Here’s an undeniable truth a lot of us don’t like to talk about: we all have problems. We suffer from emotional turmoil—post-breakup, mid-job change, as a consequence of depression… you get the idea. And often, to cope with these unfavorable circumstances and difficult feelings, we need to reach outside of ourselves. Sometimes talking to a trusted friend or family member does the trick, but at others, it takes talking to a more skilled professional. Or more specifically, a licensed counselor.

Counseling is designed to teach you effective tools for dealing with whatever it is you might be going through—say a breakup, a major life transition, or a tough mental illness like depression, as mentioned above. Traditionally, the client-counselor relationship is built face-to-face, in the counselor’s office. But thanks to modern-day technology, patients now have another option: online counseling. Now, that begs an important question. Does online counseling work?

Functions and Benefits of Online Counseling

To answer this question, “Does online counseling work?” let’s answer another question: what exactly is online counseling? How is it different from going to a counselor’s office and getting the treatment you need there? The big difference is that it’s done via the web, telephone, or chat. Kailee Place, a licensed professional counselor at Shifting Tides Therapeutic Solutions who offers in-office and online therapy services, is here to delve into some basic functions and benefits of online counseling including:

  • Online counseling is just like traditional counseling, only you don’t have to come to the office.
  • Online counseling utilizes modern day technology: telephone, web chat, and video conference.
  • Online counseling is still HIPAA-compliant, meaning your information is protected.
  • Online counseling offers many benefits, including comfort, convenience, and accessibility.

I tell prospective clients that doing therapy online is the exact same experience as traditional therapy with the exception that they’re on their couch versus mine! And they get to wear pajamas. Bonus. Simply, a client meets with their therapist through video (or does a live chat session in a chatroom-type setting), and the therapy session goes just like it would in person,” Place explains. “These days, most computers and phones have access to video and microphone. There are tons of secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platforms available for therapists to use when providing these services as well.

Truly, online therapy offers the same benefits as in-person therapy services and even has a couple factors that may make the experience more impactful depending on the individual. For people who generally feel more comfortable in their own space, then they don’t have to acclimate to a therapist’s office and try to get comfortable there. Also, if a person really wants to work with a therapist who is located two hours away, online therapy solves that problem.

Online services also help solve accessibility issues for people who may have mobility limitations or do not have the resources to make commutes on a regular basis. Also, in the instance of illness or weather causing issues, doing a session online keeps the therapeutic work flowing. For someone who feels uncomfortable with technology or most fully connects with people in person, then online therapy just may not be the most effective option for them, and that’s okay!” So, does online counseling work? Yes. Furthermore, it comes with many benefits you don’t get with the traditional in-person therapy model.

Does Online Counseling Work for My Situation?

Just because online counseling is an option doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right option for you. Traditional counseling might work just fine, or even optimally, instead—because for some, nothing beats that in-person communication. So, then how can you determine if online counseling works and is the most effective option for you? To better your personal answer to, “Does online counseling work?” here are a few ways online counseling works for many:

1. It offers a greater anonymity.

One reason online counseling works (and is preferred by many) is that is offers a degree of anonymity that in-person counseling does not. Sessions can be conducted over the phone, which allows you to keep your face and much of your identity hidden, if so desired! And you don’t have to worry about it taking away from the client-counselor relationship: “Phone can suffice when necessary,” Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jasmin Terrany explains. “I had an elderly phone client for years, and we developed an exceptional therapeutic relationship. To this day, I have no idea what she looks like!”

2. It’s highly accessible.

Another reason online counseling works is it makes your counselor and your sessions more accessible. You don’t have to worry about bad weather, traffic, or other external factors of the like preventing you from getting to your session on time. With the click of a few buttons, you’re in your session and reaping all of the benefits that come with therapy. Additionally, if you have a super busy schedule and don’t have time to drive to counseling or could benefit from cutting out that commute time, online counseling is a great solution.

3. You have a greater selection of therapists.

Additionally, online counseling allows you to choose from a greater selection of therapists; you aren’t limited to the few in your area. So, if none of the counselors near you specialize in the area your issues demand (such as trauma or substance abuse counseling), or if you simply don’t connect with any of them, online counseling is likely a better option for you. It enables you to connect with a wide variety of counselors and choose one best suited for you!