Online Counseling – What, How, and Why

online counseling

What is Online Counseling?

Online counseling has revolutionized the way many therapists work. It used to be that therapy required a physical, face-to-face encounter, but now, with the advent of technology, clients and therapists can meet when separated by geography or by time constraints.

Online therapy can occur over video or via web platforms via voice, messaging, etc.  At Gatewell, we prefer a video connection, as this allows us make eye contact with our clients and observe facial expressions, postures, and behaviors that can be missed without a visual connection. While a video session might not convey all of the nuances of an in-person meeting, the feedback we receive is that video meetings are much more like in-person meetings than anticipated.

How Is Online Counseling Practiced?

Online therapy should occur on a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform that has the necessary safeguards in place to ensure client confidentiality. Clients will need a private space and a secure internet connection. There are several online counseling platforms available.  Meetings typically occur via weblink,  private video room, or through a downloaded app on one’s phone. Clients and therapists who meet remotely will follow a similar treatment plan to those who meet in person, though additional attention is paid to emergency planning.

Is Online Counseling Right for You?

Online therapy isn’t for everyone. Many clients still prefer to meet in person. Some might feel like a video session just isn’t the same, while others might get frustrated when technology fails, as it sometimes does. For those individuals who present in crisis, it can be important to meet in an office setting, where more nuanced data can be gathered and crisis interventions ensured. Some clients might lack private time/space to conduct an online session. Others might benefit from having a place to go (a therapy appointment) each week, rather than the convenience of conducting these appointments remotely from home or work. Some insurance plans might not reimburse for online therapy.

But, there are others who appreciate the convenience of online appointments. Some of these individuals might include:

  • Busy professionals who don’t have time to leave the office
  • Those who travel a lot for work (without leaving a state in which the therapist is licensed)
  • Stay-at-home parents who are able to carve out some private space during the day or parents who can meet for session once their children are asleep
  • College students who have busy schedules and are accustomed to communicating online
  • Those with medical issues, physical disabilities, or chronic pain
  • Those who don’t drive or have reliable access to public transportation
  • Individuals who prefer to see a specialist, who happens to practice beyond a comfortable driving distance from their home or office

In all of these cases, access to video sessions provides the opportunity for private, convenient, and highly-specialized treatment in the comfort of one’s home or private work space. Commuting to a therapist’s office and traffic time are spared. Therapy does not become an additional stressor in one’s life, and the focus can then be on the content of the sessions, rather than the circumstances around them.