In recent years, and especially during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, online counseling has increased in popularity. Many in-person therapists have made the shift to virtual therapy when the demand for counseling increased.
But, as is the case with any new trend or approach, online counseling has gotten its fair share of doubt due to common misconceptions. So, to keep you in the know about everything related to online counseling here’s what this mode of therapy is all about.
How Does it Work?
Online therapy is quite straight-forward. It’s personal therapy that takes place online through a device with an internet connection. Some platforms operate through text, others through audio, but most commonly, online therapy is done through live video. Before you get paired with a therapist, you are asked to fill in a questionnaire, then based on your answers, the app or the platform recommends a few therapist choices for you. Needless to say, you can also ask to change your therapist at any time. As for the sessions, these are scheduled beforehand and paid for via credit/debit cards or other online payment platforms.
Depending on the app/platform you’re using, you can call or text your therapist in addition to the video sessions, too. Of course, the therapists are fully licensed, and you maintain the right to ask for credentials if you need to. However, there is one main difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist which is the ability to prescribe medications. Most of the therapists on online counseling apps are licensed to treat but not to prescribe. Though, if they see a need for medications, they will get you in contact with a psychiatrist.
Does it Really Work?
While online therapy might seem distanced and a tad too clinical, that’s only because it’s a relatively new approach, so it’s natural to have doubts. To relieve your concerns, a lot of studies have proved that online and in-person therapy are equally effective, not to mention online therapy can offer a type of flexibility that isn’t available in in-person therapy. It starts with the available applications and online platforms. If you look at this comparison between Talkspace vs Betterhelp, two of the leading counseling platforms out there, you’ll see the extent of what online therapy can do. If you are looking for an LGBTQ counselor, you will be assigned one, and if you need access or a recommendation for a psychiatrist, you can find what you need on either of these platforms.
So, when it comes to the question of whether or not online counseling works, the science and the testimonies already confirm its effectiveness. The only determining factor here is your preferences and what you’re comfortable with. The only way to do that is through personal experience because, when it comes to sensitive matters such as counseling, people differ greatly.
How to Approach it?A lot of people approach online therapy with the preconceived thought that it is only an alternative to face-to-face therapy. The truth, however, is that it is a separate mode of counseling. For you to get the most out of the process, you’ll be better off if you see online counseling for its own benefits. Being in a clinic for the first time can be awkward, any new space usually takes time to get used to. From the comfort of your home, you won’t have to deal with entering a new space. Instead, you’ll be focused on what you want to share. Add to that, if you have a busy schedule, online therapy means you won’t ever have to compromise your mental health for the sake of your professional life. Yet, even with all the benefits in the back of your head, any therapy session can still be overwhelming.
So, before your first session, take some time alone to prepare yourself. At the time of the session, have a hot drink in hand, this is a tactic that provides mental and physical comfort, and it will make your first session easier for you. To put it simply, treat your online counseling experience the same as you would an in-person session and let it define itself.
As we’ve illustrated in the above points, online counseling is as effective as in-person therapy. Although, you must keep in mind that you and your therapist are the only ones who can make it work. If you feel uncomfortable with a certain therapist, ask for a different counselor. They are guaranteed to respect and understand your decision. If you would like to take some time to get to know a little about them and how they operate, don’t hesitate to ask them a few questions. Remember that counseling is all about sharing and being vulnerable and you can’t do that if you feel uncomfortable.