For many people, going to therapy means actually visiting a therapist. Others prefer to opt for online counseling services. Both these options have their advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to decide which one works best for you.
A lot of people believe that online counseling is ineffective because the counselor cannot read the patient’s body language. However, the question is just how important body language actually is. Proponents of online counseling have suggested body language can actually be distracting for both the therapist and the patient.
On the other hand, it is certainly true that body language can enable a therapist to get a better idea of who the patient is, although the situation can influence this language as well. A patient may appear uncomfortable and nervous, for instance, when this is actually only because they are in unfamiliar surroundings.
The Options within Online Counseling
Online counseling can be done in a variety of different ways. These include:
- Webcam counseling, whereby therapist and patient do actually meet face to face. The difference between regular counseling and this method is that participants are not in the same location. A lot of people have found this approach beneficial, because it addresses the lack of body language while maintaining privacy and comfort at the same time.
- Instant messenger counseling, which is offered through a type of chat room. Various software packages are available for this, many of which also enable webcam discussions. However, through instant messenger, the goal is to simply type out what is happening and what you are feeling. A great benefit is that writing something down enables people to choose their words carefully and to make changes to their statement before they send it. Furthermore, it leaves an immediate written record. The downside is that it is very easy for someone to present themselves in a way that is actually not representative of who they are.
- Email counseling, which is one of the oldest forms of online counseling. This is very similar to instant messenger counseling, with the difference being that there isn’t a ‘chat’ going on. Rather, messages are sent back and forth, usually with quite a period of time between responses. Like with instant messaging, it enables people to think about what they say and how they say it, and it keeps a record. However, this type of therapy is often slower and this can be a disadvantage as both therapist and patient often ‘disconnect’ from the conversation as they are waiting for the other’s reply.
As you can see, online counseling is not as straightforward as simply being a conversation online. It can actually be delivered in a number of different ways, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Overall, however, people agree that it is a very convenient method of delivering and receiving therapy, as it means nobody has to leave the privacy and comfort of their own home, creating a more secure environment.