Mental health issues can be extremely confusing and discouraging. One of the biggest hurdles in dealing with mental health is the attitude that people do not have the right to feel this way and feeling like one is alone. Such attitudes cause people to be embarrassed and often prevents them from reaching out.
However, the stigma surrounding mental health is fading. Through education, people are realizing the importance of reaching out and the benefits of talking and sharing one’s issues. Even if one does does not feel comfortable in sharing with their loved ones, other resources are available.
Online counseling or online therapy from platforms like MDKonsult and BetterHelp are among such resources. These upcoming services can make a significant impact on someone’s well-being especially if there are barriers to accessing a traditional clinic.
Here are some of the pros and cons of online counseling to note if one may be considering it.
- Anonymity leads to better outcomes
Using secure chat and messaging, online counselling offers a veil of anonymity that can help people to share their thoughts and feelings more openly. Increased honesty and disclosure helps the counselors to identify the underlying issues faster and subsequently address them. According to a report in the Journal of Affective Disorders, online therapy in the medium term can result in better outcomes and faster healing for the person for certain issues.
Online therapy also enables those worried about social stigma associated with receiving therapy to seek help. One can access counselling in private without being seen by others — people in waiting room, the administrative staff or any passerby that may see them entering or leaving a session.
- Better Accessibility
Someone accessing remote counseling via internet is not bound by physical location. Since all one requires is a smart phone or computer with internet access, it is a great option for those with limited mobility. This is also a major benefit for people that live very far from a clinic, such as those in rural or remote settings, or people who are not satisfied with options in their area. Finally, through the use of technology, people with visual and hearing impairments can also access the benefits of therapy easily.
- It is more convenient
Online counseling can often be accessed at any time of the day and from anywhere. It transcends time zones and even professionals in one’s own time zone often make themselves available for longer hours. The entire process is carried out from one’s home and gives a variety of options — secure chat, secure video call, or a phone call.
Finally, some individuals feel more comfortable in typing out their thoughts instead of speaking them out loud in a face-to-face interaction. More honest disclosure helps the therapist and counselors in helping their clients get better outcomes.
- Online therapy is more affordable
Online therapy and web counselling are often cheaper and more economical. As counselors and therapists no longer need physical spaces or incur other overhead costs, they can offer their valuable help to the people at a lower price.
Additionally, due to the limited hours offered by in-person mental health clinics or counselors and therapists, many people need to take time off work. This adds additional cost and stress if one is already anxious and stressed.
- It is not for everyone
Since online therapists are distant from the client, it is difficult to respond quickly and effectively when a crisis happens. If a client is experiencing suicidal thoughts or has suffered a personal tragedy, it can be difficult or even impossible for the therapist to provide direct assistance.
- It lacks visual information
Non-verbal cues are significantly more important than verbal communication during an interaction. They give therapists a lot more information about the true feelings and thoughts of someone sharing their story. Sometimes text-based online counseling can yield inaccurate results since important information like facial expression, vocal cues, or body language cannot be detected thereby making the therapy and counselling less effective.
- Potential Privacy & Confidentiality Risks
Although therapists and counselors offering online sessions are sworn to confidentiality and have the best interest of their clients at heart, the text-based nature of online counseling can slightly increase the risk of information being leaked. While similar risks exist if the computers of a physical clinic are hacked or if there is theft of records, the online nature of online sessions makes privacy leaks and hacks more of a concern.
- Technological limitation
Online counseling is limited by the functionality of the devices being used and availability of internet connection. Computers fail, phone batteries can die,and internet connections can be weak.These are all factors that can cause an interruption of a session and could add to the stress and anxiety of a person seeking help. Furthermore, the comfort level of users with technology could also act as a barrier especially if the process requires installation or learning new software or hardware.
Online counseling and therapy are huge steps forward in increasing accessibility and the de-stigmatization of getting help for mental health issues. However, they have limitations and are best suited for minor issues and are not alternatives for traditional therapy in every situation. People with more serious mental illnesses and issues should seek in-person help.
For those seeking a friendly ear and professional help to sort out their thoughts, the most important thing to do is to research and engage credible platforms like MDKonsult to get the best service and the right help.