How Counseling Websites Differ From Traditional Therapy
By Sarah Fader
Updated February 03, 2020
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
In traditional forms of talk therapy, patient and counselor agree to meet at the counselor's office at a given time for an hour or so. If the patient cannot make the appointment - during office hours only - due to work obligations, travel or any other reason, this therapeutic opportunity is lost, although it will typically still have to be paid for. Counseling websites, however, have no such restrictions, and therapy can be obtained at any time, from anywhere, and by anyone.
How Counseling Websites Work
Online counseling services typically don't employ therapists themselves and instead serve as a kind of clearing house that mediates between patients and counselors. One of their functions is to make sure that the mental health professionals are qualified and licensed by the proper authorities. They also provide a technological platform that allows for secure patient communications and confidentiality.
Benefits Offered by Counseling Websites
Discussing your deepest, innermost feelings with another person may be easier for you in a face to face setting, or more difficult, depending on your personal inclinations. When discussing truly sensitive issues though, many people find it easier to open up when they know that their secrets are protected by professional confidentiality and they don't have to "know" the person they are sharing with.
Some patients in need of mental health services may be housebound, others live far from the closest therapists, while others still might not be able to take time off from work. By contrast, accessing therapy from a smartphone or laptop can be done anywhere and anytime. Online therapy typically takes place as a text conversation, although patients can also request a telephone or video conversation.
Availability of a Wide Range of Specializations
By working with a large number of therapists, an online therapy service can cater to almost any need a patient may have.
With so many mental health issues not existing in isolation, but rather being associated with others or being caused by additional problems, a patient may also not find all the care he needs with one counselor or setting. If he is a client of an online service though, he may seek counseling for multiple issues, choose from a list of therapists, and transition to new therapists on the same service with ease.
Overcomes Obstacles to Receiving Therapy
Have you ever thought that therapy might be helpful for you, but you decided against it? Pause for a moment and think about why you changed your mind. What obstacles prevented you from moving forward with finding a therapist and going to the appointment? If this was difficult for you, you are not alone. Most people wanting therapy are likely dealing with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression and the process of finding a therapist and going to an appointment may be extremely daunting. It can be hard to do this on your own and even harder to ask for help. Online counseling makes finding and meeting with a professional counselor much easier and less stressful and empowers you to move forward with getting help for yourself. Listed below are three reasons that may be preventing you from getting counseling. If any of these reasons are holding you back, online therapy may be a good option for you.
1) Your Busy Schedule:
You are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. You are having difficulties keeping up with all of your responsibilities and don't know how to gain more control over your life. You feel like you already don't have time to do everything you need to be doing, so how are you going to carve out time to go see a therapist? You work during normal business hours, or have children at home, and being able to get away is nearly impossible. Online counseling alleviates this problem! Online counselors have more flexible schedules and can work with you to find a time, even in the evenings or weekends, that works for you and you don't have to leave your home! You can also email your counselor at any time and receive a response in a reasonable amount of time, rather than waiting until your next appointment to talk to him or her.
Although the way our society views mental health is progressing, let's face it, unfortunately there is still a negative stigma associated with mental health. This stigma, if we allow it, can hold us back from getting the help we need. If you are embarrassed that others may find out you are going to see a therapist, or fear that other people will think poorly of you for doing so, this will prevent you from getting help. Speaking to an online therapist can feel more discrete and less disruptive. It also may feel more natural. If you are used to using online forums or social media to talk about your issues, than emailing a therapist may be an easier step for you to take to start communicating to someone about your feelings. Also, knowing that thousands of other people just like you are using online platforms to receive counseling should help normalize the action of getting therapy. It will help people see that therapy is a helpful tool that can benefit anybody.
3.) Difficulty with Communicating
Many people in need of counseling are already having a hard time communicating with others and this difficulty is contributing to their mental health struggles. The fear of trying to communicate their feelings to a counselor in an office setting can be very frightening. If you have any sort of social anxiety or feel like it's difficult for you to communicate your feelings verbally than online counseling provides alternatives. With every counselor, you will have the option to write out your thoughts and feelings via email or live chat instead of or in addition to speaking with your counselor over the phone or via video chat. Many people feel like they are able to express their thoughts and feelings in writing much more clearly and honestly than then can verbally. Other people just feel more comfortable starting therapy through written message, and then eventually gain the courage to try verbal communication. Everyone is unique in what helps them best, and having different options is much more effective.
Everybody deserves to be understood and feel supported and cared about. No one should have to suffer in silence because they are unable to access professional help. Online therapy alleviates many of the barriers that traditional therapy holds and will continue to grow and improve to reach more people in need. There are certainly some things telepsychiatry is not capable of: prescribing medication for one, or offering a comfortable physical presence. Even with these limitations, though, counseling websites are now a permanent feature of the mental health landscape, offering a viable and effective treatment option to millions of people who were formerly left without access to help.