Online counseling or e-therapy is a growing industry and a means by which some people now seek therapy. This form of therapy can be conducted in a number of different ways. A patient may speak with a therapist via chats, phone over the Internet, or use email. Companies and therapists who offer these services may have different choices as to how access online counseling.
There is some concern about the practical uses of online counseling. It is certainly different than face to face chats in a therapist’s office. Many e-therapists feel that there are many practical applications of online counseling but that it should probably not be used if a person is at serious risk. Such risk could be defined as desire to harm oneself or others. Some conditions, such as major mental illnesses, are best treated when a therapist not only can talk to a person but also observe them for potential risk.
On the other hand, not everyone has access to therapy, and there may be other reasons why people don’t choose to see a therapist in person. These can include scheduling difficulties, embarrassment of seeking counseling, no counselors available in remote areas, or cost. Cost for online counseling is usually slightly lower than in person therapy sessions, though it should be noted that price per session may not be that different than therapy offered in person on a sliding scale fee. Copayments for therapist visits are usually less than online counseling fees when patients have health insurance that provides mental health benefits.
When a person is considering online counseling, some research is a good idea. Look for therapists who are educated and have appropriate licensing to practice. There are so many sites of e-therapists and some of them can be scams. Look for evidence of licensing, and connection to recognized board-certifying agencies that can easily be verified.
There is a difference between online counseling and online support groups. A licensed counselor does not facilitate most support groups. They can still be helpful but they cannot replace a therapist’s advice. Seasoned members moderate some groups and there are many groups designed for unique or uncommon issues. With the Internet, people who have faced challenging and unusual problems have been able to find others around the world that encounter the same issues. This can help reduce feelings of isolation and be a terrific source of information.