Online therapy can reduce many barriers to receiving treatment for specific individuals. Studies show that most people feel most comfortable at home. For this reason, many prefer meeting with a provider there from a home office or where ever clients feel most comfortable. An online counselor can perform many types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), art therapy, talk therapy, dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based therapy.
According to a New York Times blog, the model of online therapy with a licensed therapist wasn't always well received. In the 1990s, some start-up companies faced harsh criticisms for the untested business model, which eschewed doctor-presided sessions in favor of online or mailing correspondence. However, as the years went by, more patients revealed that talking to a counselor from home worked for them, and they preferred it to in-person therapy.
By 2010, more people were using the online option worldwide. Several studies in Sweden reported that online CBT services offered by an approved therapist in the country proved effective for treating depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling and marijuana dependence. Although many individuals opt to receive these treatments, they may wonder whether the therapists are as qualified as in-person therapists.
Are Online Therapists Qualified?
Many online platforms and individual private practice therapists work online. When looking for a therapist, look for one accredited by the American Psychological Association or State Board. If a therapist does not appear to be licensed or does not work for a platform that ensures licensure, they may not be qualified to provide counseling.
Unqualified or "free" counselors from non-reputable counseling agencies or counseling services could offer unhelpful advice or cause worsening symptoms. Meeting someone who has not been licensed can be like meeting someone on a social media platform and asking for advice. Online chats can offer support but are not a replacement for medical advice.
If you're in crisis, reach out to a hotline. If you are experiencing a medical or life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. For support for crises, check the following resources:
- If you are facing or witnessing the abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788.
- If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS.
- If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Online therapists that have been vetted and have a license and clinical experience are qualified to offer therapy.
Requirements For Becoming A Therapist
To be qualified to offer therapy, a therapist must receive a license to practice awarded by their state licensing board. Licensing therapist requirements can vary by state but generally include the following:
- Obtaining a Master’s or doctoral degree in psychology or a related field
- Complete 1500-6000 hours of clinically supervised career experience
- A passing score on state-required licensing exams
- A passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology exam (EPPP)
If you're considering signing up for an online platform, check their requirements for hired therapists through the platform. If the platforms or agencies only hire licensed therapists, you may be safe to sign up.
The Benefits Of Seeking Online Counseling
There can be many benefits to seeking online counseling from a licensed therapist. Many people feel nervous or embarrassed to seek counseling options in person. Additionally, some individuals struggle to set and keep appointments or commute to a weekly session if they have a busy schedule. Online counseling can offer several benefits, such as:
- No commute
- Flexible hours
- More options
- A choice between video, phone, and live chat sessions
- Affordable prices
- The ability to read a therapist's bio before starting therapy
People experiencing social anxiety or fears about therapy or starting new relationships may feel most comfortable using the live chat function to talk to their behavioral health counselor, which is an option on many platforms.
What Can Online Counseling Treat?
In most senses, online counseling can cover as many topics or conditions as traditional therapy. You can seek help for eating disorders, dependency, marriage counseling, mood disorders, relationship improvement, self-esteem, stress, and life advice. Since you are meeting with a licensed counselor trained in the same areas as in-person therapists, you can talk to them about anything, and they can refer you to outside services if needed.
How To Start Online Counseling
To begin online counseling, you only need access to the internet and a device. You can sign up for online counseling services by searching for one on a search engine and paying a visit to their website or asking your primary care physician for a referral. Local counselors in your area might offer telehealth services or know someone who does. If you want to try a platform, many are available with differing price points, one benefit to shopping online is that you can see the cost before committing and in many cases pay online as well.
Connecting With A Therapist On A Platform
The University of Zurich found that online therapy is more effective in the long term than traditional therapy. In their study, 53% of clients no longer experienced depression by the end of online treatment, as opposed to 50% for in-person treatment. At three months post-treatment, 57% of online therapy clients no longer experienced depressive symptoms, compared to 42% of in-person therapy users.
You will need an internet connection and a personal device to sign up for therapy online. You can connect through a platform like BetterHelp for individuals, Regain for couples, or TeenCounseling. You may attend your session from a computer, phone, iPad, or another smart device. Sessions with your therapist can be held via phone call, video chat, or live messaging and the fee structure for each may vary.
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