*Note: Whilst this post is sponsored by BetterHelp, all opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Digital communication is on the rise, and isn’t limited to simply texting or calling friends and family. Many services are now available online or via an app; from food and grocery delivery, to instantaneous cashless payments, and even healthcare services. Telemedicine is becoming a popular form of medical consultation, where people can consult an actual doctor via an app. Medications can even be delivered to the person’s doorstep. Online counseling and therapy services are also becoming popular for many reasons.
In this article we will take a closer look at why counseling and therapy services are on the rise, their pros and cons, and how communication is key especially within a digital medium.
The Inability to Access Direct Help
Many people with chronic and mental illnesses are unable to leave their homes for a wide variety of reasons. They might be in too much pain, suffer from social anxiety, are sensitive to certain environments or triggers, and so much more. They rely a great deal on digital communication to keep in touch with their loved ones and the world. Often there are many others who are like them on social media, which leads to the formation of ‘tribes’ or support groups.
Pros of Online Counseling Services
The inability to leave their houses results in the neglect of people who are in dire needs of healthcare or counseling services. This is where online services truly shine, as they remove the biggest barrier to seeking help. Without the need to commute, patients can ‘see’ a therapist in comfortable clothes within a safe environment.
The availability of counselors around the clock also means that there is instant access to help, should the need arise. Contact with a real, professional human being can be made either by text chats or video calls. This allows the patient a greater degree of control; they can keep their anonymity while seeking help, or opt for a more human face-to-face approach.
Another big and practical reason as to why many people prefer online counseling is the cost. A regular therapy session outside can cost hundreds of dollars, whereas online counseling can start from $35 per week.
Cons of Online Counseling Services
For digital communication to occur in the first place, a good internet connection is a must. Sound systems should also be clear, if it involves verbal communication. It is neither pleasant for the counselor or patient when the connection keeps breaking up, which may lead to even more agitation and frustration in the end.
Communicating via text messages and chats can be great for a subset of people, as they may struggle with human interaction. Yet this also means that the therapist is unable to judge with better accuracy the true emotional and mental state of a person. This can limit how much help the person is able to receive, which may or may not impede recovery.
The Importance of Visual Cues for Human Communication
Video calls are much better, as both parties can then put a human face and make a connection as to whom they are actually talking to. Therapists rely on many visual cues provided by their patients to guide the therapy session. While video calls allow this, the extent is still limited.
A few key factors that therapists observe and rely upon in order to help their patients are body language and voice. These may not be accurate when expressed or picked up behind a screen. The therapist may not be able to see the little facial expressions, gestures, and other physical nuances that can be very revealing as to what truly affects the person mentally or emotionally. Voice also plays an important role in comforting, reassuring, or otherwise calming a person down. Unless the sound system is crystal clear, this can be harder to relay.
Should the patient burst into tears or starts to self-harm, the therapist is able to do less to help from behind a screen as well.
The Future & Potential of Online Counseling
As you can see, there are many nuances when it comes to online communication. While there are still limitations due to internet connectivity and screen sizes, it is also a promising way to get help that can only improve with time. It is also wonderful that many qualified therapists and counselors are now more open to the idea, and offering their professional services online.
If you are a counselor or therapist considering such a role, I want to say that you will definitely make a positive difference online. There are too many people who are in need of mental health services that are unable to access them physically. If you are someone who thinks you may need some form of help mentally or simply want to get some advice, there is no harm in giving online counseling a try, at least for a few sessions. I wish you all the best in your mental health journey!
This list is just a rough guide, and nothing in this review should be taken as medical advice. Always be sure to check with your doctor before you start on any new treatment or protocol.
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