Have you ever thought about seeing a therapist and turned down the idea because you couldn’t find a therapist you liked closeby, or the therapist didn’t have hours that matched with your schedule? Maybe you’re intrigued by the idea of online counseling and don’t know where to start. Ads for online counseling services are popping up everywhere lately, touting the benefits of using technology to provide a service that is usually linked to a one-on-one meeting in a private office. What is this all about?
What is online counseling? Most practitioners use this term to mean therapy that consists of mostly or entirely work through live video conferencing, email, texting or instant messaging, real-time chat, or phone service over the internet. For this post, I’m using the word online counseling to describe using a video service to connect and have sessions with a therapist who is not physically present.
What are some of the reasons people use online counseling? People utilize online therapy for a wide variety of reasons.
How do I find an online counselor? There are several companies that provide online therapy utilizing a ‘membership’ type style where you pay a fee and get access (often unlimited) to a therapist of your choosing for a set period of time, usually a month. But if you look, you’ll find that many therapists who have a brick-and-mortar office offer online services as well. If you’re seeing a therapist in person, you might want to ask if this is something they provide or are willing to look into.
What to look for in an online counselor: It can be overwhelming looking for an online therapist. In the United States where I practice, each state has one or more regulatory boards that provide laws and guidance regarding how a therapist or counselor can work online. For most states, and in my own state of Ohio, the therapist must be licensed in the state where you, the client, lives. So I can’t legally and ethically provide therapy for someone in California but can for anyone anywhere in Ohio. The laws are constantly changing, though, so keep an eye on it. Of course, it’s your therapist’s job to ensure that they are legally allowed to treat you.
If you’ve used online therapy, what has been your experience?
Jenise Harmon, LISW-S is the founder of New Wings Counseling and a licensed therapist who specializes working with individuals who struggle with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and general life struggles.