Wondering if online counselling could work for you?
What exactly is online counselling?
Online counselling is the exact same process as in-person counselling or psychotherapy. You make a commitment to work with the same therapist, at the same time each week. It’s just that instead of talking in the same room, you talk over your computer screens.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, online counselling has certainly risen in popularity. Online therapies available now includes online child therapy, online couples counselling, and online psychiatry.
There are not yet statistics of exactly how many people the UK now do counselling online instead of in person. But not only have users grown, more therapists than ever are working in this manner and are skilled at doing so.
The 2021 British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) yearly review reports “91% of therapists confirming that they will continue working with clients via video and audio post pandemic”. And that because of the pandemic “the majority of therapists (80%) say they have developed additional [online] skills.”
Online counselling vs in-person therapy
There are some obvious differences with online counselling, such as:
- you don’t have to travel to see your therapist
- you can do this sort of therapy from anywhere, even if you are travelling
- access is easy even if you suffer a disability or injury at present.
But one benefit some people don’t realise is cost.
Why online therapy can be more cost effective
Yes, online counselling often costs the same as regular therapy. But it can still save you money, and here’s why.
- it takes less time out of your day as you are not travelling to and fro
- you also save the time of ‘getting ready’
- if you are a caregiver of an elderly parent, sick relative, or of children old enough to play by themselves quietly during your session, you can save on care costs.
Is online counselling as good as face-to-face?
Counselling over the internet has been around for some time now, and has been heavily researched as to its effectiveness.
The pandemic in particular provided psychologists interesting research opportunities. In the case of an Italian team studying how psychodynamic therapy helped university students, they were able to compare face-to-face results with results from the same therapy offered online during lockdowns.
The team found that online therapy showed the same improvements for all forms of psychological distress as in-person sessions did. The only difference was that online therapy didn’t seem to help with improvements in life satisfaction, but this was a variable that could have been not shifting due to the effects of the pandemic.
When online counselling is not as good as in-person but better
The important difference for some people is that with online counselling you don’t have to sit in a room with someone. This physical distance of online therapy can be very helpful for those who are shy, find the thought of therapy too ‘exposing’, suffer social anxiety, or find they clam up in new situations.
Research on online therapy for anxiety disorder found that participants had longer laster results from online counselling than from doing therapy in person.
Online therapy can even be a way to gain the confidence to eventually attend in-person therapy.
And in the case of something like severe depression, where the very act of getting dressed and getting out of the house can seem an insurmountable feat? Online counselling can feel far more doable.
Who is not suitable for online counselling?
Nothing is right for everyone, and that includes online therapy.
If you are very oversensitive and over-analytical, it’s possible to find the first few online sessions rather ‘cold’ compared to an in-person session. Things like a therapist briefly looking away, which you might not notice in person, can seem ‘bigger’ over a screen. Keep in mind your therapist might just be taking notes off-screen.
Online counselling can also feel difficult if you suffer from paranoia around personal privacy. Online platforms like Skype and Zoom use strong security known as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which means it’s hard for anyone to ‘hack’ your call. But if this sort of thing gives you anxiety, in-person therapy might see you more able to relax.
Online therapy for fear of intimacy?
Fear of intimacy is a growing problem in our modern society (read our comprehensive ‘Guide to Intimacy and Relating Issues’ if this is you).
If your major issue you want to approach with therapy is relating to others, online counselling might not be the most appropriate long-term.
The therapist/client relationship is an important tool for helping you work on relationship issues, as it gives you the chance to finally try to fully trust someone. And for some this can feel more powerful as a tool when working in person.
At the same time, if you find intimate relating so overwhelming it’s put you off trying therapy at all? Then online therapy, with it’s built in sense of distance, might be the perfect place to at least start seeking support.
Not sure? Try a “blended approach”
It isn’t always a question of ‘either or’. Some therapists will offer you the option of working in person sometimes, and over the internet other times. For example, international business sorts will use online when they are travelling, but will come see their therapist in-person when they are in town.
Not all therapists offer this ‘blended approach’, but if you feel it’s right for you, it’s worth asking if they do.
The Most Important Thing to Keep in Mind?
The most important thing here is not to let deciding between online or in-person counselling be a way to sabotage seeking support.
Some therapy is better than no therapy at all, and keep in mind that trying a session with a therapist is not a jail sentence! If you find either the therapist or the mode of therapy is not for you, you have the right to change therapists. What matters is taking those crucial steps forward to starting your journey of self.
What are the best online therapy platforms in the UK? We’d like to believe ours are! We connect you with one of the UK’s most highly rated and elite teams of online psychologists and psychotherapists, as well as online psychiatrists. Or use our sister therapy listings site Harleytherapy.com to find UK-wide therapists offering online counselling for all budgets.