What is online counseling? When is it right for you?

The only difference between online counseling and in-person counseling is that when working online, you’ll see your therapist through a screen using a secure, encrypted app similar to Skype*. In person, of course, you’ll probably get to sit on a comfy couch and sit right across from your therapist. You also need a few extra items to make online counseling viable – a private room, a device such as a phone or computer, and internet. Other than that, therapy is pretty much the same. You’ll be invited to put your thoughts and feelings into words and explore whatever is going on in your life.

Research on online counseling so far hasn’t found much, if any, difference between outcomes of online and in-person counseling. The only time online counseling isn’t appropriate is if you’re struggling with a severe mental health issue, such as psychosis or severe depression. In that case, you are better off seeing a provider in-person who can also connect with a psychiatric practitioner about your case. Online counseling is also not recommended for young children, who benefit much more from modalities, like play therapy, which require being in the same room together.

So, when is online counseling right for you? There are several reasons many people seek out online counseling. Here are a few.

* No transportation needed.

You don’t need to drive far to get to your therapy appointment when you’re seeing your therapist online – you can close the door to your room at home. This takes away a lot of the stress and hassle of hauling yourself to an appointment. This is especially helpful if you live in a rural area without a lot of providers and you’d have to travel far to find a therapist. It’s also useful in Upstate New York, where I live, because frequent snow storms and dangerous roads can make driving very stressful in winter! Finally, this can be really helpful to people who are disabled and may not be able to leave their home easily.

* Saves time.

Many people lead busy lives full of multiple responsibilities – to jobs, family members, their communities. Seeing a therapist online saves you the time of traveling to and from your appointment. It also allows you to have an appointment at a time that fits into your schedule – for example, you may be able to fit an appointment in on your lunch break at work.

* Comfort with technology.

Maybe you grew up talking to your friends online, or connecting with family members who lived far away using something like Skype. If you’re already comfortable with being online, then therapy online might also feel like a natural fit for you.

* It’s great when otherwise you’d have to cancel your appointment.

For example, if you have a cold and don’t want to leave your house, but still want to talk to your counselor.

Therapists can provide individual, couples and group therapy online. I enjoy working with individuals and couples online. I especially like that this means I can work with people from all over New York State, and Rhode Island, where I am also licensed. If you’re interested in an online appointment and want to talk about whether this would be a good fit for you, please feel free to reach out to me at (585) 294-4776.

*Your online therapist will not work with you on Skype, though, because Skype isn’t HIPAA compliant. There are other apps for therapy online that are secure and encrypted, such as doxy.me.