Online Counseling: Is it for you?
Online counseling – aka: telehealth, telepscyh, telemed, cyber counseling, distance counseling, web counseling, E-health . . .
You have likely heard some scuttle about one of the above “names” for online therapy. The sheer volume of labels alone is astounding! But the definition is simpler: Online therapy is the delivery of mental health counseling via the Internet. Much of the time this means that you would use a device such as your personal computer, laptop, tablet, and/or cell phone to access a licensed mental health professional (like me!) in order to receive therapy services. These services include everything from Instant Messaging, Real-time chat, Internet phone calls, and Video conferencing.
I use internet therapy quite a bit in my practice. WHY is the question I get asked a lot. Why would anyone want to do therapy over the internet? Well, there are several reasons – and pretty good ones actually!
- People who live in remote areas where there are limited mental health workers find the service very useful. Living 80 miles from the nearest therapist would normally make any type of therapy impossible.
- People with physical or emotional limitations. Some people cannot physically leave their home without a great deal of pain or hindrance. Others suffer with agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), OCD, and don’t feel safe to leave their home.
- Convenience. Inclement weather, terrible traffic jams, broken down vehicle, or only have one car – all of these stop people from going to an office and make internet sessions appealing.
- Less “scary” and less “stigma.” People are shy, nervous, hate to drive in town, have social anxiety. All of these things keep a person from making a “face to face” therapy appointment. Even a video conference can be frightening to some. But a live chat or messaging often helps a person feel a sense of anonymity that allows them to feel safe while expressing themselves and their fears/emotions/thoughts.
It is NOT for everyone. If you have serious mental health problems (feeling suicidal, uncontrolled psychosis, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder) it may be better to do the more traditional route. Also, if you have unreliable technology that will be a problem. Some extremely rural areas have sketchy internet and cell phone service. Then a land-line phone call may work.
If any of this sounds interesting or piques your interest – let’s talk openly about whether or not E-therapy is a good option for you!