas, like the ones below. 

Busy Schedule 

When feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or busy, you might struggle to know when to find time to fit in weekly appointments with a therapist. Commute time may be factored in, plus the time it takes to pick up children, run errands, or attend other appointments within the nine-to-five work hours. You might work during these times and struggle to find a therapist to see you after hours or on the weekend. 

Online counseling may alleviate this problem. Online counselors might set a flexible schedule to work with you to find a time you're both available, even in the evenings or weekends. You can factor out any commute times and attend therapy from home. You might also be able to message your counselor at any time and receive a response within 24 hours instead of waiting until your next session to ask a question. 

Stigma

There may be mental health stigmas that make it feel embarrassing or difficult to reach out for support from a professional. In some cases, you might worry that others will find out you're seeing a therapist if they see you leaving home or checking your insurance.  

Speaking to an online therapist can feel more discrete and less disruptive. You may participate at home away from others, allowing you to get care without worrying whether you're being watched. It might also feel more natural. If you are used to using online forums or social media to talk about your issues, using the live chat features available on many therapy platforms could make you feel more comfortable starting out. 

Difficulty Communicating

If you struggle to turn your thoughts into words or feel anxious when meeting with an in-person counselor, online counseling may remove this barrier. If you're uncomfortable talking to someone on the phone or over video chat, you can also use live chat, where you message back and forth with your counselor for an allotted time. 

Many people feel they can express their thoughts in writing more honestly. Other people feel more comfortable starting therapy through written messages and switching to video or phone sessions over time. In in-person therapy, you may be limited to seeing a therapist personally. 

Limits Of Online Therapy 

Online therapy often empowers individuals by eliminating many of the barriers of traditional therapy. However, there are some things telepsychiatry is not capable of, like prescribing medication. In some cases, online counselors are not allowed to give a diagnosis based on platform terms and conditions. It can depend on the platform and professional. Some online platforms may offer online psychiatrists who can prescribe medications but do not offer therapy. 

Finding An Online Therapist

Whether you decide to use an online platform or a private practice therapist who offers telehealth, you may be able to find many forms of therapy online. Popular forms include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma therapy. You can also see a therapist whether you are diagnosed with a mental health condition or not. 

Studies show that online therapy effectively treats common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and symptoms of loneliness or long-term stress. If you're interested in trying an online platform, sites like BetterHelp for individuals, ReGain for couples, and TeenCounseling for those ages 12-19 are available. 

Takeaway

Online counseling and in-person therapy have a few differences. However, they both offer the same quality of care, with online therapy being more effective in some instances. If you're interested in trying any therapy, consider reaching out to a counselor to get started. 

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