1. What does online counseling treat?
Online counseling can treat a number of mental health issues, including (but not limited to):
- Grief & loss
- Relationship problems
- Work or school issues
It’s important to note that you do not need to have a clinical disorder or specific diagnosis to seek help. Counseling is beneficial for all, and clients seek treatment for many different kinds of problems that they are struggling with. If you are having a hard time with any areas in life, therapy can help.
2. Can online counseling be just as effective as traditional, in-person therapy?
Yes, online counseling can be just as effective as in-person counseling. Because telehealth & teletherapy is relatively new, there isn’t a lot of research to demonstrate the effectiveness of online counseling. However, more and more people are seeking treatment via the internet due to the convenience it provides, so hopefully more studies will be done. In the COVID-19 era, online therapy provides a safe, socially-distanced alternative to traditional therapy.
3. Is online counseling covered by insurance?
It truly depends on the provider and the insurance company you use. Contact your insurance provider to determine if online counseling is covered. If you have further questions about this, the online therapist that you are interested in seeing can help to answer them and clarify how it works. A lot of the time, online counseling is actually more cost-effective than in-person therapy.
4. Will my privacy and confidentiality be protected with online counseling?
Absolutely – as long as the service is reputable. It will need to be HIPAA-compliant, which means that your confidentiality and privacy are legally (as well as ethically) protected. This is of utmost importance, and your safety is always #1. It is up to you to ensure privacy within your surroundings (whether you are at home or elsewhere) and on the device that you use (your computer, cell phone, etc.).
5. If I am not tech-savvy, will I still be able to use online counseling?
Yes. As long as you have a general understanding of how to use the internet, you should be able to use online counseling with ease. Video sessions are similar to using Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, or any other program where you can video chat with someone else. If you need technological assistance, your therapist can help you.
6. Can an online therapist prescribe psychiatric medication?
No. Whether in-person or online, therapists can’t prescribe medication, unless they have attended medical school and have earned the appropriate education, training, and credentials. Only psychiatrists (medical physicians) can prescribe medication. Your therapist can, however, give you a referral to a psychiatrist if he or she feels that you would benefit from being assessed by one.
7. What are the downsides to online counseling, and are there situations where it isn’t appropriate?
Online counseling is not suitable for individuals who are in emergent distress or are experiencing an acute problem. More severe disorders, serious intent to harm oneself, or psychosis are some clinical issues for which one should receive a referral to in-person treatment.
As mentioned previously, one downside to online therapy is that you are responsible for the environment in which you have your sessions, so it is important that you don’t have anyone else in the room with you and you are not being interrupted (try to find a quiet room, if possible, and if you live with someone, let that person know that you need privacy).
Additionally, some clients might prefer traditional therapy over online counseling because they require the intimate feel of an in-person setting. Some therapists might also have a difficult time interpreting body language and other important aspects of the therapeutic process over a screen, which might affect the efficacy of the relationship and the treatment. However, these instances are usually rare and if you are worried about any of them, bring them to the therapist’s attention so that he/she may address them properly.
8. Do I need to buy/download any special software for online counseling?
Usually, no. An online counselor should provide any links, passcodes, instructions, etc. to you prior to your session. Generally, you will just need an internet connection and some sort of device with at least a microphone. A camera certainly helps both the therapist and the client to connect. The platform that the therapist uses can vary, but it should always be a HIPAA-compliant platform so that you are protected. If an app needs to be downloaded, your therapist will give you directions for this.
9. How can I ensure the best quality connection for my online counseling sessions?
Your device’s audio and video quality is determined by the quality of your equipment – your microphone and camera are the most important to take note of. Additionally, it certainly helps to have high-speed internet, so that you don’t have to worry about either person’s screen buffering/freezing during your session.
10. Why should I choose online counseling over traditional, in-person therapy?
Online counseling is more convenient and typically has more flexible hours, which makes scheduling a breeze and deciding on a time that works best for your schedule less frustrating. You don’t have to worry about commuting to an office, sitting in traffic, dealing with bad weather, or sitting in a waiting room. It can also be argued that it is more private; the chances of running into someone you might know are reduced to zero with online counseling. If you don’t have means of transportation or you are injured and cannot drive, you don’t have to miss your session. It also increases accessibility for those who live in more rural areas. You also get to choose where to have your session… whether that’s in the comfort of your own home, outside somewhere (as long as no one else is around), in your car, on your lunch break in your office… wherever you feel most comfortable.