Pros of Online Counseling
- Social stigma is eliminated: clients don’t have to worry about people seeing or finding out that they’re receiving counseling, as they don’t have to drive to or walk into a counseling center.
- There are more counselors available: clients aren’t limited to working with counselors in close proximity. Instead, they can find an online counselor who is uniquely equipped to best help the client with their presenting problems.
- Online counseling offers greater convenience: you don’t have to rework your schedule to ensure you have time to drive to therapy. Instead, you can attend your counseling session from the comfort and convenience of your home.
- It eliminates intimidation that comes with in-person communication: A lot of people seeking counseling don’t feel comfortable talking openly about their problems. With online counseling, you have the option of writing about your problems instead or speaking about them on the phone as opposed to in-person.
- Online counseling offers more flexibility: Often with online counseling, you can write or email your counselor when you need to. You don’t have to wait for your scheduled session but can call on their help as needed via email.
Cons of Online Counseling
- There is less intimacy: Some clients need that in-person meeting to create that intimate therapist-client bond that makes for a successful therapy journey.
- It isn’t always covered by insurance: Some insurance companies do not cover online counseling. It often depends on your state, as well as your insurer. Paying for counseling out of pocket can quickly add up and proves too expensive for some clients.
- Unreliable technology can get in the way of your session: If you have iffy internet connection or your laptop suddenly stops working, there goes your therapy session. You need to ensure that you have reliable technology if you want to give online counseling a try.
- It might not be as effective as in-person counseling if you have a serious illness: Online counseling is often effective and proves successful, but this isn’t always the case if you have a serious mental illness. A serious mental illness might require in-person therapy so that your counselor can best understand what you’re going through and what you need.
- It can eliminate nonverbal communication: In in-person therapy, counselors often analyze their client’s nonverbal communication, such as one’s eye contact and their body language. If you’re receiving online counseling via telephone or email, your counselor can’t use nonverbal communication to their benefit.
Online therapy is not for everyone. Thus, careful screening will take place before and during intake for appropriateness. If higher level of care is needed, a referral for appropriate services will be provided.
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.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Online therapy is also not appropriate for serious psychiatric illnesses due to requirement of close and direct treatment or in-person intervention.
For example, if you have a serious addiction or have more severe or complex symptoms of a mental health condition, online therapy may not be recommended unless other local and accessible therapies or treatments are also involved in your plan.