So, you are finally ready to seek help for those issues that have been weighing you down. You’ve heard about online counseling (sometimes called teletherapy) and you’re curious if it might work for you. Here are just a few of the advantages of online counseling and how it may actually work better for you than the traditional model of meeting with a therapist in person in their office:
● Larger selection of therapists – By not limiting yourself to your immediate geographic area, you can choose from licensed therapists all across your state (in the U.S.), or even internationally. The importance of finding the best therapeutic fit cannot be overstated. Study after study shows that the factor that matters most in determining therapeutic success is finding a therapist you like and trust, so it’s a great advance to be able to cast a wide net..
● Ability to find a therapist that has expertise on your particular issue or is knowledgeable about your background. - As a personal example, many of the clients I work with are in open/polyamorous relationships or practice BDSM/kinks/fetishes. These are sensitive topics that not all therapists are comfortable with, and even trying to vet potential therapists can be challenging. No therapist is an expert on every issue, so you want to make sure to find the right expert for you.
● Scheduling flexibility & Time-Saving – I once missed (and still had to pay for) an entire therapy session because there was an accident on the highway. Online counseling eliminates this worry. Babysitter cancelled and your child is old enough to entertain themselves, but too young to stay home alone? Have a head cold and don’t want to infect others, but still want to keep your appointment? No problem!As a bonus, many therapists who practice teletherapy have greater flexibility in their availability outside of traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 hours.
● Improved Anonymity/Avoiding Dual Relationships – In counseling, a “dual relationship” refers to having any other relationship (personal, business, etc.) with your therapist outside of your therapeutic relationship, or your therapist having close relationships with your immediate family members. Naturally, this is problematic and to be avoided if possible. In rural areas or small towns, however, dual relationships can be almost inevitable, and even larger cities can be smaller than you think. I live in Austin, Texas, population 912,000, and not only have I run into my therapist at parties, I also found out he used to date my roommate’s mother and heard her grievances on why their romantic relationship ended. While neither of these situations are problematic, per se, they were definitely awkward. Teletherapy can eliminate these concerns.
● Ability to Participate in Couples/Family Counseling across Distances – Trying to schedule couples or family counseling can be so challenging, especially if one or more people in the group travel. Online counseling is a great option to bridge distances and help maintain regular therapeutic sessions.
Other Factors to Consider: While online counseling can be a wonderful option, for all the reasons listed above, there are some necessary elements in order for teletherapy to work well. Here is a list of some prerequisites:
● A quiet place to talk, free from distractions. You still want confidentiality and a dedicated time and space to meet, so trying to chase after a toddler or connecting in a public space aren’t going to work. Consider using headphones to improve both confidentiality and sound quality.
● Hi Speed Internet connection on a computer. Many of us are used to using Skype or FaceTime for video chat, but online counseling requires using a secure platform. These platforms are free for you as the client, but you will need to install/connect to them from your computer. Your potential therapist should be able to give you more information on the platform they use.
● Alternative Plan in Case of Technical Difficulties- Even the most reliable internet service may fail occasionally, and it’s never convenient when it does. Discuss the alternative plan ahead of time with your therapist so you’re not left stranded.
● Licensing Restrictions specific to the U.S. – In the United States of America, licensed therapists are restricted to practicing only in the states they are licensed in. For example, I am a licensed clinical social worker in Texas, which means I can practice anywhere within the state of Texas, but I can’t do therapy with clients who are physically located in other states. I can, however, work with clients internationally. I’ve had to turn down some ideal clients because of this restriction, so it’s very important to be aware of from the beginning.
Under the right circumstances, online counseling can be just as effective as the traditional in person therapy model, or sometimes even better. Knowing what factors to be aware of from the beginning can help you find the best online therapist for you.
Autore: MICHELE QUNITIN, LCSW