If the idea of receiving treatment on your own time and in the comfort of your own home appeals to you, you are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), online counseling, also known as telehealth, or e-counseling, is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods of receiving mental health care. The growing online counseling sector has made obtaining mental health care easier and more affordable, even if you work irregular hours, have a busy family life, live in a rural area, or are uninsured.
What Is Online Mental Health Counseling?
Online mental health counseling is a professional mental health service provided over the internet. These services are typically delivered via phone calls, video sessions, text messages, emails, online conferences, or any platform where a conversation can occur virtually. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this form of therapy has increased significantly in popularity, allowing patients to interact with a licensed therapist from the safety and convenience of their homes.
How Does Online Mental Health Counseling Work?
An online therapy platform works similarly to traditional therapy, except that participants are geographically separated. Patients must complete a questionnaire before beginning an online therapy program. Based on your responses, the platform will match you with relevant mental health professionals such as counselors, clinical social workers, or licensed marriage and family therapists.
Sessions are typically one hour long and can take place weekly or at any frequency agreed upon by you and your counselor. Online counseling is appropriate for those seeking assistance resolving everyday issues and life challenges, but it’s not ideal for serious mental health conditions requiring traditional therapy, residential treatment, or acute hospital stabilization.
Are Online Therapists Licensed Professionals?
Similar to how professional counselors and therapists in “real life” can have a variety of credentials and licenses, so can online therapists in terms of training and credentials. Therapists and mental health counselors must undergo a licensing process to ensure clients receive a proper level of care. The licensing boards’ ethical and confidentiality codes also protect patients’ rights during online therapy services. Therapists or counselors employed by a reputed online counseling platform usually hold a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited institution and many years of hands-on experience in the field in addition to the appropriate state licensure.
How Often Should I Attend Online Counseling?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the optimal frequency of mental health counseling sessions. Instead, it is determined by various factors, including your treatment objectives, the type of therapy you are receiving, and your proactivity in applying what you’ve learned in therapy to your daily life.
Treatment objective – Participating in weekly counseling sessions is the most effective way to achieve treatment goals. This frequency allows you to develop coping and mindfulness-enhancing skills while also improving your adaptability to the appropriate level of communication between you and your mental health counselor for efficient collaboration.
Type of therapy – Depending on why you’re seeking counseling and the type of treatment your online therapist specializes in, your therapist will usually establish a rough timeline to determine how frequently you should check in with them. For example, if your licensed therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients discover and improve dysfunctional thought patterns that negatively affect behavior and emotions, you would most likely attend weekly hour-long sessions for 12 to 20 weeks.
Proactive application – Spending time in between counseling sessions to reflect on what you’ve learned improves the efficacy of your online therapy programs and may even hasten your progress. In turn, your therapist may feel comfortable advising that you reduce the frequency of your appointments to biweekly or monthly, depending on your progress.
Do not rush to commit to a set number of sessions or use the treatment journeys of others as a guide for your own. Most importantly, remain open to the advice and recommendations provided by your licensed therapist. After all, communication and trust are the bedrock of a successful therapist-client relationship.
How Much Does Online Counseling Cost?
While online mental health counseling is commonly less expensive than in-person therapy, the cost can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors, including:
- The location of the online service
- The online therapy platform you select
- The qualifications and experience of the counselor
- The benefits you have access to
- The type of mental health services being offered
Does Health Insurance Cover Online Counseling?
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, most insurance companies reacted quickly to improve access to online mental health services for existing patients and those seeking to start counseling. They established new procedures or amended existing ones to allow online therapy coverage. Depending on where you live and your insurance provider, some of these policies and waivers are still in effect. However, health insurance coverage for online mental health services is changing, so it’s best to check with your insurance providers to see what your policy covers.
Although many online therapy programs accept insurance, this is not the case for everyone. If you have health insurance, you should seek professional counselors who accept your coverage. You can accomplish this by:
- If you’re interested in a certain online platform, visit their website. Most will list the insurance providers they accept.
- After reviewing the website, you should always contact the online therapists to confirm that they take your insurance plan.
- Finally, contact your health insurer to determine whether they will cover the treatment, how much they will pay, and what portion of the cost you will bear.
Your insurance company can also provide you with a list of online therapists and counselors who take your insurance and are part of their network.
Advantages of Online Mental Health Counseling
Choosing online therapy over traditional in-person counseling is a personal choice. Despite its limitations, this type of counseling has some advantages, including:
- Speed of service – Patients are matched with mental health professionals in less than 48 hours, making it easy to get the help you need when you need it. Various mental health issues, including generalized anxiety, stress, anger management, insomnia, relationship issues, depression, PTSD, and panic attacks, can be assisted by online mental health services.
- Convenience – Seeing professional counselors online saves time on travel, makes scheduling easier, and it’s convenient to have a support person available at the touch of a button.
- Affordable options – Professional counselors treating patients online will likely have lower overhead costs. As a result, online counselors can frequently offer low-cost treatment options to those without health insurance.
- Lack of restrictions – Patients are not restricted to consulting with nearby counselors. Instead, they can locate an online counselor qualified to assist patients with their specific mental health issues.
- Accessibility – People who cannot leave their homes for various reasons, such as physical disability or mental health issues, may find online therapy a valuable alternative to traditional in-person counseling.
- Personal connection – You can still maintain a personal connection with your therapist through video sessions when you receive counseling online. Furthermore, when communicating online, patients find it easier to open up about personal issues.
Challenges of Online Counseling
Although online counseling is more convenient than traditional in-person therapy, it is not without flaws, and many of the obstacles associated with traditional therapy remain.
- Although online therapy platforms can quickly connect you with many mental health professionals, finding someone who is a good fit may take some time.
- You’ll still have to talk about some potentially awkward or difficult topics.
- Participation is essential in any type of counseling or therapy. You get the most out of counseling when you frequently participate, not just when it is most convenient or comfortable.
However, online counseling also presents additional challenges:
- Therapists design their offices to be private, peaceful, and comfortable. However, when you receive online counseling, you must create your own tranquil, safe space. If you have a lot of clutter, roommates, children, or a spouse who may be able to overhear or disrupt your conversations, it may be more difficult to get comfortable and share.
- There is no perfect substitute for interpersonal communication. You can still see body language and facial expressions during a video chat. But this advantage is lost if you conduct the counseling session via a phone call without video, text messages, or email.
- Technology solves many problems, but it also creates new ones. You’ll need a reliable Internet connection and a device capable of handling conversations without lag. Even so, technical difficulties that are beyond your control may arise from time to time.
Is Online Counseling Right for You?
Online therapy platforms provide an efficient and convenient method of receiving mental health care, but it isn’t suitable for everyone. The suitability of online services is determined by your condition and the severity of your symptoms.
If you are considering online mental health counseling, do your research before selecting an online therapy service. Read the reviews, ask questions, and take advantage of free introductory sessions. Although finding the right counselor can take some time, the effort is well worth it. Even if you’re dealing with everyday issues like stress, low self-esteem, or difficulty sleeping, the right counselor can provide expert support and guidance to help you make positive changes.
Futures Recovery Healthcare offers a safe, non-judgmental treatment program for those with mental health conditions. At Futures we offer, individual therapy by licensed clinicians, family therapy, case management support, group therapy, and recreational activities to assist individuals in identifying stressors and triggers, working on personal and family issues, developing long-lasting recovery plans, fostering healthy social skills, enhancing overall wellness and self-care, and much more. Our goal is to help our patients overcome their struggles and support them through their wellness journey.
To learn more about how we treat mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions, contact us online or call 866-804-2098.