Online counseling—or maybe you know it as teletherapy, e-counseling, or cyber-counseling—challenges the traditional therapy model, being that sessions are held online via video or phone call. That being said, it isn’t a completely new idea… but it’s certainly picked up speed and increased in popularity.
The concept of online therapy developed as early as the 1980s, with the launch of “Ask Uncle Ezra,” a mental health counseling service created by staff for students at Cornell University. And within the next five or so years, several other online therapy services had emerged, too—but today, there are a plethora. As people are beginning to acknowledge and capitalize on the many benefits and advantages of online counseling that you don’t always get with the traditional model, such as greater deal of convenience, comfort, and flexibility.
Give A Little…
First, you might have to give a little… while online counseling can be a great alternative to the traditional experience, it’s success relies on a few essentials. First: your cooperation and devotion. Second: reliable internet connection. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Michele Quintin, who offers secure online counseling, is here to delve into these elements:
- Cooperation and devotion. Quintin emphasizes the importance of securing a quiet place to talk, free from distractions. “You still want confidentiality and a dedicated time and space to meet, so trying to chase after a toddler or connecting in a public space aren’t going to work. Consider using headphones to improve both confidentiality and sound quality,” she suggests.
- Reliable internet connection. Again, another necessity is that you’re able to actually attend your online sessions, which means hi-speed internet connection on a computer. “Many of us are used to using Skype or FaceTime for video chat, but online counseling requires using a secure platform,” she explains. “The platform I use is VSee. VSee is free, but you do need to install the program.” If, however, your Internet does fail, there’s a simple backup plan: turn the video chat into a phone call instead.
…Get A Lot
Now that you understand the very minimal requirements for pursuing and succeeding in online therapy, we get to talk about the good stuff! Here are four advantages of online counseling that Quintin says you just can’t beat:
1) Greater selection of therapists.
First, you get to select from a bigger pool of counselors, which enables you to find the one best suited for your needs—not to mention one you actually like! “By not limiting yourself to your immediate geographic area, you can choose from licensed therapists all across your state (in the U.S.), or even internationally,” Quintin explains. “The importance of finding the best therapeutic fit cannot be overstated. Study after study shows that the factor that matters most in determining therapeutic success is finding a therapist you like and trust, so it is a great advantage to be able to cast a wide net.”
2) Scheduling flexibility.
Another advantage with online counseling is the flexibility that comes with scheduling/attending sessions. “I once missed (and still had to pay for) an entire therapy session because there was an accident on the highway. Online counseling eliminates this worry,” says Quintin. “Babysitter cancelled and your child is old enough to entertain themselves, but too young to stay home alone? Have a head cold and don’t want to infect others, but still want to keep your appointment? No problem!”
3) Maintaining healthy boundaries.
Online counseling also further ensures that boundaries aren’t crossed in your client-counselor relationship, says Quintin: “In counseling, a dual relationship refers to having any other relationship (personal, business, etc.) with your therapist outside of your therapeutic relationship, or your therapist having close relationships with your immediate family members. Naturally, this is problematic and to be avoided if possible. In rural areas or small towns, however, dual relationships can be almost inevitable, and even larger cities can be smaller than you think. Teletherapy can eliminate these concerns.”
4) Opportunity to bridge distances.
And lastly, another great advantage of online counseling is that it allows you to participate in couples/family counseling across distances—a problem many face with the traditional therapy model. “Trying to schedule couples or family counseling can be so challenging, especially if one or more people in the group travel,” Quintin explains. “Online counseling is a great option to bridge distances and help maintain regular therapeutic sessions.”