In recent years, online counseling, or teletherapy, has gradually become more common and accepted. And then COVID-19 quickened the move toward online counseling.
Even before Indiana’s stay-at-home order was in place in response to the pandemic, I had decided to limit my work to online only, until it seemed safe to resume in-person sessions. To be honest, I had doubts about whether a video platform could effectively replace in-person therapy. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by clients’ responses to our using online counseling. More than one of them have said that they might stay with online counseling, rather than meeting in person.
If you’re experiencing problems, and are thinking about using online counseling, let’s look at some relevant issues.
First of all, does online counseling work? A good deal of research has been done for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness of online counseling, compared to in-person counseling. The Telebehavioral Health Institute offers listings of such research, and you can go to their website to locate reference works. However, it must be remembered that online therapy is relatively new, so is the research, and the various researchers have not formed unanimous or definite conclusions around the effectiveness of online counseling.
Secondly, is online counseling safe? Could you get scammed? You are probably aware that, during any crisis, con artists and other crooks seek to exploit people’s fears. This is already happening during the pandemic. While it might be alright to trust an unlicensed counselor, such as a clergyman or other lay counselor for in-person therapy, please be sure that your online counselor is a licensed therapist / counselor. Furthermore, before you hire a therapist for online counseling, be sure that therapist is licensed in your state, regardless of the therapist’s location. If the therapist is not a licensed therapist / counselor in your state, (s)he may not provide services to you. To be clear, there is no separate license for online counseling.
Be certain that the therapist is using a secure video platform, other than Skype or FaceTime, which are not HIPAA compliant.
Another safety consideration. In my opinion, which is shared by many of my colleagues, some types of therapy should only be used in person. Two of those therapies, which I often use, are hypnosis and EMDR therapy. For clients who suffer from excessive stress, depression or anxiety, I am still using guided imagery and deep relaxation techniques in online counseling. Fortunately, my clients report this is working well.
Use your common sense. If your problems involve intense anger, high anxiety or depression, and if a counseling session could create emotional agitation, you will be wise to be able to contact someone close to you, after the session has ended. Additionally, before you enter into online counseling, ask the counselor how (s)he would respond, if, during the session, you would become very sad, agitated or frightened.
If you have any questions about online counseling, please feel free to call 219-309-3928. I would be honored to help.
Thanks for reading!