The Benefits of Online Counseling: Enhancing, Expanding, & Progressing Mental Health

The Benefits of Online Counseling: Enhancing, Expanding, & Progressing Mental Health

Advances in technology have transformed every aspect of our lives as consumers and providers of goods and services. The Internet and especially, the smart phone, has increased our connection with technology more than ever before. We can essentially reach into our pockets or handbags and with just a few taps, we can communicate with others and tend to pretty much every aspect of our lives, right in the palm of our hand. As a result, telehealth is growing in popularity. The convenience of being able to see a healthcare provider while you’re on the go or from your home, office, or workplace is very attractive to patients of all ages, backgrounds, and health conditions.

Online counseling is a telehealth service that provides so many benefits in terms of reaching clients with greater effectiveness and providing quality and immediate service to those in need. The idea of receiving online therapy is still strange for some people who question whether we might be sacrificing the human connection that is the foundation of counseling in exchange for greater convenience. Below we will discuss some important reasons why online counseling could actually enhance closeness and connection with a therapist and forever change and improve mental health services.

Online counseling reaches more people

Online counseling is practically synonymous with convenience. The most obvious reason is that it’s much easier to pop open your laptop or log in to an app on your smart phone than it is to physically travel to your therapist’s office. However, there’s something even bigger here to consider, which is the fact that online counseling allows for more people to receive mental health services because of the convenience factor.

For many people (and maybe for you too), it is simply a lot less scary (and involves much less second-guessing) to connect with a therapist online versus entering a clinic, hospital, or private office. There is also a greater likelihood that you will keep your appointments with a counselor if the session is easy to access. When mental health services reach more people who need these services, we have less incidences of all sorts of social problems including violence, suicide, homicide, crime, domestic violence, and substance abuse, among many others.

Greater privacy

You might think that nowadays, no one feels embarrassed to see a counselor or admit to receiving therapy. This notion is partly true. There is much less stigma surrounding mental health than there was even one to two decades ago. People are generally much more forthcoming when it comes to stating that they just saw their therapist yesterday or thank goodness for their antidepressant.

However, there are still many people who are not quite as comfortable with sharing their need for mental health services. Sometimes, the presenting problem or stressor has a lot to do with whether they want to keep things extra private. For example, some people may feel less hesitant to admit to seeing a therapist during/after a divorce while others may want to hide the fact that they are seeking counseling due to being in an abusive relationship. Individuals who live in large and highly populated cities may not fear being “seen” coming out of a therapist’s office, but what about those who live in small towns or rural communities? In many cases, people wish to keep their counseling is private because they do not want their employer or co-workers to know. These are just a few examples of the many, many reasons people often need greater privacy when it comes to mental health care, which is why online counseling is more-than-ideal.

You don’t have as much time to change your mind

Imagine if you’re on the fence when it comes to deciding whether you should seek counseling. Online counseling prevents the possibility of changing your mind because in many cases, you can see a therapist right away. When making an appointment for in-person counseling, there’s often a waiting period of days, weeks, or longer. Online therapy often provides shorter appointment wait-times. Many people go back-and-forth when it comes to their decision to see a therapist. This indecisiveness has a lot to do with the fact that symptoms and stressors change and fluctuate from day-to-day. You might feel great today, but tomorrow can be a different story. It is these ups and downs that cause many people to cancel appointments that are set days or weeks in the future. However, the reality is that your issues and your need for therapy remains even if things might improve for a while. Online therapy provides an immediate way that you can receiving the support from a counselor when you need it most—without the long wait time.

Prevention

Yes, online counseling is certainly a very effective method of preventing emotional problems from getting worse. Mental health issues often increase in severity with time. The ease and convenience of online counseling means that people are more likely to log in and talk to a counselor before issues and stressors progress or get out of control. This is again due to the convenience that online therapy provides.

Closeness and rapport

We live in a digital age. Facetime, Skype, and now Zoom have made it second nature to connect with family and friends online, and in front of a screen. We talk about our jobs, our kids, our relationships, and even what we had for breakfast! With the COVID-19 quarantine, people are celebrating birthdays, having happy hour, and even participating in their favorite exercise classes. We now hold work meetings, medical appointments, and meetings with our tax advisors. All this to say, we are getting really good and connecting with others online. Online therapy offers the same outlet. Here you can receive professional mental health counseling from someone you trust all from the comfort and safety of your home.

For many, online therapy will essentially feel the same as (or in some cases, better than) sitting in front of the therapist in an in-person session. Many clients describe online counseling as being preferred over in-person services. Both the counselor and client must initially make a greater effort to connect due to the distance and virtual nature of the session. This extra intention and effort to connect translates to greater closeness and better rapport, which ultimately means more effective therapy and better results for you.

Now is a great time for self-care

I told someone the other day to not waste their quarantine. What I meant was that we should not let this opportunity of being at home slip by with nothing to show for it. Social distancing requirements prevent us from doing our normal activities. However, this doesn't have to put an end to our productivity. Whether we are on quarantine for another month, or six more months, how great will it be that when it is over, we can say we have accomplished something. Spending extra time with family, reorganizing your closet, taking online classes, etc, keeps us focused on something positive and prevents us from too much idle time.

With regards to your mental health, this is an excellent opportunity to work on yourself in a way you may not have had time for before. Getting a hold of that anxiety or depression problem, conquering that nagging fear, or dealing with a parenting issue is a great focus to have during this time of social distancing. Maybe work, kid’s soccer practices, or other obligations have gotten in the way of you doing something for yourself. Now you have the time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that during the quarantine you made progress in your mental and emotional health? Online counseling is a great way to work on these things, all from the convenience of your home.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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