There will likely come a time in your life when you will find yourself in need of professional counseling. Depression, trauma, grief, anxiety, addiction, and relationship struggles are just some of the very normal emotions and events that can take place in the human existence, and there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a licensed and trusted therapist.
Once you’ve decided to seek professional help (and congratulations on doing so!), the next step may feel like quite a feat. How do you know what to look for in a therapist? What are you hoping to gain from the experience? How can you ensure both your safety and comfort?
Online counseling has gained enormous recognition in recent years and its popularity continues to grow. Convenient, discreet, and fully licensed, online counseling is an affordable and legitimate choice for those with individual needs and concerns that can’t always be accommodated by standard counseling procedures.
In order to make the right decision concerning your method of counseling, it’s important to first know the pros and cons of online counseling, especially in regards to the more tried-and-true systems.
The following list contains the top five factors that I consider to be the most notable advantages and disadvantages of opting for online counseling over traditional in-office therapy:
Advantage: One of the most commonly discussed advantages of online counseling is the sheer convenience of the platform. Because all sessions are conducted online via the device of your choice (computer, tablet, phone, etc), you never have to worry about arranging transportation or juggling scheduling responsibilities that take you all over town.
Online counseling allows you to reap the rewards of professional therapy from the comfort and privacy of your own home or office, which is especially life-altering for people who grapple with extreme social anxiety or fear of venturing into a brick-and-mortar location, as well as those with physical disabilities that limit their ability to travel.
Disadvantage: While few can argue the merits of accessing help online wherever and wherever you need it, some simply prefer in-person communication. For many, a physical office location offers a greater sense of security, and even a reprieve from the chaotic outside world.
2. Anonymity and Confidentiality
Advantage: All communication conducted between you and your counselor, as well as through the online counseling platform, is absolutely confidential. Additionally, online counseling services do not require that you use your real name, which allows for total anonymity.
Disadvantage: Many are still wary of using the internet for highly sensitive matters, and may not trust the online counseling structure. If you are worried about the privacy of your online counseling sessions, it’s generally a good idea to arrange your sessions at a time when you will be free of distractions or potential interference, in a place you feel most secure.
Advantage: Online counseling works a bit differently than traditional in-person therapy with a therapist. With online counseling, you can often begin your sessions within hours of selecting your therapist. With so many listed professionals to choose from, each offering their own flexible schedule structure, you can get the help you need as soon as you need it, rather than wait for insurance or medical recommendations and connections to come through.
Disadvantage: Again, this all goes back to some people being more comfortable with a traditional in-person therapy structure, with correlating hours of operation. It’s important to remember that if you do opt for online counseling, you will have to honor your agreed upon appointment times, as failure to do so may result in fees or being dropped from your counselor’s client list.
Advantage: One of the perks of online counseling is that you get to choose your counselor (or you can have one assigned automatically). Online counseling sites offer an extensive list of experienced and fully accredited professionals, along with all necessary background info, as well as a statement of personal philosophy. This allows you to select the counselor who best suits your needs and scheduling demands, and make a change if you find it’s just not working. With online counseling there are no assigned therapists, so you have the freedom to drop one counselor for another if necessary.
Disadvantage: Some insurance providers may have an approved list of locations and therapists in accordance with your plan or situation, with little wriggle room allotted.
Advantage: Even with insurance, an in-office therapy session can cost anywhere between $300-$400 per session, making it all the more cost prohibitive to those without insurance providers. Online counseling is typically gentler on your wallet, with payment plans and options designed for every budget (usually around $250 per month for unlimited communication with your therapist). Additionally, a number of insurance providers include online therapy in their covered plans.
Disadvantage: As with one’s choice of therapist, insurance providers may call the final shot on who and where you go to for your mental health services, as well as how much you pay out of pocket.
The above advantages and disadvantages are just a few of the more common questions posed by those weighing the benefits of online therapy. Ultimately, your unique lifestyle needs, financial situation and personal comfort will all determine whether online counseling is right for you.
The best course of action is to visit highly rated online counseling sites to view their services, listed counselors, and payment options. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the platform’s staff with any questions or concerns; remember, they’re there to help you too!
Regardless of whether you choose an online or on-site therapist, you should be proud of yourself for taking the next step to a healthier, happier life and state of mind.