5 Reasons to Avoid Free Online Chat Counseling

January 14, 2022

“You can’t think your way to a new way of acting, you must act your way to a new way of thinking.”

David Schnarch

One of the biggest trends in mental health is free online chat counseling forums. Although they are the answer to many peoples’ prayers because they offer the accessibility that wasn’t available in the past, they are not right for everyone. And they are also not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you are considering foregoing the cost of counseling by using a free online chat counseling service, there are some things that you should consider. Getting mental health services for “free ” may sound super alluring. But, unfortunately, sometimes you get what you pay for. And when it comes to your mental health, free isn’t always good or appropriate. These are five reasons to avoid free online chat counseling.

What is Free Online Chat Counseling?

Before discussing why free might not be the way to go, it is essential first to know what online chat counseling offers. Chat counseling is highly attractive to many people because you maintain a high level of anonymity. You can also speak openly and freely with a counselor via text, and say what you want without feelings of insecurity of judgment.

Chat counseling is not the problem; for many, it is a great solution. Being able to get the help you need, 24/7, when you need it, is a great concept. The problem, therefore, is not the forum. Instead, it is the quality of the services that might be lurking behind the “professional ” on the other side of the keyboard.

The Advantages of Online Chat Counseling

Online chat counseling is an excellent alternative to other, more traditional, forms of therapy. Although counselors are supposed to maintain a level of impartiality, it is nearly impossible to remove the biases that people might carry. When you talk to someone via chat counseling, there is no way for them to form a stereotype about you or who you are.

That means that you get the judgment-free advice that is crucial to good mental health. Also, since it is available 24/7, you can get the help you need, when you need it. Not after the fact, when an appointment finally opens up. And lastly, it is a highly affordable solution to the millions of people around the world who don’t have insurance coverage or the monetary means to attend in-person therapy.

5 Reasons Free Online Chat Counseling Might not be for you

Although it is a great new addition to mental health service offerings, there are some limitations to the “free” version and reasons to be wary.

1. You Might be Someone’s Experiment

There aren’t many things in life that are more tempting than when someone is offering you something for free. But free is rarely free. There is usually some price to pay. Free online chat counseling might be nothing more than an experiment that involves you. Although it might seem completely harmless to talk to someone about your problems, if they aren’t sure what they are doing, it can end up doing you more harm than good!

If the person on the other end of the chat line isn’t fully licensed and educated, then it isn’t therapeutic at all. What you are likely getting is the opinion of another person who may, or may not, be qualified to be giving you advice. When it comes to your mental health, it is important to know that you are getting real help and the appropriate kind.

Chat counseling isn’t just about venting your problems to someone. It is supposed to be a vector for self-awareness and counseling advice. You are way too essential to be someone’s guinea pig or experiment. And if you chose a “free” service, there might not be a way to ensure that you aren’t.

2. Do You Know What Type of Counselor you are Talking With?

Most people seek therapy for help in a particular area of their lives. Whether they have a specific diagnosis like anxiety and depression, or they have other issues that need a specifically targeted approach, the right counselor is critical to getting the appropriate help. But usually, when you engage in free online chat counseling, you are blind to what the “counselor’s credentials” truly are.

There is no way to know if they have any experience dealing with your mental health problem, or if they have any training at all. Many online free chat counseling services hire nothing more than random people to service their clientele. And it doesn’t make sense to turn to someone who doesn’t have the right skills or training to make your situation better. In fact, if you are talking with someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, they could make things worse.

Hand Holding Mobile Phone With Messages On Screen

3. Once you get Comfortable the Scenario Changes

Often, free online chat counseling forums are free for a specific time frame. And after that period of time, you have to pay to continue. Once the trial is over, not only do you have to pay for services, they usually have higher rates than the sites that have pay for service fee schedules from the beginning.

So if you are seeing a marked difference in your mental health status and build a rapport with a specific counselor, it might be heartbreaking to have the tables turned on you. If the fees kick in after a certain period, then you have two choices. You can move along and start over with someone else. Or, you can start to pay for services that are outside of your budget.

Some forums get you “hooked ” with a professional. And then they exploit that relationship to charge per session, knowing that you have already formed a bond. It makes much more sense to find a reasonably priced, professional forum from the get-go.

That way, you can budget appropriately. And you can also be assured that you can continue therapy for as long as you need without the rules changing. It is better to know what to expect then to get blindsided once therapy is working. Free that is only free for a while is usually a tactic to get you on the hook. And then it seeks to keep you there at any cost.

4. They Might Make Things Worse

There is a reason that counselors have to obtain a degree to practice counseling. The psyche is a very fragile thing. If you are speaking to someone who isn’t trained in mental health and exposing your vulnerabilities without protection, then you might end up really getting emotionally hurt.

There is a right way and a wrong way to help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. And there are procedures and techniques that counselors are taught to ensure the safety of their clients. If you are talking with someone who isn’t trained, there is no way to ensure that they won’t be causing more harm than good. Or, to make sure that they are using tactics that are appropriate and not ones that can cause emotional damage. A poorly conducted therapy course can leave someone feeling worse than no therapy at all.

When engaging in counseling, the purpose is to alleviate your suffering not to make it worse. Or, to conjure of things that will only lead you feeling unresolved and more desperate and lost than before. The only way to ensure that you are getting the right type of therapy is to talk to someone who is professionally trained to deal with people who need help. And also, someone who knows how to make you better, not worse.

Close-up of psychiatrist hands together holding palm of her patient

5. The High Rate of Counselor Turnover

When you engage in free online chat therapy, you are getting the service for free. But what is the counselor getting for their troubles? There is a reason why someone would counsel others for free. Sometimes it is true altruism to help others. But often there are other motivating factors that you might not know about. Maybe the counselor is trying to gain experience while still in school.

Or, maybe they are testing out their skills to find out what type of counseling they want to specialize in. But in most instances, once they have gotten what they wanted from the free forum, they will move on to greener pastures. And, most likely, they will find a more professional forum where they are paid for their efforts. In free online chat counseling, there is a trend of high turnover rates.

So if you become comfortable with someone and are gaining some benefit from the relationship, when they cease to gain any advantage, they might simply disappear. That can leave you feeling abandoned and even worse than before you began.

Money is a huge motivator to keep both client and therapist on board to establish a mutually trustful and ongoing relationship. For people already struggling with interpersonal issues, being left in the lurch by someone you have formed a bond with can be highly devastating.

Is Free the Appropriate way to go?

What can be more alluring than getting something for nothing? The truth is that there is no such thing as “free,” there is always some price to pay. When it comes to your mental health, choosing services based on price alone has the potential not only to not help with your crisis or mental health problem; it can make it worse.

Online text therapy is an excellent way to get the help you need without traditional hurdles, to maintain a high level of anonymity, and it offers the convenience of getting the help you need when you need it. 

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