Benefits of Online Counseling
Maybe you’ve been pondering seeing a counselor to work on some things that keep coming up for you, but you’re still on the fence. You just don’t seem to have the time! There’s always so much to do, and you’re always on the go. When could you possibly fit in seeing a counselor when it feels like you don’t even have time to cook yourself a decent meal or feel like you can breathe? If this sounds like you, then online counseling may be the best option, as time-saving and convenience are two of the many benefits.
You may have heard how telehealth, or health services at a distance, is an up and coming method to receive a wide variety of medical services. And you may be skeptical about this, especially if you consider yourself to be a bit on the tech-phobic side. Rest assured, you are not alone, and receiving services via technology can prove to be super useful with a steady Internet connection! A lot of people have questions about the benefits and practicality of telehealth. This blog will focus on specifically on the benefits of online counseling and will address one of the most common myths about online counseling.
What Exactly Is Online Counseling?
Online counseling is very similar to what an in-person session would be, except you’ll be connecting with your therapist via video chat software. This way, you’ll be able to see and hear your therapist and they will be able to see & respond to you from your phone, tablet, or computer in real time—which helps to build connection and deliver support. Yes, there is always the chance that technology can goof, but you will have a plan for troubleshooting set in place should that arise to minimize any disruption to your session.
Benefits of Online Counseling Sessions
In many ways, having a counseling session via technology is very much the same as in-office appointments. However, there are some unique benefits. Some of them are listed below and then expanded upon.
The first benefit of online counseling we’ll discuss is convenience and accessibility. If you’re extremely busy, that commute time may just be the difference between whether you think you can fit a counseling session in to your schedule or not. Fortunately, you don’t need to travel anywhere to have an online counseling session. All you need to have is a private location for a session with secure and reliable Internet access. In the same vein, if you live in an area where the type of counseling you think may be beneficial to you is rather scarce or non-existent, you may be able to find a provider with a particular specialty who can take online clients!
For example, you may wish to work on sexuality concerns, but don’t think you’ll be able to make the drive to see that perfect therapist you found online and you’re interested in working with. Call and check; they just might conduct telehealth sessions that can fit into your busy life and schedule. Maybe there is a specific therapist that you know is a polyamory ally, so you’d like to see them. Or perhaps there is one that specializes in anger management, traumatic loss, or custody related issues. It is worth inquiring if they do online sessions and if your insurance offers telehealth benefits!
And greater accessibility
So not only is it convenient, but online counseling opens up your available options for treatment. You are no longer restricted to seeing someone within a 30-mile comfort zone. Most therapists who offer telehealth benefits can see clients located ANYWHERE within a state that they are licensed in. So, if your ideal therapist has a practice in Philadelphia and you live in Pittsburgh, you are still good. But there is one thing to keep in mind: in the world of telehealth, YOU have to be physically be in the state where your therapist is licensed in, not them. If we are talking about the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh scenario, your therapist can go all the way to Colorado, but if they maintain their PA license you are still good. BUT if you go out of state and they aren’t licensed in that state, they are NOT able to see you virtually.
Next, we realize that being open about some of your most persistent struggles is tough. This is particularly difficult if some of those struggles involve actually leaving the house. For some people, it helps to start counseling within the comfort of their own home. You can curl up on your couch under a blanket with some coffee or tea and truly open up about areas in which you are struggling. An extra sense of safety and comfort can dramatically help the counseling process for many people, and being in a familiar environment is a major benefit of online counseling. You get to choose where you are at physically when the session occurs, allowing you to set your comfort as a priority.
Lastly, there is an added layer of privacy to online counseling. Let’s face it: mental health issues still come with stigma. If that’s concerning to you, there is nothing shameful about that, but it is something to be aware of. Engaging in online counseling removes the worry associated with anyone seeing your car in an office parking lot or seeing someone you don’t want to see in the waiting room, wondering why you’re there. Although it is important to note that anyone who sees you at a counseling practice is also there for reasons of their own and they are more likely paying no notice of your issues while they are working on their own. However, online counseling does allow for that greater sense of privacy that can let many people feel more relaxed, comfortable, and open to the treatment process.
A Major Myth
Going deeper with the notion of privacy, there is a common myth about online counseling. This myth asserts that your information isn’t safe. If you are wary about placing any information on the Internet or communicating via the Internet, your concerns are well-founded! It is so important to be vigilant with your private information. However, reputable companies use HIPAA compliant software to engage in online counseling. If you’re a person who is tech-savvy, HIPAA compliant programs use end-to-end encryption. If that means nothing to you, it essentially means that the information transmitted from your device to the device of your counselor (and back) is safe and protected. It also means that they are following all kinds of rules about when, where, and how to use, transmit, or store information.
It is totally responsible to ensure that the online counseling services you are considering accessing are HIPAA compliant by asking questions. The type of programs used are definitely not just Facetime or Skype. You will want to make sure your therapist uses something developed especially for the therapy process and that it has been tested and certified to be safe. There are multiple layers of protection within the virtual platforms, and you’ll likely be given some sort of login to access the software that a particular company uses.
Get Started Today
Armed with some extra knowledge about online counseling and the unique benefits, consider exploring your needs and options. If you would like to schedule an appointment with an Angelus therapist today—we can do so online! Angelus offers online sessions not only for your convenience, but also to increase the accessibility of needed services in the community and across the state. Check out our virtual counseling page for more information on the steps and processes we use, as well as some tips to ensure you get the best experience possible. We hope to hear from you, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you have about our online counseling offerings. As always, we can be reached by phone at 724-654-9555 or ONLINE by completing our Getting Started questionnaire and we can reach out to you!
Make sure to follow up with us next week as we explore further into the telehealth process:
- How to know if you have virtual counseling benefits
- Ways in which using virtual counseling can help manage the growing concern of germs and sickness
- And how supplementing virtual sessions with your in-office counseling can give you more flexibility when life has unexpected changes
Blog Credit: Nessa Wilson, MSW, LCSW, MBA is the Clinical Director at Angelus Therapeutic Services. Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services