The Benefits Of Online Mental Health Counseling

Updated September 30, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling Like You Don't Have A Therapist Who Can Help?

Despite the welcome advances awareness of counseling and mental health treatment over the past decade or two, many people still do not have an opportunity for talk therapy or personal counseling. This is especially damaging in the case of problems where "a stitch in time" can avert much more serious issues, such as in the case of addiction or family and relationship troubles. Fortunately, the increasing popularity of online mental health counseling is improving the situation, bringing essential mental healthcare within the reach of more and more people. In this piece, we'll explore the pros and cons of online therapy.

Benefits Of Counseling Sessions Online

According to the American Psychological Association (2019), therapy delivered via telecommunication devices is often referred to as telepsychology. It is often also referred to as web therapy, phone therapy, text therapy or online therapy. The availability of mental health care providers via telecommunication and the web has provided amazing opportunities and a safe space to prevent problems and help people who may not otherwise receive help or who may fall through the cracks with regard to mental health service provision.

Although the world of therapy and counseling can be difficult to navigate, and finding the right licensed therapist and the most effective treatment may take some effort…the payoff is excellent. Online therapy provides opportunities for choice and connection in therapy that has not been present before now. The communication takes place with your online therapist through a counseling room that is very confidential and private. The discussion you have with your therapist is "asynchronous" which means not in real time which allows you to communicate at your own convenience. However, therapists do provide synchronal counseling sessions in which an issue or problem can be addressed through a discussion over an hour or a typical time period.

Integrating Counseling In Your Daily Life

The perceived availability of the therapist may also offer a deeper understanding of the counseling process and enhance the client’s ability to incorporate the therapist’s presence into daily life. Rather than waiting for the weekly in-person session to discuss an issue or navigate negative emotions, the client can instead write the therapist an email while the issue is still active, thereby evoking the therapist's psychological presence at the moment. This means that the client and the counselor are connected more frequently throughout the week and the relationship continues to evolve past the 1 time a week session that is typical of traditional counseling relationships during individual therapy.

A Wider Reach With Counseling

Physically going to a counselor or therapist for mental health treatment may not always be possible. Online counseling provides a viable option for people who live in remote areas, travel often for their jobs and those who live in foreign countries. Sometimes, online counseling is much cheaper than conventional therapy sessions and those who choose online counseling may do so simply due to financial feasibility.

People see mental health counselors for a number of different reasons. Some need help with relationships, while others simply want to feel better and less sad. Some need to work on anger issues, while others seek help with managing their time. And yet others might be with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or other mental health conditions. Whatever the reason to seek therapy, there are so many different types of people who would benefit from online counseling/therapy. Individuals who are physically disabled may experience a great benefit from online counseling and therapy.

The Benefits Of Online Counseling

One of the benefits of counseling online is that there is incredible level of anonymity associated with it. Those who seek online counseling may do so due to the anonymity associated with it. Often times people who experience the shame and anxiety associated with sexual assault or domestic violence, find solace in an online therapist who can help the client get to the heart of the issue and move toward healing. People feel safe with their online therapist. Safety and confidentiality are important parts of building a strong therapeutic relationship.

Even if a person opts for traditional, face to face counseling, he will likely search for a suitable therapist online. He might be looking for a mental health professional with a particular specialization, such as treating depression or anxiety, but while a local therapist may indicate what conditions he is capable of treating, this gives little indication of whether or not a particular patient will "click" with this counselor. Typically, a website advertising a psychologist's practice will not display the rates charged with any kind of prominence, which by itself may be enough to discourage potential patients who happen to be in poor shape financially.

Finding A Counselor Online

Online mental health counseling offers a detour around many of these difficulties. A large pool of therapists is available to match a patient, comprising any specialization you can think of, and switching from one to another is basically effortless. Whether you seek a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy or one trained in mindfulness, online therapy programs can match you with one to meet your specific needs. Online counseling is affordable but may not always be covered by health insurance. Fees are extremely affordable compared to therapy treatment in a traditional setting. Another benefit of online counseling is that counseling is available 24 hours a day. This can be extremely beneficial to individuals living in different time zones yet would love counseling to work out common human problems. 

Feeling Like You Don't Have A Therapist Who Can Help?

Extensive peer reviewed evidence has shown the positive effects of online therapy to be very similar to traditional methods, for any condition where inpatient care is not required. These services place patients in contact with vetted, qualified and licensed medical professionals with a minimum of overhead costs, allowing large numbers of previously untreated individuals to obtain counseling for nearly any mental health condition, from anywhere in the world.

Some Ethical Considerations With Online Counseling

A primary ethical consideration that all counselors and therapists providing mental health treatment must adhere to is the ethic indicated as "Do No Harm". Sometimes text-based interactive communication leads to less nonverbal cues and can lead to misinterpretation. It is important to understand that misinterpretation may lead to harm so the words used in text-based communication in online therapy must be concise, empathetic and clear. Always ask for clarification if a misinterpretation is possible.

Another ethical issue to consider is confidentiality. Counselor/client relationships are built on confidentiality because this leads to trust. Text-based communication and video communication must be confidential in order to be effective.

Informed consent is another ethical issue. Informed consent provides the client with information about the expertise of the counselor and the limits of confidentiality in the counseling relationship. Informed consent is an essential ethical consideration.

Ethical guidelines are a cornerstone to effective therapy whether it is provided online or face to face.

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