Online counseling is pretty self-explanatory: it’s counseling that you receive online, typically via video chat or phone call. Okay, but if it’s essentially the same thing as your traditional therapy session, why choose the online approach? Those who choose this route do so for different reasons. Perhaps they can’t find a counselor nearby whom they connect with. Or, their kids make it difficult for them to go to a clinical office. Or, in many cases, they just can’t bring themselves to open up in the traditional setting… and online counseling becomes an increasingly viable option. Because it helps them clear that hurdle.
Communicating Comfortably… At a Distance
Research has shown that clients feel more comfortable communicating at a distance. Which, if you think about it, isn’t too surprising considering how many of us function on a day to day basis. Our society has become increasingly technological—we spend hours a day talking on our phones, typing on our computers, scrolling through our social media and news feeds. A lot of us feel more comfortable communicating through a medium, as opposed to speaking face-to-face… hence, online counseling’s success.
Online counseling offers many of the same benefits as your traditional in-person therapy. In both cases, the counselor’s job is to offer you support and guidance—but more often than not, clients worry about the judgment they might receive instead… even though therapists are trained to throw their judgmental inclinations out the window. Here’s the deal: every counselor’s ultimate mission is to help his or her client reach a happy, healthy place. And a big part of that often involves first helping them feel comfortable in the therapeutic setting. But some people take longer to warm up to the counselor, to the entire process. And others don’t ever warm up at all. In such cases, online counseling is often a great alternative to the in-person sessions.
The Fear of Facing Fears
So, up until now, the overall takeaway is this: online counseling is a viable option for many, especially those who just can’t bring themselves to open up when meeting with a therapist face-to-face. But that’s not to say that online counseling completely abolishes all fears. Chances are, you’ll still be a little nervous, at least in the beginning stages of therapy. But that’s okay! Because you can and you will overcome your fear. And we’re going to help you do so, by giving you an inside look at a counselor’s thoughts on this very subject.
Dr. Seda Gragossian, Clinical Director at the Talk Therapy Psychology Center, is here to give the therapist’s perspective. She says that it is completely normal and understandable to feel nervous about starting therapy. “It is very common for people to have reservations about calling a therapist. This is all very natural. Part of the concern is that our society has a certain stigma associated with seeking therapy,” she explains. “People have to work up quite a bit of courage to even make the call. They will stew on it for a long time until they get to the point where they know they really need help. But even then, there is some anxiety and perhaps a little shame involved in the process.” That being said, your soon-to-be counselor will be there to congratulate you for taking that step. As it’s their job to support you on your therapy journey and get you the care that you need. In Gragossian’s words, here’s how counselors see it:
“We acknowledge that making the call is in and of itself a very difficult task and recognize those who have called and spoken with us. After all, getting over their challenges is work they themselves need to do. The therapist is just there to provide some guidance and tools. So, making the call is in and of itself the first step in getting better. We congratulate them for that.
Next, we try to remove any shame associated with their condition and let them know that everyone comes across times in their lives when they need a little help. We reserve any judgment and have a motto that we meet people where they are at. We let them know that they should do their research and find the center or therapist that they connect with. They may even want to talk to a couple of them and see how they relate to the person and whether the therapist specializes in the area they need help with.
We also ask them to come up with questions ahead of time. For instance, ask about insurance coverage, discuss different treatment modalities, talk about how friends and family might be involved in the process, etc. This process of preparing for a call ahead of time helps them get into the right frame of mind. The act of calling becomes a bit less emotional and more a fact-finding call.”