E-counseling, which was unheard of only a few years ago, is now a bustling addition to the mental health community. According to the e-counseling.com definition, it is “the revolutionary method of connecting certified mental health professionals and people seeking treatment via the Internet.” It’s often lauded as a way to help more people access the mental health care and support they need, and may not have had access to previously. As always, when new technology births a new service, people have a lot of questions about how it works (and whether it works!). So, how exactly does e-therapy work?
Similarities to “Offline” Therapy
In many ways, e-counseling is similar to traditional counseling. For example, there is a wide variety of different providers online, just as there is “offline.” There are doctoral providers (like MDs, PhDs, etc.) and non-doctoral providers (certified counselors). There are those who specialize in certain types of therapy, while other specialize in certain conditions.
How Online Therapy Takes Place
Typically, you sign up for a service, often with a subscription-esque model. This service then either matches you with a provider based on your profile, or allows you to select from available providers. You then are able to communicate with the provider one on one.
Often, this communication isn’t in real-time, which can be helpful for people whose schedules or geographic location make it difficult for them to attend traditional therapy during typical “office hours.”
However, there will also be options for real-time communications, usually with a variety of different options, including text chat, voice chat, or even video meetings. Sometimes these sessions are included in the general pricing model; sometimes they must be booked additionally with additional fees.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Of course, with a model that is so very different from what we think of when we imagine traditional therapy, there should be some discussion about the pros and cons of the new model. As already mentioned, there is the obvious advantage of helping those who would have difficulty attending appointments due to time or geographic constraints. But that’s hardly the only advantage.
People who are suffering from mental health concerns may also find it difficult to even leave their homes, and online therapy can give them access to the support they desperately need.
People who are caught up in abusive situations may also have difficulty seeking help outside of the home due to controlling, abusive household members. They may find it easier to seek support online.
Also, the relative anonymity of being online can make it easier for some people to open up. When you go to a local therapist, even if you believe they will keep your information confidential, it can be uncomfortable knowing that someone in your community knows so much about you. When your therapist is hundreds of miles away (and online, to boot), that fear is less poignant.
On the other hand, some people may find it easier to build a trusting relationship with a therapist or counselor face to face.
Everyone’s mental health journey is unique and requires a unique approach. Thankfully, with more varied options available, online or otherwise, you can more easily find the approach that’s right for you.