You might be asking “What are the advantages of online counseling?” — and that’s a valid question. To answer, I’m going to begin with a question of my own. Did you know that only a limited number of people who are referred by a physician to seek mental health services ever receive those services?

Why is this?

Is it because they do not want to get well, or are there other factors? As you might guess, the reasons are many; and among them is the problem that acquiring counseling services is too difficult.

Consider this.

A man suffering from depression, to receive counseling must:

  1. Overcome his apprehension, embarrassment and fear of seeking counseling
  2. Come to terms that people in his community might find out he is in therapy
  3. Locate and research reputable local counseling services
  4. Make contact with a service (usually by phone) to schedule a session
  5. Accept, if insurance is to be used, that he will be diagnosed with a psychological disorder that will go in his health record
  6. Maintain motivation and courage while waiting for a scheduled session—the wait is often weeks or longer
  7. Execute his intentions of arriving at the counseling appointment (which may necessitate taking time off work).

(Note: If you’re looking for online counseling services, skip this and visit our online counseling page.)

For a person struggling with even common life-issues, this is a copious series of tasks. And what’s more, we — as counselors — cannot do much to make it easier. We often have long waiting lists for new clients, slow intake processes and business hours that conflict with client work schedules. We have no option but to allow clients to suffer social stigma, to require them to travel to an unfamiliar place, to arrive promptly and presentably — all while battling depression, anxiety, grief or perhaps the greatest personal crises of their lives.

And still we wonder, “Why is the compliance rate so low?”

Perhaps you’ve noticed these problems. If so, you’re among a growing number of counselors who are considering taking on the challenge of providing therapy services though methods such as telephone, email, text and even videoconference. Remember though, online counseling is more than an alternative for clients who “just can’t make it in” for in-person counseling.

The table below lists many suggested benefits and advantages of online counseling, aside from the obvious advantage of convenience.

In-person counseling

eCounseling

Has proven to be effective over many years of research and study New research shows eCounseling to be effective, and sometimes more effective than in-person counseling
Has proven to be effective for building rapport/relationship between counselor and client New research shows eCounseling is effective for building rapport/relationship between counselor and client.
A client has 45-50 minutes to tell his/her story A client has unlimited amounts of time to detail his/her story by email.
Persons are often seen by members of their community at the counseling office Due to the distance of the counselor , and absence of the counseling office, social stigma is eliminated
Clients can seek out the best counselor in their area Clients can look outside their area for an excellent counselor
Client and counselor must show up during a designated time and at a designated location Client and counselor do not meet at a designated place, and sometimes there is no designated time
Rates can be expensive, especially in urban areas Clients benefit from lower overhead costs of counselors
Usually takes place during business hours: 9-5, Monday-Friday Has potential for extended and flexible hours
Is difficult for the sick or immobile Is accessible to homebound and ailing persons
There is risk of counselor sexual or social misconduct There is less potential for counselor sexual or social misconduct
Are often client waiting lists A counselor is always available
A counselor might not be experienced with the client’s presenting problem Clients can search far and wide for a counselor experienced with their problem issues
Counselor may not be knowledgeable of the client’s ethnicity or language Clients can select a counselor knowledgeable of their ethnicity and language
Client needs to overcome their apprehensions and fears of seeking counseling Feeling more anonymous, clients with apprehensions and fears are more likely to seek counseling
Is ideal for clients who communicate well verbally Is ideal for clients who communicate well verbally or by writing
Clients commit time to commuting, and often the ‘waiting room’ experience Client time is spent on counseling issues
Clients feel an empty space between sessions With email, there is no “end” to a conversation, so clients feel continually in dialog with their counselor
Clients may be intimidated by the counselor Clients are less likely to feel intimidated by the counselor
Clients may forget their feelings, resolutions, and commitments spoken in session Clients are able to save writings regarding their feelings, resolutions, and commitments
Clients might forget a counselor’s guidance and advice Clients are able to save counselor’s guidance and advice, if it is in writing
Clients might not see clearly their progress Saved text is a testament to a client’s treatment progress.

But perhaps, if you’re a mental health provider, even after reviewing the online counseling advantages above, you’re not sure whether online counseling is right for you. You’re more reserved, responsibly cautious, but you’re interested in learning about what online counseling is, where it came from, and how to provide it ethically and effectively (or if such is even possible). If this is you, add your comments below and discuss your thoughts, or pick up our online counseling book.

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