Online Counseling? Really?
If it were not for the hours of telephone counseling that my poor mother endured when I was an angst-ridden teenager (okay, maybe longer than that), I don’t know where I would be today. That saint-of-a-woman answered my calls no matter the time of day or the distance between us. How she had patience with me sometimes, I’ll never know. Did I mention-saint-of-a-woman? Even through the telephone line, hearing her voice and her affirming tone helped my heart heal until I could pick myself up and march a little further forward.
I know that you can think of a time when you dialed the phone and counted the rings just waiting for that person to pick up. When you heard their voice, the wave of emotions just spilled out and you were able to fall apart with no need for apologies or self-consciousness. Through the distance, you were able to connect, and your life was made better because of that connection.
Online counseling is just like that. It may sound odd at first, but just as we connect though the sounds of our voices, we can also get support through video.
When I started considering video counseling, I wondered about a few things. Was it really effective? Was it weird and awkward? Was it authentic? Would I hate it?
After talking with other counselors and doing some research on my own, I decided that online counseling was a viable option. I opened my virtual doors, and I have found that the getting comfortable timeline is less than face-to-face. It feels much more personal than I would have thought. I adore it, and if you are living with distress because you just can’t find a way to fit one more appointment into your life, this is what you have been looking for.
Just like my teenage crisis phone calls, the technology does not get in the way of the human connection.
I can feel my clients’ grief or anxiety or relief during the session because I can see and hear them. When a mom is just done because her child has come home with an office referral for cheating on a test or when a teen is sure that the deck is stacked against them and there is no way for them to graduate on time, I can be there for them even though we are not in the same room. Trust me. The technology fades away and the human connection comes through.
Is the online setting right for everyone? Honestly, no. Clients who are actively suicidal are not recommended for online counseling. In that situation, the ability to get crisis resources to you quickly would prohibit a good fit for online counseling. For this reason, your online therapist will ask you where you are located at each session. But for the majority of us, checking in with someone through a video session is so comforting and uplifting. And when you can see the best counselor for your needs despite the distance rather than an okay fit for you so that you don’t have to take too much time off of work, the logic of seeing a counselor online is crystal clear.
This setting can also be perfect for new moms who can’t find a babysitter for a random hour each week. College students who are in one part of the state for part of the year, but another part of the state for other parts of the year are also perfect candidates. Sometimes it is just impossible to find that perfect therapist, and your best fit is someone who is 45 minutes away. Never fear, online therapy is a great solution.
The biggest hurdle to connecting with a therapist online is the technology itself. A cellular connection is rarely comfortable. The signal is often problematic. It’s not impossible, but a connection that is wired or wireless through a WiFi connection is best. An online session is live streaming, so think about how your device works when you watch someone on a Facebook live. And because I know you are wondering, yes- I have clients that meet me in their cars on their iPhone. Technology is a wonderful thing.
Concerned about confidentiality? There are so many HIPAA compliant platforms now used in medical offices, that privacy need not be a worry. If your therapist asks you to meet them in Google Hangouts, be concerned. But an ethical therapist can easily access secure, private platforms that are encrypted.
So, let me assure you that online therapy is just another resource that you can use to ease your anxiety or distress. Take it from one who was a nay-sayer, this is the real deal.
Still have questions? Ready to jump right in? I’d love to help you get the support you need.
Lisa Williams, LCSW loves to help parents and teens whose life struggles seem overwhelming. She has been a teacher of every sort of student for 18 years, and she knows school doesn’t have to be a burden. There is a solution.