Online counseling is the latest way for therapists to be able to engage with clients in a meaningful way.
Online counseling has a variety of options including real time services such as:
- web chat over a secure server
- real time instant messaging
- real time video conferencing
- telephone calls
or time delayed formats such as:
- therapeutic e-mails
Too many people do not have access to quality mental health services, some due to geography, some due to small children at home, and some due to disabilities which prevent them being able to access the care they need.
Numerous studies (citations included below) show that online therapy can be just as effective as face to face therapy for issues including anxiety (fear, worry), anger management, couples counseling (relationship issues), and mild depression. Online therapy is also great for individuals who enjoy to interpret their dreams.
Online therapy is not suitable for major depression or suicidal clients. Online therapy is also not suitable for bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
If you choose to seek out some form of online therapy, please take time to ensure that the therapist you choose is qualified to help you. In California you can verify the license of anyone offering therapy at this link: http://www.bbs.ca.gov/quick_links/weblookup.shtml
I offer different options for virtual therapy including telephone calls, video chat, real time instant messaging or texting, and time delayed e-mails.
Online counseling is still really new. So new that is still called by many different names by different people (tele health, telehealth, telemedicine, online counseling, online therapy, etherapy, virtual therapy, itherapy, wed therapy, internet counseling, and I am sure the list goes on).
Some of the benefits of using online counseling include:
- reduced stress from traffic (a big deal in LA)
- environmentally friendly
- no need to pay a sitter
- help is literally at your fingertips
- you have the safety and comfort of your own home
- no need to pay for parking
- great for busy professionals
- excellent for people with no nearby mental health providers
- parents with small children
- easy same day sessions for unexpected problems
- private and discreet
- people who travel a lot can access their therapist even on business trips (over the road truck drivers, film production, and many more)
Online therapy can also be a great resource for caregivers trying to process the stress of caring for loved ones who may be suffering with mental illness or long term physical illness such as post traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s and other related forms of dementia.
Some of the risks of online therapy include:
- there are sometimes technical failures (distorted images, dropped calls, difficulty with sounds)
- if your therapist does not use proper encryption, your records could be accessed by unauthorized persons.
I believe in therapy so much that I offer a wide array of services in an effort to make therapy available to as many people as possible. I use a hipaa compliant e-mail and a hipaa compliant web chat program which are both free and easy to use in order to reduce risk of emails or web chat sessions being accessed by any outside parties.
By providing online services, I do not have to maintain an office (rent, electricity, furniture, etc) and this helps me keep my fees low and affordable. In many cases my prices are not much over what you would pay to use your health insurance.
As a therapist, I love that technology is finally catching up with therapeutic services. Most of us communicate electronically with others on a daily basis already. Most of us are already online, and most of us are already comfortable with this type of communication.