Technology in counseling is a relatively new pairing that is largely driven by the effort to find solutions to barriers to mental health care. Virtual reality therapy is an innovative approach that shows promise in improving availability and effectiveness of treatment for mental illnesses. This therapy focuses on immersive experiences to promote behavior change, develop coping skills, and treat conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, or depression.
The use of technology in therapy has grown exponentially in recent years, allowing more and more people around the world to get the mental health counseling they need. If you're experiencing emotional problems or mental disorders, there is help available through a broad range of services facilitated by modern technology. Below, we'll explore the numerous ways that people are using technology to pursue cognitive behavior therapy, couples therapy, or group therapy from the comfort of their own home.
History Of Remote Therapy
While it may seem like a new thing, believe it or not, therapy and counseling services first left the office as far back as in 1972. That was the year the first experiments took place in creating a computer communication involving psychotherapy. In 1986, Dear Uncle Ezra was providing mental health advice in an online format, and in 1993, online depression groups were forming, offering support for mental wellness.
However, this experimental technology in counseling was perceived as questionable for the ethical implications. Further, mental health chatbots and internet chat rooms were not generally run or monitored by professionals in those days.
In the last few years, online medical and psychological services have become more widely accepted. Patients can now receive medical advice from a medical doctor or a therapist who can perform psychological testing. And with online payments and videoconferencing for business, this technology for counseling makes more sense to people, including mental health providers.
People were initially skeptical about how traditional counseling, such as cognitive therapy and marriage counseling, could transfer to the internet. However, social media and other technologies helped legitimize internet communication in our daily routine. Both the professional therapist and the clients can benefit from using online services for communicating and scheduling appointments.
Types Of Online Counseling
Thanks to technology, counselors can offer help to individuals, couples, and families through a variety of therapeutic modalities, such as family counseling, dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems. Advancements in mental health technology have allowed clients and their mental health provider new ways of interacting.
Nowadays, you can communicate with a counselor or therapist via phone, videoconferencing, and online chat—or a mix of all three methods. For example, with BetterHelp, you can use in-app messaging to send your family therapist any thoughts or questions in between sessions, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.
Online Counseling Advantages
Online therapy can be especially useful for people living in rural areas or regions that have few therapists. It can be challenging for people in such areas to commute to a therapist’s office while juggling work and family responsibilities. It can also be costly, which is a big advantage of online therapy, which tends to offer affordable rates and a larger pool of counselors to choose from. By incorporating technology into their practice, therapists can even provide long-distance counseling for couples or families who live in different areas. Online therapy can also offer these benefits to those with a counselor education wanting to offer services without renting an expensive office or paying an expensive commute.
Individuals living with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions have a more convenient way to attend each therapy session and treat mental illness. For someone who is experiencing depression and feeling fatigued and overwhelmed, it can sometimes be difficult to leave the house, much less attend a therapy appointment. Online sessions with a mental health nurse, primary care doctor, or therapist can provide support without the added stress of commuting.
Similarly, for someone with social anxiety, it can be daunting to go to a new office and explore their thoughts and feelings in face-to-face counseling. Online therapy can provide a solution for people experiencing these mental health challenges. A person experiencing anxiety can choose to write to their counselor on their smartphone using mental health apps rather than talking to their counselor during a live counseling session.
Aside from more scheduling options, this technology allows individuals to write to their therapist during stressful times via in-app messaging. They don’t have to wait until their next appointment to tell an idea or concern. They can often obtain feedback from their therapist within 24 hours rather than waiting an entire week. This feature could lead to faster progression in therapy for some individuals.
Modern Online Therapy: The Opportunity To See And Hear Your Therapist
Videoconferencing and the "live" feature are among the newest innovations in the online counseling field, and they’re quickly diffusing some of the criticisms related to online therapy. Counselors have long complained that text chat, possibly with mental health chatbots, does not allow mental health professionals to notice body language, visual cues, or the client's stress or incongruity, which can be important in many cases.
For people who are comfortable using social media or online social platforms, online counseling can be an attractive option, offering comfort and familiarity. Multiple types of counselors can practice online, including those offering school counseling, career counseling, and couples counseling in the counseling profession.
With BetterHelp, You Don't Have To Pick
When engaging in online counseling with counselors, clients don’t have to choose between one form of communication or another. With BetterHelp, clients can use the live sessions and send updates throughout the week to their licensed marriage or family therapist as things happen or when they are dealing with self-destructive behaviors or facing especially difficult situations involving family members.
This isn't usually available for clients in traditional office settings. Clients might be able to leave their counselor a message or have a quick conversation with their counselor if an urgent matter pops up in between sessions, but it is not a common practice for most in-office therapists to offer this in their services.
Now that counselors can see visual cues and hear a client's voice in video sessions, it may be easier to convince health insurance companies to work with online therapists. There may also be opportunities for therapists to obtain licensure in multiple states as the evidence of online therapy’s effectiveness continues to grow.
Are You Afraid Online Therapy Might Be Too Expensive?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about technology and counseling.
What Are Three Main Types Of Therapy?
Out of the numerous types of therapy services available, the following are three major types:
Psychodynamic therapy was developed from psychoanalysis. Therapists who practice this type of therapy may use conversations to uncover subconscious patterns in thoughts or behavior. They also often encourage their clients to tell details about their daily life, dreams, past, fantasies, and childhood. This strategy is a positive psychology method in which there is potential to help people experiencing substance use.
Technology and counseling make it possible for the patient to undergo psychodynamic therapy without being physically present in an office, thanks to real-time virtual sessions. Psychodynamic therapy seeks to make a connection between your unconscious mind, subconscious mind, and conscious thoughts and actions. To do this, therapists may inquire about your relationships and emotional responses to certain people and situations, and they may even require you to journal about your prominent thoughts.
The application of various new technologies is now adopted in a wide range of psychodynamic strategies for public health. Take, for instance, a mental illness brought about by substance abuse. A therapist can use technology-assisted primary care to help a person experiencing substance use to improve their mental health.
This type of therapy can be useful in treating:
Substance use disorder
Behavioral therapy is an action-focused type of mental health therapy.
The general idea is that exhibited behaviors stem from things learned, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the past. Behavioral therapy aims to change the person's behavioral responses in a wide range of situations. The exploration of unconscious patterns can make this kind of therapy useful for treating conditions related to substance use.
One of the benefits of real-time teletherapy is that it allows clients to communicate with their therapists whenever they find themselves in a distressing situation through real-time sessions and technology. This way, the necessary action can be taken when it's needed.
Unlike psychodynamic therapy, behavioral therapy does not tend to involve much talking when treating mental illness. It also doesn’t typically probe too deeply in the unconscious patterns that cause conscious behavior. Instead, behavioral therapy often seeks to educate the client on how to change their behavioral patterns and emotional reactions to distressing situations.
Behavioral therapy has numerous subtypes. These include:
Systematic desensitization typically uses gradual exposure and relaxation exercises to transform your behavioral reaction and emotional response to specific people, objects, or situations. This form of behavioral therapy has a proven positive impact on mental illness and public health.
Aversion therapy typically teaches you to connect undesirable behaviors with undesirable things. With this strategy, your brain may learn to identify unwanted behaviors as unhelpful and harmful. You may then be able to replace them with desirable behaviors. The focus tends to be on the use of association to subdue undesirable behavioral patterns or responses.
For instance, a person experiencing substance use might be taught to associate compulsive triggers with undesirable things. This way, they may be less impulsive with such triggers as they aren’t as enticing as they were before.
Behavioral therapy may be used in:
Substance use disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Oppositional and defiant behaviors
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is similar in many ways to behavioral therapy, except it is not solely action-based. With its short-paced style, you will often find a therapist using CBT. It tends to focus on treating the root problem of damaging thought patterns and behavioral reactions. Being a form of positive therapy, CBT is being done using teletherapy at an increasing rate.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to address the beliefs and emotions a patient holds about themselves and others that may be causing distress. The belief is that these negative emotions and thoughts may be contributing to any mental health concerns you may be experiencing.
During real-time CBT sessions, your therapist may help you identify and understand the harmful patterns you might have adopted. CBT can be conducted online through videoconferencing or other forms of technology.
CBT is typically used to treat:
Anxiety and phobias
Substance use disorders
Are Clinical Psychologists Therapists?
While both clinical psychologists and therapists work to improve the lives of individuals, they may approach this in different ways. Psychologists usually have a doctorate in psychology, either a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in psychology. Some provide therapy, while others focus more on teaching at colleges and universities. Still others focus on psychological research.
On the other hand, therapists tend to have a master’s degree in areas related to mental health, such as marriage and family therapy.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Clinical Psychologist?
Clinical psychologists are responsible for helping clients identify the existing emotional, mental, and behavioral patterns that negatively affect them. They are also responsible for diagnosing any disorders that a person may have, in addition to selecting and executing an appropriate treatment plan.
As stated above, some clinical psychologists also teach at universities and/or conduct psychological research. Clinical psychologists may work in offices, from home, or at a research center due to the availability of technology that supports online therapy and online counseling
What Are The Areas Of Clinical Psychology?
Areas of clinical psychology include but are not limited to the following:
Forensic psychology uses both forensics and psychology to help solve legal cases.
Clinical child psychology focuses on providing therapy to children and improving their overall quality of life.
Clinical neuropsychology involves the relationship between the brain and behavior. It may help individuals with brain injuries improve their mental health.
What Is The Main Focus Of Clinical Psychology?
Clinical psychology focuses on ensuring quality mental and behavioral health care for individuals and families. This is achieved through proper research, diagnosis, and treatment of various mental health problems across the lifespan. Clinical psychology works by integrating clinical knowledge with science and theories in patient management.
Evidence-based research has shown that recent technological advancements allow for the incorporation of virtual reality in patient management. An evidence-based pilot study has shown that technology-assisted therapy has great potential for psychologists to treat mental health conditions, specifically adolescent depression.
What Is Tech-Based Therapy?
Technology-based therapy uses technological tools and platforms. Online therapy is any therapy practice that takes place with the assistance of an electronic device or some form of technology.
Nowadays, technology tools like therapy software make long-distance therapy possible via real-time communication between the therapist and client. Technological tools for therapy include videoconferencing and online chat therapy, both of which allow therapists to communicate with clients from anywhere with an internet connection. This technology even allows for families and couples who are in different locations to engage in therapy together.
What Therapy Is Talk Therapy?
Talk therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves verbal interaction between the therapist and client. Talk therapy uses extensive conversations to help uncover the causes of the client's distress. It is not to be mistaken for speech therapy.
The use of technology-assisted strategies and new technologies has also proven beneficial to talk therapy, which can take place online.
Does Tech Affect Behavior?
Technology can affect behavior in several ways—both negatively and positively. The growth of technology has led some people to develop an addiction to smartphones and social media. However, technology has also connected people in many ways. Many people have established meaningful relationships thanks to technology.
Technology has also improved human behavior in many ways through online healthcare and online therapy. Thousands of people living in remote areas have been able to get the care they need to improve their mental health and their behaviors.
Can An Online Counselor Diagnose You?
One area clients may be interested in receiving more information on distance counseling vs. face-to-face counseling is whether the diagnosis process through video counseling is similar. Some text therapy platforms allow counselors to diagnose clients, whereas others choose not to offer this service due to the health information secrecy policies of the platform. Reach out to the platform of your choice or check their FAQ page to find out more about each counseling practice.
What is the difference in therapy and counseling?
Is a counselor the same as a therapist?
Do I need counseling or therapy?
Which is better, counsellor or psychologist?
What is higher than a therapist?
Why do people go to therapy?
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