“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”Maya Angelou
The ways that people communicate has completely transformed since the introduction of the internet and cell phones. Just a few short decades ago, if you wanted to talk to someone; you had to either meet with them in person or pick up a telephone. Now there are a plethora of ways to “stay in touch,” but they don’t require much “human” contact. And although the impersonal nature of communication has had some negative effects on social interaction, chatting online, and especially chat counseling online, offers many advantages for people.
There are many benefits that online chat counseling offers that traditional forms of counseling cannot. No one should suffer needlessly due to lack of access, and thanks to online chat counseling, no one has to.
1. You Don’t Have to Wait for an Appointment
Life is so hectic that finding time for self-care typically gets passed by. When you need to talk to a counselor, usually, it is because you are dealing with a personal crisis. But often, you have to wait days, or sometimes even weeks, to schedule an appointment that fits your schedule or a counselor’s.
Online counseling allows you to talk to someone when you need help to resolve your conflict instead of waiting until the crisis has probably resolved, and then rehashing it, after the fact. When you need counseling for an acute issue that you need to work through, you can get the help you need when you actually need it.
2. You can Talk Freely Without Worry of Judgement
Sometimes it can be hard to talk about things that are sensitive or, sometimes, embarrassing. Although a counselor is supposed to be non-judgmental and impartial, looking someone in the eye and admitting your greatest failures, things you don’t want other people to know, or things you might not even want to admit to yourself, is not always easy.
When you chat online, you are completely anonymous. And since you don’t have to see the reaction of the counselor you are talking to, it can be easier to admit those dark secrets that you might not be able to when you are staring into the face of another person, professional counselor or not.
Also, because it is a chat session, there is no way for a therapist to form bias according to the physical characteristics of the clients they are treating. As hard as a counselor tries to maintain a level of impartiality, sometimes human nature makes that impossible. Not being able to see the person you are counseling might make it less possible for bias to taint treatment.
3. It Offers a Safe and Familiar Environment
Instead of going to an unfamiliar office that might be out of your element, you can talk from wherever you feel most secure. When you engage in online counseling, you can do so from the familiarity of your own home, your office, or anywhere else that you find comfort.
For some people, having a safe zone of being at home is a real advantage. And it allows them to speak up and to talk about things that might be fear or anxiety provoking in what feels like a safe environment.
4. There are no Transportation Hurdles
There are millions of people in the United States that do not have access to transportation. For those who are unable to schedule and make an appointment, life can become isolating, and their problems become magnified. According to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 adults report having a need for mental health services that are not met. That totals over 9 million adults.
Online counseling allows those with disabilities who can’t get around easily or those who do not have the means to venture out, the ability to talk to a counselor and to get the help that they need. Being able to join a therapy session remotely has helped those who have previously suffered due to lack of medical access for one reason or another.
5. It is Complete Anonymity
Although the rule of privacy guides your sessions with your counselor, there is still the waiting room. If you don’t want people to know that you are seeking therapy, walking into a building for counseling, or sitting in the waiting room can feel like you are exposing your secret to the world.
Many people become anxious about someone they know, seeing them attending a therapy or counseling session. And if that fear stops them from getting the emotional help they need, then that is a significant hurdle. When you engage in online counseling, no one has to know but you. And there is no risk that what you don’t want people to know, they will find out.
6. It is Less Expensive
Not everyone has medical insurance. And even those who do might not have coverage for mental health. Mental health is an extremely important part of your overall well being. Studies have shown that conditions like anxiety and depression can severely impact your life and your physical health, if not addressed.
But for many, the cost of counseling simply isn’t feasible. Online counseling differs from traditional counseling because it fits into the budget of those who would not be able to afford other counseling office visits or fees. Therefore, online counseling is helping millions who would otherwise have to suffer in silence due to budgetary concerns.
7. It is Just as Effective
Studies have shown that online counseling is just as effective as other, more traditional, forms of counseling. Telepsychology has been around for over two decades, mostly used by military professionals. But thanks to the internet, it has become more widespread.
According to research studies, published by the Telemental Health Institute, “Telemental health is equivalent to face-to-face care in various settings and an acceptable alternative”. Two studies published in 2013, concluded that asynchronous messaging therapy can be as effective as traditional face-to-face sessions.
Once more, if a person has a positive experience with online counseling, according to Megan Jones, PsyD, from Stanford University School of Medicine, they are more likely to seek further counseling. So online counseling might also be a precept for ongoing mental health care.
8. You Don’t Have to Lose Contact With Established Relationships
When you engage in online counseling, even if you move to a different location, you won’t lose the trust and relationship that you’ve built. Since online counseling can happen remotely, people who are transient can maintain a well-established relationship with a counselor. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right professional to suit your personality. And once you establish a rapport, you don’t want to start all over with someone who doesn’t know your background. Online counseling bridges location issues that, in the past, would have been severed due to location limitations.
9. Writing is Therapeutic
Numerous studies have shown that writing is an excellent therapeutic tool for emotional healing. When you use online chat counseling, you are writing all of your thoughts down. Not only are you gaining the experience and expertise of a mental health professional; you are also engaging in behavior that is known to be beneficial to your overall emotional well being.
10. You Have More Time to Process Information
When you use an online chat forum for counseling, you can go back over the conversation after the session has ended to gain perspective. Because the chat can is saved, you can read over both your own feelings and comments, and you have more time to process the advice given by the practitioner. It isn’t like traditional therapy where you have to search through your memory of what was said; you have it in writing so you can make better sense out of what was said, the things you felt at the time, and the solutions that were recommended and discoveries made by both you and the therapist.
Although there are advantages to seeking traditional forms of counseling treatment, there are also some disadvantages that can hold people back. When you use online chat counseling, there is less room for bias, fewer hurdles to accessibility, and once a relationship is established, you can maintain that relationship regardless of where you travel physically. Online counseling is also available when you need it, not when someone else’s schedule, or even your own, allows for it.