In today’s hectic life where deteriorating mental health has almost become the trend, we yearn for someone to listen to us, give us advice and untangle our lives. But with little time to spare and money too tight, in the end we turn to the most trusted companion and confidante — our mobile phones. From teary confessions in the e-diary to sharing happy pictures with friends on social media, the internet has seen it all. Laughing and crying equal parts, we turn to our phones when we need our friends the most. But how far can this friendship go? Can the phone be our therapist too? Is onilne counselling the answer to all our problems?
WHAT IS ONLINE COUNSELLING?
Web counselling, E-therapy, online therapy has many names. It refers to the professional help an individual gets for her/his mental illness, on the internet, through real time chat, video sessions, emails etc. If you’ve ever used apps like headspace or moodnotes, then you’ve surely tried out the lighter e counselling. These apps help you to in dealing with day to day stress and balance out your mood; it is a kind of therapy too. However, will web counselling work for bigger mental health issues like depression and mood disorders too?
HOW EFFECTIVE IS ONLINE COUNSELLING IS?
In this tech savvy era of post- millennials, online counselling has fast become popular because of the below mentioned reasons –
Traditional methods of therapy are far too expensive for every person to afford. However, with online counselling people can get the help they need at a cheaper price.
Some even prefer online counselling because it offers some anonymity, invisibility and provides them the comfort of choosing their own time and space.
People can choose the therapist of their own choice form a wide range, according to the field they need help in. For example- Individual suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) may choose a professional proficient in that particular area.
DISTANCE NOT A PROBLEM
You can also choose international therapists/ psychologists as distance is no longer a problem. For example- If the place you live in doesn’t offer good options for a therapy you are free to choose therapists worldwide.
EASY TO OPEN UP
It is much easier to open up in text or emails as compared to opening up in-person. The client does not have to worry about being judged on the basis on her/his illness, personality or apperance as she/he cannot see the therapist.
You don’t have to worry about missing a session and still paying for it, as you can schedule the sessions according to you. It offers you the time flexibility.
It is a good option for people who are not yet ready to come out in public about their issues. You don’t have to face the stigma related to mental illness, the rejection and exclusion the society forces upon you.
DISABILITIES ARE NOT AN ISSUE
Also, online therapy is good for people who have physical disabilities and have a hard time commuting from home to the psychologist’s office or those who have hearing or speech impairment and prefer emails to in- person counselling.
It is a very good option for teenagers as they don’t talk about their issues due to the stigma and are unable to get the help they need to cope with them. Many schools and colleges offer online couselling to their students. Web counselling is also good because expressing our thoughts by writing them down makes us more aware of them and pushes us to address them. Online therapy can be a good start, as opening up to a stranger face to face, about one’s personal problems is not something that comes easily at all. All in all, online counselling is a good option for people with dealing with anxiety, stress and light to moderate depression.
BUT HOW FAR CAN WE TRUST THE INTERNET WITH OUR MENTAL WELL-BEING?
Online counselling however, is not just about the advantages. Like every other boon, it is also a bane. The disadvantages are of web therapy are as follows.
Internet has become the global sensation but sometimes the security problems that come with it trump the advantages. Similarly, online counselling offers anonymity but also has the ever present danger of privacy breach. The chats, emails or video sessions that the client puts her/his faith in, can sometimes fall into the wrong hands. Confidentiality is a big problem in web therapy.
· CONNECTION ISSUES
Online counselling requires good high speed internet connection, which can most of the times be its biggest disadvantage too. Not every person has a basic knowledge of computers and is unable to manuever around choosing a therapist and setting up the session. Also, some people living in remote areas do not get a continuous internet connection.
· LACK OF NON- VERBAL CUES
The biggest problem in online counselling is that the thrapist cannot read the body language of the client or follow the non verbal cues during therapy. This can cause misdiagnoses or miscommunication between them, which can sometimes have dangerous results.
· NOT SUITED FOR COMPLEX MENTAL ILLNESSES
Online counselling, no matter how popular is not suitable for treating every type of mental illness. For example- Illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression, suicidal tendencies etc. cannot be treated by just online counselling and need cognitive therapy, behavioural therapy or psychotherapy too.
It is good that people today have the luxury of choosing the way they want to deal with their issues and online counselling has offered a new way, making people more receptive in getting help but online counselling is not effective for every situation, issue or illness and the effectiveness can vary from person to person. It is recommended starting off with online counselling to get used to opening up to another person, but if you can afford it then moving on to face to face therapy if you have severe mental illness will give you much better results. People should be aware of both the pros and cons of e- therapy before going for it. Needless to say web therapy is great help in dealing with daily life stresses, however, it has a long way to become an effective method of therapy in itself.