The COVID-19 pandemic forced many American companies and employees in 2020 to explore new options when it comes to working online. That’s no different for the counseling profession.
The traditional thinking has been that counselors, who often rely heavily on observing non-verbal communication, facial expression and overall demeanor when diagnosing a client’s condition, could not possibly do their jobs adequately in a virtual environment.
The research tells a different story. In fact, a 2018 study published in the respected Journal of Psychological Disorders concluded that online behavioral therapy was equally as effective as face-to-face treatment for depression, panic disorder and various anxiety disorders.
The most popular kinds of online counseling are conducted via phone calls, video calls, emails and texting. There are benefits for both the counselor and the counselee, including:
- No commute time to and from the counseling office.
- Being vulnerable is often easier for a client when done online vs. a face-to-face visit.
- Costs of a virtual appointment are often less than an office visit.
- Clients’ privacy is increased, as they don’t have to worry about being seen in the waiting room.
- Clients with anxiety disorders, particularly those with social anxiety, are more inclined to connect with an online therapist than with an in-office therapist.
- Scheduling is more convenient, especially for sessions with multiple people, such as couples’ or family therapy.
Of course, there are downsides to virtually counseling, as well.
- Clients with certain conditions, including those who are suicidal, are best treated in person. It is often more difficult for a counselor to intervene during a crisis when sessions take place virtually.
- Technology glitches and failures can wreak havoc with a counseling session, especially when a client is trying to share intimate details about their experiences.
- Frozen screens, bandwidth issues, inclement weather and other unpredictable situations can delay or halt a session.
- Non-verbal body language is more difficult to observe, including nervous activities (like foot tapping, hand wringing, etc.).
- It may be difficult to determine which online counselors are credible and which are not.
- Some states may require a counselor and client to reside in the same state, so if virtual counseling is limited in your state, your options may similarly be limited.
Perhaps an online counseling environment would be beneficial to you or a loved one? To explore your options, you may want to connect with a licensed professional, such as a virtual counseling person, at a treatment center like the Lotus Wellness Center, can explain.