Technology and Counseling: Working Hand-In-Hand

By Nicole Beasley |Updated May 27, 2022
Technology in counseling is a relatively new pairing that is largely driven by the effort to find solutions to barriers that prevent people from being able to access mental health practitioners in the way they need for their mental health issues. Read how by integrating technology in counseling, these advances and new technologies are helping people get counseling everywhere.
 
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Counseling Solutions

It is hard for some in rural areas, without transportation, who have hectic work schedules in their personal lives, or are the primary caretaker for a small child to have the opportunity to go in an office for traditional face-to-face counseling or even bother with scheduling appointments. It can also be costly, which is a big advantage of technology in counseling like online therapy that offers online services for mental health, as it offers affordable rates and more availability to your counselor. By incorporating technology and the emersion of new technologies, technology based therapy like online therapy can even provide long-distance counseling for couples or long-distance counseling for family members.

History of Remote Therapy

So, 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.

However, this experimental technology in counseling was perceived as ethically questionable for the ethical implications in some senses. Technology in counseling was hard for both parties to ensure they knew who was on the other side of the screen with the technology and these sites were lacking in key privacy components. Further, mental health chatbots and internet chat rooms were not generally run or monitored by professionals in those days.

Initial Skepticism

People were also skeptical as to how traditional counseling could transfer to the internet, at least until social media helped legitimize internet communication in our daily routine. Now, with online payments, photo sharing, and video conferencing for business, this technology for counseling makes more sense to people.

Both the counselor and patient or clients benefit from using online services for scheduling appointments with the ease of integrating technology.

If you can deposit a check in your bank's mobile app, why not have counseling in mental health apps as well? Especially since online sites such as BetterHelp have worked tirelessly to safeguard the privacy and verification of counselors.

All therapists on BetterHelp are required to be HIPAA compliant, and all counselors are thoroughly vetted and verified so you know you have access to quality mental health counseling when in the platform. Client data and the information of potential clients is kept securely under the patient privacy policy.

Types Of Online Counseling

Additionally, online counseling and online therapy is able to offer help to individuals, couples, and even family members through family therapy. Advancement in mental health technology has allowed clients and counselors a new way of interacting. 

So, we are finding that not only can therapy and counseling work in today's technology, but this technology could quite possibly work better than traditional counseling because this technology allows more availability, flexibility, and affordability for clients.

Online Counseling's Advantages

Individuals living with depression, anxiety, and other disorders have a more convenient way with the help of technology to make each counseling session with no travel required (like in person therapy or counseling necessitates) and reduced stress. For someone who is depressed and is feeling fatigued and overwhelmed, just getting out of bed can be a strain, much less getting out of the house and making it on time to a scheduled counseling session via the internet or with some other technology or app.

For someone with social anxiety, it can be terrifying to think of going to a new office and sitting across from a stranger, and sharing their thoughts and feelings in face-to-face counseling or in person therapy or counseling and having that face to face interaction with counselors.

The Privacy Of Home

This is one area in which online counseling and online therapy is so helpful as an alternative to in person therapy. Technology in counseling has made it possible for counseling services with counselors to be done from the privacy of the client's home through technology options like video conferencing and they can set the schedule around their personal lives.

For someone living with depression as a mental illness, they can stay in bed if they are having a really bad day.

For the anxious person or anxious clients, they could choose to write to their counselor on their smart phones using mental health apps or in the website with the aid of mental health chatbots rather than schedule a live counseling session. Technology in counseling and mental health chatbots has allowed for this. 

Benefits Of Discretion

Anonymity and full discretion are other major advantages of technology in counseling, especially since men claimed the social stigma associated with going to either a counselor or therapist and this social stigma is one reason why they avoided getting help for their mental illness.

The flexibility of schedule was another key point for this new technology, including that this technology allows the ability for clients to talk during stressful times, not just scheduled talk therapy with counselors or counseling sessions, as well as offer the clients the ability to write counselors when something upsetting or unusual happens and get feedback from counselors later that day rather waiting an entire week.

Individuals who choose online therapy may progress faster because of this feature.

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Therapy's Future

Video conferencing and the "live" feature is the newest innovation in the online counseling practice, and it's quickly diffusing some of the criticisms related to online therapy or the online counseling practice. Doctors and private practice counselors have long complained that text chat, possibly with mental health chatbots, does not allow the social interaction the professional or counselors needs to notice with potential clients or current client's body language, the client's visual cues, or the client's stress or incongruity, which is extremely important in many cases. This takes things a step further than e mail therapy, of which e mail therapy or counseling lacks emotion and the ability to respond in real time. Younger generations will be able to reap the potential benefits of this new technology that allows for counselors and clients to interact over secure counseling services with counselors that uses technology. 

Multiple Communication Options

It is also important for the client to have the ability to see counselors or professionals and hear their voice or vocal tone to develop rapport and trust in the counseling sessions. With the use of technology, clients or a client is able to connect with their therapist or counselors in a more comfortable, new way. The messaging feature similar to sending a text message or text messaging and live chat are great technology options for clients, but for some clients or a specfic person, the face-to-face interactions with counselors are needed and this technology provides those interactions for those clients with their counselors.

With BetterHelp, You Don't Have To Pick

And the good news is, when engaging in online counseling with counselors, the client or clients do not have to pick one or the other. With BetterHelp, clients can use the live sessions and the clients can send updates throughout the week to their counselors as things happen in real-time or when the clients are in especially difficult situations when it is frustrating to wait until the next session with their counselors.

This isn't usually available for clients in traditional office settings when you see a counselor with a private practice. Clients might be able to leave their counselor or counselors a message and have a quick conversation with their counselors if an urgent matter pops up in between sessions, but it is not a common practice for most face-to-face therapists or counselors who work in traditional settings to offer this in their services to their clients.

Research Evidence

Video sessions and the ethical implications of this technology were the major discussion in the Federation of State Medical Boards, and online therapy video conferencing was just part of the process of making the virtual technology business model go mainstream. Today, virtual and augmented reality are in all of our daily lives.

Now that counselors and doctors can see visual cues and hear a client's or patient's voice in video sessions, it may be easier to entice health insurance companies to work with online counselors. Another point for future study is in defining how doctors and therapists and counselors licensed in one state, can easily and quickly treat clients or patients in other states by adding legislation to help them.

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Conclusion

If you are interested in online counseling for mental health, check out the technology at BetterHelp.com. Note that BetterHelp is not a replacement for crisis intervention. BetterHelp will give you all of these features listed above: messaging (which is like email therapy or counseling but done through the secure platform), live chat sessions, video sessions, and phone calls.

So, whether you would like time to write and respond to your mental health counselor through messaging, schedule video or phone sessions, or have a more discreet live chat about stressful things on your mind, BetterHelp has you covered.

Online counseling is not suitable for crisis intervention, but it is a good option to treat many mental health illnesses. The American Counseling Association supports the use of online therapy or online counseling for mental health.

Technology's Advances For Mental Health

If you have ever thought about going to counseling in the past but never tried because of expense or inconvenience, then online counseling with today's technology may be the perfect compromise that brings help directly to you, in your home.

BetterHelp Can Help You

BetterHelp has thousands of trained counselors who are ready to work hand-in-hand with you. You can request to be matched, or you can look in the directory, read reviews and pick a counselor you think will work best for you. If you decide that you and your counselor are not a good fit, you can change at any time. It is important to remember though, that just as in traditional counseling it takes more than one session to get a true feel for your counselor, the same is true for online.

Ask questions and be upfront with your needs and preferences and you will get the most out of your online counseling experience. You can get started anywhere you have an internet connection and you do not even have to have a computer: you can use your smartphone or tablet!

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