So, you’re thinking about seeing a therapist or coach online? Why not, right? Maybe you’re short on time, can’t find someone in the area, are attracted to the convenience, or just appreciate the extra personal space. Online may be the place for you. The good news is, it’s easier than you ever dreamed of and found to be just as effective or more effective as face-to-face counseling under certain circumstances. But there are a few things to watch out for as well. I’ll take you through some of the pros and cons of online therapy and see if we can put it all in perspective.
Being the positivity experts we are, let’s start with the cons and end on a high note with the pros. In the cons I’ll be sure to talk about how to prevent or avoid them – the future belongs to the prepared.
- It’s technology. For the most part it’s great but the fact is, the more complex something is, the more prone it is to breaking. All these programs and websites try to be stable but some hiccups and failures can be expected from time to time. Always have a backup plan ready in case things go wrong at the last minute – just like you print out directions to a new location in case your navigation system can’t tell where you are or quickly saying “if my battery runs out, I’ll call you later” at the beginning of a phone conversation.
- Selection. You should want the best therapist or coach you can find. Many of them are simply not online. Take the time to look for a good online professional, but if you don’t find one, simply ask a purely offline professional if he/she is willing to see you online. They will probably need to learn a few new skills, but they may just be up for it.
- Hacking. It’s a part of our online lives, but we hope it will never happen to us. If you like the level of discretion online counselling offers, the downside is that it involves digital information which may be linked to you. It’s out there and can be passed around. Make sure the sites you join show that they take high-level security measures and that the professionals you choose do the same to ensure data related to you is well cared for.
- Communication. There is a certain magic in face to face communication. It’s not just the words you are exchanging, but all kinds of subconscious input is hitting you every second. All those things are muffled in online consultations – and that’s just video, obviously the words are all we have in instant messaging and email. You may need to be slightly more patient when communicatng online. Things may need to be more direct and less subtle when explaining things to the professional or be more prepared to repeat certain things. It’s part of the game.
- Insurance. Or I should say lack thereof. Still many insurance providers deny covering online therapy and counseling. You may be forced to pay for the consultations yourself.
OK, those were the cons. If anyone has anything to add, please let us know. Hopefully you’ve got a better sense of what could go wrong and how to prepare for it or deal with it. Now, on to the fun stuff.
The pros of online therapy and coaching.
- Selection. Yes, this was just a con, but the selection of online professionals should still be close to or more than the ones in your immediate area, especially if you don’t live in a city.
- Communication. (It was just a con, glad you’re paying attention) Yes, you miss non-verbal cues and emotional intonation, but you do get something back for it. Email therapy gives the chance to really gather your thoughts and put your words down clearly and in a more organised fashion than live communication does. This applies to both parties involved. Chat (or instant messaging) let’s you not only share the information in your head but also to take it from off the web. Send links to information, to books, to anything that might add to the conversation.
- Privacy/discretion. Research shows that many clients enjoy the “distance” that online therapy offers. By this, they mean that people are willing to be more open and trusting from a distance than they would be in a face to face meeting with someone.
- Anytime, any place. As long as you have an internet connection and some basic equipment, you can talk to a qualified professional from anywhere and at any time. At the least this certainly adds a degree of flexibility to your life.
- Timing. You don’t hear about this much, but one of the downsides of therapy or coaching is that it’s not there when you really need it. Arguments with your partner, weak moments with food, major issues in your life – they all happen when you’re not on your way to the therapist or coach! There could be weeks between when you need to talk to someone and when you actually get a chance. What email therapy and coaching does, is provide you at least with the opportunity to get it all down when it happens. Something hits you, somethings wrong, and you can go write it down with all the emotion you’re feeling at the moment. Many systems will facilitate you sharing this information with your counselor who can respond back with their advise.
- History. Some online therapy and coaching system let you keep a record of your sessions. This is a great way to look back at progress and lessons learned. This may not be appropriate for serious issues, but if you just feel the need to talk to someone, your healthcare record doesn’t get marred with “psychological issues”.
- No insurance. Also a con, but the upside of this is that you’re out the loop – the whole healthcare system. You have complete control over who you see and no one needs to know about it.
- It’s effective. Saved the best for last. Research shows that online therapy and coaching is just as effective as face to face.
We hope you’re convinced and are ready to check out online therapy and coaching. If you have any comments or questions, please let us know.