Is Online Counseling Effective?

The advent of digital technology has brought about many changes in our lives. This includes the ways by which we obtain and receive services such as healthcare. Nowadays, we are just as likely to receive counseling online as to consult with a therapist in an office.

For an increasing number of people, online counseling that utilizes digital technology has become standard practice. It is affordable and convenient and gives people access to mental health services that would otherwise be unobtainable. 

But is online counseling genuinely effective? Is it really a feasible alternative to traditional clinic-based consultation?

What Does Online Counseling Involve?

Online counseling is known by many names. Online therapy, teletherapy, and virtual therapy are only some of the phrases that have been used in reference to this particular mode of telehealth. 

By whatever name it is called, online counseling encompasses a wide range of methods, services, and applications that utilize digital technology for the remote delivery of counseling services. 

Depending on the therapist, online counseling may be presented as an alternative to standard in-person counseling. More often, however, it comprises only part of a comprehensive treatment program consisting of several different treatments and delivery methods.

How Online Counseling is Implemented

Therapists utilize a wide variety of mediums and platforms to deliver counseling services remotely. These include video conferencing, email, online chat, and SMS. Some therapists also utilize mobile apps to provide a select range of services.

How Effective is Online Counseling?

Many skilled therapists can treat a variety of issues such as sexual addiction counseling just as effectively online as in personal consultations. Although certain conditions are better suited for face-to-face sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy can be just as effective online as when it is performed in a therapist’s office. This is often the case for the treatment of anxiety and depression as well as panic disorders.

Many established therapists support these findings. Marriage and family therapist Amanda Villaveces finds that her patients benefit equally from online counseling and in-person treatment. 

Villaveces admits that certain modalities are more complicated to provide remotely, including reprocessing or play therapy and eye movement desensitization. On the whole, however, the therapist finds online counseling to be a viable option. 

Specialist Michelle Paiva agrees. Given her extensive experience in treating trauma, anxiety, and stress-related disorders, Paiva has found online counseling to be a useful course of action for adults.

Like Villaveces, Paiva does admit that some instances are better suited to in-person therapy. This has proven to be the case with children and adolescents, as well as adults requiring therapy for dealing with abusive relationships. Even so, Paiva has experienced the benefits of online counseling first hand.

Preparing for Online Counseling

Of course, online counseling is a relatively new development. As such, there remain many areas for improvement and many issues to iron out. Online therapists have found that adequate preparation is necessary for clients and therapists to get the most out of the experience. In particular, it would be helpful for everyone concerned to prepare for an upcoming session to ensure that the delivery method would not interfere with the therapy. 

One thing that many therapists have found to be helpful is to perform a thorough technology test beforehand. This will help prevent software glitches or connection issues and other problems that could negatively affect the quality of treatment. 

Dealing with security and privacy issues is another concern. It is essential to use a password-protected network, preferably on a high-speed connection.

It is a must to ensure that all devices to be used during treatment are fully charged. This goes for computers and mobile devices. Therapists should also close any unnecessary tabs or apps that could become a distraction during the online counseling session. 

Clients have a role to play in preparation as well. They should have access to a quiet and comfortable room away from the rest of the household. It would also help make arrangements with their family members to provide them with some privacy and minimize noise and external distractions.

Why You Should Consider Online Counseling

Online counseling isn’t likely to replace in-person consultation fully, at least not in the near future. Nevertheless, it is a feasible option that you should consider discussing with your therapist if you have difficulty managing face-to-face sessions.