Online therapy, online counselling, cybertherapy, e-therapy, e-counselling are all words that describe the process of providing counselling services that occur over the internet. With the growth of virtual communication, many individuals are considering this platform as a means to receive support, with research identifying the benefits of this approach. This guide will help you decide if online therapy is right for you?
There are various advantages (as well as drawbacks) to online therapy and this article will identify some of the key considerations with the aim to support you decide whether online therapy is right for you. At the end of this article, you will find a checklist of questions to ask yourself to prepare you for the journey into online therapy.
Strengths of Online Therapy
Individuals who live in remote/rural areas may struggle to access counselling services which can be a barrier for those who require support, however unable to access it. So for example, a psychologist in Birmingham could provide online therapeutic support for clients across the United Kingdom. Those who live in smaller towns or villages may have concerns regarding anonymity and feel that conducting therapy online may provide further reassurances that their challenges will remain confidential.
Engaging with mental health support for some individuals carries a social stigma, which often prevents those seeking the support they require. Some individuals may find face to face therapy too intense or feel uncomfortable visiting an unfamiliar place. Visiting your local services or waiting in reception areas can a be a source of anxiety for some people, therefore, conducting sessions online within the comfort of their own homes often reducing the stressors associated with seeking support.
Individuals who suffer from physical or mental health difficulties that prevent that prevent them from leaving their homes may benefit from virtual support that increases the likelihood of them accessing and engaging in therapy. Hard to reach client groups such as teenager may prefer to access therapy online compared to the traditional face to face experience.
Some individuals may prefer to work with a therapist from a cultural background similar to their own. They may want to work with someone who specialises in a particular approach or with a particular client group. Sourcing a therapist online will allow you to choose from a wider group of candidates that may not be available to you locally.
Busy work schedules may limit the available time you have to visit a therapist within their place of work. The ability to work remotely and flexibly with a therapist means the option to receive appointment times outside of the traditional working hours may help if you have frequent changes to your working schedule. Flexible working patterns may also reduce the frequency of missed sessions due to poor weather conditions and minor illnesses.
Drawbacks of online therapy
Communication is more than just speaking. We learn so much about what people say, and what they really mean through their verbal and non-verbal cues; particularly within a therapeutic environment. Subtle changes in eye contact, body language, voice tone, facial expressions all contribute to understanding a person’s unique lived experience. These nuanced experiences are pieces of information that support the therapist better understand your challenges. This is particularly important if the client has not developed an awareness of their challenges or effectively express their thoughts and feelings.
Online therapy is said to be less effective for individuals with complex presentations, particularly those individuals with severe and enduring mental difficulties. Assessing and responding to risk is a challenging task to perform online, which is why this platform may not be suited for those who require greater levels of psychological support.
Ensuring the confidentiality of client records and personal information is an essential component and responsibility of all therapist irrespective of the platform they provide support. Online therapy requires a level of security that differs from a locked filing cabinet or an organisation’s local servers. Greater emphasis is required of therapist’s to be aware of the risks associated with storing personal information to prevent breaches of data.
Competent computer skills and the ability to navigate both hardware (PC/Laptop) and software (Skype/Zoom) are key requirements to successfully adapt to online therapy. A reliable and efficient internet connection is also necessary to avoid disruption to the service you are receiving.
Finding the right therapist
Finding the right therapist is a key consideration within this process. When sourcing a therapist to work online, consideration should be given to there credentials and their ability to perform the job that they are intending to do. Every effort should be made to ensure that the therapist you choose is qualified and has the skills and experience to work with you. Particular consideration should be given to working with a therapist in another country or a city/state that may follow different regulatory codes of practice and knowledge regarding local services. You may want to check out our guide on how to find your therapist to help you with this process.
Below are a set of questions to support you prepare to undertake online therapy.
Identifying a therapist
- Are you happy with the level of qualifications and experience of your therapist and their ability to support you with your particular difficulties?
- Do you know the regulatory body that governs the work that your therapist performs?
- Do you have a fully functioning PC/Laptop and are you competent in using this?
- Do you have a reliable internet connection and speed that is able to facilitate video conferencing?
- Do you have access to a quiet space where you can talk privately?
- Do you have up to date anti-virus software installed on your device?
- Is your therapist’s online platform compliant with data protection policies within the countries that they serve?
There are many advantages to online therapy, most notably by improving accesses for those who may otherwise struggle to attend therapy appointments that serve to improve their well-being. With all emerging technologies, it is important that users are fully informed and are competent to ensure their experience is safe and stress free.