Counseling is an incredibly useful tool for all who utilize it. Yes, it is exceptionally effective for those who present symptoms of a serious mental illness like depression or anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder. But it is also exceptionally effective for those who aren’t diagnosed with a mental disorder. Counseling helps couples adopt healthy communication techniques, prepare for marriage, and work through whatever curveball might get thrown their way. It helps families work through tough issues such as a major loss or surprising divorce. It helps individuals cope with big life changes, get to know themselves better, and ultimately lead happier lives.
Counseling sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? And I’ve yet to mention just how dynamic and convenient it’s become. For some, face-to-face counseling is plenty dynamic and convenient—they don’t mind driving to each session or talking openly about their problems with their counselor. But others run into a few issues here: their counselor is more than a hop, skip, and a jump away, and they don’t have the time to commute; or they find it difficult to sit in front of their counselor and open up. In both cases, counseling is not out of the question. But a different approach to counseling might be the better bet: I’m talking online counseling.
Online counseling is simply counseling done via video chat or telephone. It is virtually the same as in-person counseling—the overall goal being to improve your wellbeing. But what about those risks I mentioned in the title? Yes, you might run a few risks of foregoing the traditional approach to therapy… but don’t get all worried yet. See what I have to say about these potential “risks”:
- Faulty connection. Sure, if you choose to go the online counseling route, you run the risk of dealing with some technological issues—your internet could go out, your computer could shut down out of nowhere, your phone could die in the middle of your session, etc. But let’s be honest: how likely are you to actually run into these problems? And if you do, how likely are you to run into the same problem again? My point is that this risk is insignificant. We use technology throughout much of our day, which means we always run the risk of experiencing some technological difficulties. Nothing new here. Just do what you can to ensure your laptop or phone is charged and functioning prior to your session.
- Therapist credibility. Or, that is, a lack thereof. Another potential risk of trying out online counseling is trusting a counselor who isn’t actually qualified or lacks the necessary experience to counsel clients. But there’s an easy way around this problem: while it’s true that online therapy sometimes offers little assurance about the counselor’s qualifications and credentials, you can find online counselors who are clearly qualified to do what they do. So, it all comes down to you asking one question: are they licensed and able to help me? And accepting only one answer.
- Numerous distractions. Sure, it’s also possible that you become distracted during your online sessions—there’s the book on your nightstand you’ve been meaning to read, an old episode of Jersey Shore on your TV you’d love to watch, and your pups in the other room who need to go on a walk. And these things are all readily available to you because you’re getting counseling from home! But hey, guess what? You can easily eliminate these distractions. Put the book away. Turn the TV off. Walk your dogs before your session. Better yet, declare a certain area in your home your counseling space. And every time you have a session, do it from there. After a while, your brain will begin to associate that space with counseling and know it’s time to get to work.
- Miscommunication. Another risk many are concerned about when it comes to online counseling is miscommunication between client and therapist. What if we don’t click the way we should via video chat or telephone? What if the therapist can’t pick up on little cues like body language during online sessions? Sure, these concerns are viable: it might take a little longer to get that client-counselor relationship where you want it to be, and counselors might not sense your stiffness or discomfort around a certain topic as quickly. But again, it’s not the end of the world. You can work through these issues. Just be open and honest with your counselor and work to get to a good place together.
- Ineffectiveness. And finally, some people worry that online counseling just isn’t as effective as in-person counseling. While the concerns we just discussed might lead one to conclude online counseling is ineffective or at least not as effective as in-person counseling, there is little research that supports the validity of this concern. Instead, online counseling continues to be an awesome option for people who struggle for one reason or another to thrive in in-person counseling.