Online Counseling: Pros and Cons
Did you know that only 10% of depressed 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? Generally speaking, what are the pros and cons? As you might guess, the reasons people do not seek or receiving counseling are many—among them is the problem that acquiring counseling services is too difficult. Consider this: Someone who is interested in mental health services must accomplish the following…
- Overcome his apprehension, embarrassment and fear of seeking counseling.
- Come to terms that people in his community might find out he is in therapy.
- Locate and research reputable local counseling services.
- Make contact with a service (usually by phone) to schedule a session.
- Accept, if insurance is to be used, that he will be diagnosed with a psychological disorder that will go in his health record.
- Maintain motivation and courage while waiting for a scheduled session—the wait is often weeks or longer.
- Execute his intentions of arriving at the counseling appointment (which may necessitate taking time off work).
For a person battling even the most common life issues, this is a copious series of tasks—one that may prove far too difficult once the individual has weighed his or her pros and cons. And what is more, we—as counselors—cannot do much to make it easier. We often have long waiting lists for new clients, slow intake processes, business hours that conflict with client work schedules. We have no choice 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, agoraphobia, grief, psychosis, or perhaps the greatest personal crisis of their life.
And all the while, counselors wonder, “Why is the compliance rate only 10%?” Perhaps you’ve noticed these problems. Maybe you are interested in beginning an online counseling practice because you’re already beginning to see some of its strong advantages for clinical practice. If so, you’re among a growing number of counselors who are taking on the challenge of providing therapy services though methods such as telephone, email, text-chat, and even videoconference.
On the other hand, perhaps 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, you’re in the right place. We’re going to help you better understand the practice by discussing the pros and cons of online counseling:
Pros of Online Counseling
- Social stigma is eliminated: clients don’t have to worry about people seeing or finding out that they’re receiving counseling, as they don’t have to drive to or walk into a counseling center.
- There are more counselors available: clients aren’t limited to working with counselors in close proximity. Instead, they can find an online counselor who is uniquely equipped to best help the client with their presenting problems.
- Online counseling offers greater convenience: you don’t have to rework your schedule to ensure you have time to drive to therapy. Instead, you can attend your counseling session from the comfort and convenience of your home.
- It eliminates intimidation that comes with in-person communication: A lot of people seeking counseling don’t feel comfortable talking openly about their problems. With online counseling, you have the option of writing about your problems instead or speaking about them on the phone as opposed to in-person.
- Online counseling offers more flexibility: Often with online counseling, you can write or email your counselor when you need to. You don’t have to wait for your scheduled session but can call on their help as needed via email.
Cons of Online Counseling
- There is less intimacy: Some clients need that in-person meeting to create that intimate therapist-client bond that makes for a successful therapy journey.
- It isn’t always covered by insurance: Some insurance companies do not cover online counseling. It often depends on your state, as well as your insurer. Paying for counseling out of pocket can quickly add up and proves too expensive for some clients.
- Unreliable technology can get in the way of your session: If you have iffy internet connection or your laptop suddenly stops working, there goes your therapy session. You need to ensure that you have reliable technology if you want to give online counseling a try.
- It might not be as effective as in-person counseling if you have a serious illness: Online counseling is often effective and proves successful, but this isn’t always the case if you have a serious mental illness. A serious mental illness might require in-person therapy so that your counselor can best understand what you’re going through and what you need.
- It can eliminate nonverbal communication: In in-person therapy, counselors often analyze their client’s nonverbal communication, such as one’s eye contact and their body language. If you’re receiving online counseling via telephone or email, your counselor can’t use nonverbal communication to their benefit.
Do you think online counseling could be a viable treatment option for you? Consider the pros and cons of online counseling before you make a decision. If you do decide that you want to try online counseling, visit our online counseling page.